The Toronto Maple Leafs escaped elimination on Friday only to find themselves facing the same challenge tonight. This time, however, they’ll have to defy the odds at home – a place where they’ve yet to win a game in these young playoffs. You can catch all of the action at 7:30 pm EST on Hockey Night in Canada.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) The Leafs finally got some secondary scoring on Friday. Goals from Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur were enough to secure the win while Mikhail Grabovski looks posed to set the hockey world on fire. If these efforts are added to those of the Leafs’ top offensive players, then the chances of the team being able to force a Game 7 would appear fair, if not high. Will the Leafs continue to struggle for goals beyond the first line or have their depth players finally been engaged in the playoffs? After all, we’re still waiting for Nazem Kadri to do something, anything.
2) Over the last three games we’ve seen the Leafs control the action at times and the Bruins control the action at times. We haven’t really seen a fair or balanced contest. On Friday, it was all Toronto for the first 40 minutes, then Boston dominated the game during the final frame. Here the Leafs almost blew their 2-0 lead and looked out of place in the playoffs. A complete, 60-minute effort will be required to survive the Bruins tonight and put the series back into play. Can the Leafs kick around for the whole game?
3) The Air Canada Centre hasn’t been the kindest place for the Leafs to play in recent memory. There was the infamous Wafflegate incident two seasons ago and chorus of “Go Jays go!” plagued the team last season. This year the fans finally appear onside, but the Leafs’ losing ways at home continue. In two their two home games so far, the Leafs have come up short on both occasions. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that the games were lopsided, but the Air Canada Centre has failed to provide the Leafs any sort of edge. Does that change tonight?
4) James Reimer stood tall on Friday. If it wasn’t for his heroics in the third period, the Leafs would likely be teeing up on the third hole right now. He leads all goalies in the playoffs for shots against and saves. He’ll likely have to survive another barrage of Boston shots tonight. Is a repeat performance in the cards for Reimer (and the Leafs by extension)?
Bonus Question: Only in Toronto could a harmless exchange of looks between April Reimer and Elisha Cuthbert turn into something other than the truth. The two are good friends and it’ll be interesting to see if they have fun with the “look” at the media’s expense tonight. Will Twitter go all aflutter about nothing again?
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