BOSTON — The Bruins had their chance and then they had their chances, and they just couldn’t capitalize. One Friday night of frustration later, and the B’s have seen their first-round series extended at least one more game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, with little more than this series of playoff experience to their collective names, came into Boston on Friday night and played the perfect road game. Because of that, the Leafs won Game 5, 2-1, and the series now shifts back to Toronto for a Game 6 on Sunday night in front of what should be a raucous Air Canada Centre crowd.
While the Maple Leafs may have played their best game of the series Friday night, the Toronto win was just as much of a Boston loss. The Leafs outplayed the Bruins for two and a half periods, and when the Bruins finally turned it on in the final 10 minutes, it just wasn’t enough.
After two games — two Bruins wins — in which Boston turned in complete efforts for the entire game, the team reverted to its old ways. The “60-minute effort” they talk so much about was a “10-minute effort,” and that’s not a recipe for success at any time of the season, especially the postseason.
“The killer instinct for me would be to play three periods like we did in the third period,” B’s head coach Claude Julien said. “We’re very capable of doing that. This morning’s skate we had good legs, we had lots of energy, so there’s no reason for our team not to have that to start the game, which we didn’t.
“Again, this is something that we have to take the blame for, it’s of our own doing. They were a desperate team, it showed at the beginning of the game and we were down 2-0 and, all of a sudden, we became the desperate team. Hopefully it doesn’t take the score to make a team desperate and that’s what we have to understand.”
The Bruins had to have known what they were going to see Friday night. The Leafs, inexperienced as they may be, were going to come out with a desperate effort. They did just that, and it appeared to take the B’s by surprise. Toronto peppered Tuukka Rask with 19 shots in the first period, before they finally broke through midway through the second.
The Leafs added another goal early in the third period, and that seemed to be what finally woke the Bruins up. As has been the case many times this season, however, it was too late. The Bruins’ offense couldn’t capitalize on the chances they got, and the Leafs did a good job of limiting those chances. James Reimer had his best game of the series (43 saves), and the Maple Leafs did a terrific job of getting in the shooting lanes and blocking 27 shots.
“We’ve been in this situation before, so you have to take what you learned from it before and you have to be just as desperate as the team across from you no matter what even if you have a couple games to close it out,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “You have to be ready for it and you have to be more desperate than them.”
Now it truly does turn into a series of desperation and who can channel that desperation better. The Leafs are still desperate as they fight for their lives. The Bruins, on the other hand, better start playing with desperation. With just 24 hours separating Games 6 and 7, a Toronto win on Sunday would set up a winner-take-all matchup Monday night in which the Leafs would have all of the momentum in the world.
With all of this in mind, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle is expecting the Bruins’ best on Sunday night in Game 6.
“I’m sure that we’ve poked the Bruins,” he said Friday night. “And they’re going to be a very desperate hockey club come Sunday night, and we’ve got to be equally as desperate.”
The Leafs were just that on Friday night, and the Bruins waited too long to show desperation of their own. On Sunday night in a pivotal Game 6 on the road, they will have no excuse.