What we learned from the Maple Leafs’ Game 1 loss: 5 tips

BOSTON – With the ghosts of previous playoff failures against the Boston Bruins hanging over the Toronto Maple Leafs, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong in Game 1.

Missing William Nylander proved costly as the Leafs failed to get any offense from the top of their lineup, took costly penalties and didn’t get the kind of steady goaltending they needed in a 5-1 loss.

Aside from a third-period goal from David Kampf, which came after the game was all but decided, there weren’t many bright spots for the Leafs. Although the Leafs defeated the Bruins 36-24, the home team consistently outscored the visitors enough to make life difficult.

“Just too many mistakes,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Penalties. Careless with our stick. Those kinds of things aren’t good enough.”

Under Keefe, the Leafs have now lost five of the six playoff series openers.

The Leafs never found much rhythm, enough that it seems like there will be lineup changes in Game 2.

The Leafs stars aren’t producing

Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares presented the kind of offensive firepower the Bruins don’t necessarily have at the top of their lineup. Coming into the series, this was thought to be one of the advantages the Leafs have over the Bruins.

Matthews and Tavares stood out with their efforts on Jeremy Swayman and the Bruins goal. But while these three combined to produce 13 shots on target and 23 shot attempts, they had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet.

Part of the problem was that the Leafs went 0-for-3 that night.

“Not good. Very slow. Disconnected,” Keefe said of the power play.

Not having Nylander in the lineup hurts this Leafs team, in all fairness to them and their offensive output. The way they are built, the Leafs need to get production from the top of the lineup. What if one of those few pieces of the puzzle is missing, and if the other pieces don’t cause offense? The results speak for themselves.

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TD Garden a house of horrors

The visitors wanted to be physically involved and set the tone of the game. During the first few shifts, several Leafs delivered notable hits. It made for a promising start for a team that has been accused in the past of not playing physically enough.

But midway through the first period, Pat Maroon annihilated Timothy Liljegren with a hit that dropped the Leafs defenseman onto the Bruins bench and you were reminded: Oh yeah, this is still the Bruins who can handle whatever physicality comes their way.

The TD Garden crowd remained at its best as the match progressed. “UNITED STATES!” chants? Bill. Ruthlessly crush Ilya Samsonov after conceding the third and fourth goals? Bill.

“We’ve been here a lot,” Marner said of the atmosphere. “You just go to… I don’t know if it’s a fight or what, but we know it’s always going to be a loud building in here. The same applies when they come to our building.”

Starting on the road didn’t stiffen the Leafs this series, it hindered them.

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Bruins puck pressure a problem

Aside from the physicality and how intimidating the TD Garden faithful made it for the Leafs, the most notable takeaway from the first period? The Bruins ability to pressure the puck and create turnovers is unparalleled. As a result, the Bruins were able to hit multiple posts in the first period alone. Although they had far too easy getting close to Samsonov, the Leafs didn’t enter the first intermission with many, if any, A chances.

“Neutral zone turnovers,” Marner said of the challenges the Leafs faced. “Of course we give them a very good look at the start of the match and they respond to that. It’s clearly a very skilled team there. And if you give them a lot of power plays, they’ll start to feel really good about their play. So it is something that we also have to limit.”

That puck pressure, combined with unfortunate reads from Joel Edmundson and Ryan Reaves, led to the odd lapse and a quick opening goal from Bruins center John Beecher.

In the second period, those same heavy efforts on the puck allowed the Bruins to outplay the Leafs in their own zone. Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo capitalized with an even-heavy shot against a tired Leafs group.

Bad penalties cost Leafs a lot of money

The penalties taken by Matthews and Max Domi in the second period were completely unnecessary and the Bruins capitalized. Those two penalties were not only stupid to take, they also limited the time the Leafs could have their best offensive players on the ice and allowed the Bruins to put the game to bed with two Jake DeBrusk power play goals.

It’s worth remembering that the Leafs finished the regular season with a league-low-10 penalty kill (76.9 percent).

Domi in particular walked a fine line before the puck dropped. He tried to involve Brad Marchand the entire game and you could expect the officials to keep an eye on him. If the Leafs don’t tighten things up, the Bruins power play could end up being a difference maker in this series.

After the game, Keefe called Domi’s second-period penalty “undisciplined.”

‘I understand what he’s trying to do, but he’s crossed the line. You can’t do that,” Keefe said.

Keefe also labeled the team’s two penalties as “carelessness.”

“This time of year you have to be dialed in.” You can’t let your stick go up like that,” Keefe said.

Ilya Samsonov on the hot seat

One pressing question in this series: Could Samsonov hold down the fort in the Leafs goal after a dramatic up-and-down season?

We didn’t get a full, comprehensive answer to the question in Game 1, but we came close. Samsonov gave up four goals on 23 shots, while his counterpart, Jeremy Swayman, allowed just one goal on 36 shots. You could argue that Samsonov — even though the Leafs were killing a penalty — had to make a save on the Bruins’ third goal.

“I believe in myself. I believe in my ability. I believe in everyone in this locker room. That’s why I have confidence,” Samsonov said.

Samsonov has been at his best this season when he has looked and played calmly and collectedly. In Game 1, Samsonov was caught way off target several times.

Will Keefe turn to Samsonov again in Game 2? It feels likely, but the line certainly got shorter after Game 1.

(Photo: Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

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