Dominant Bruins leave Maple Leafs with long list of concerns to address

Shawn McKenzie and Luke Fox discuss the concerns for the Maple Leafs in their loss against the Bruins, including the uncharacteristic penalties and the performance of Ilya Samsonov.

BOSTON — The count is 1-0 for both the Boston Bruins and the can’t-flip-a-switch crowd.

For all the talk of clean slates, brand-new years, and meaningless regular seasons, so many of the worrisome hallmarks of the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ scuffle down the stretch reared their ugly head in a tidy 5-1 victory for the home side in Game 1 on Saturday.

Asked before puck drop what his group had learned from its 0-2-2 regular-season series against the B’s, Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe quipped: “We learned what doesn’t work.”

Well, the Leafs took a refresher course Saturday, as the vociferous TD Garden fans razzed “Sam-soooon-ov!” with glee, partied to five rounds of “Kernkraft 400,” and left the barn chanting “Olé! Olé! Olé!”

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Yes, the slightly favoured Bruins scored early — John Beecher’s first shot of the game found the twine off a juicy 2-on-1 rush as Joel Edmundson pinched and Ryan Reaves raced out of position — and often.

They dressed the better goalie, executed significantly better on special teams, and exercised more patience and discipline.

“We took too many penalties,” said Bruin-turned-Leaf Tyler Bertuzzi, one of three first-liners to commit a sloppy stick infraction well outside of Toronto’s D-zone.

“First period, obviously everyone was a little nervous just trying to get into the game. Stuff like that happens. But we’ve got to be a little bit more prepared to kinda tone it down a bit and not be so emotionally invested and stick within the game.”

Keefe described Max Domi’s second-period slash of Brad Marchand as “undisciplined” and Bertuzzi and Matthews’ high-sticks on Boston’s top defensive pair as “careless.”

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“This time of year, you can’t allow your stick to get up like that,” Keefe said.

You also can’t allow two power-play goals, go 0-for-3 on your own power-play opportunities and expect to escape with a win.

Sure, Toronto held its own in the battles and generated its share of 5-on-5 looks — Matthews pinged a bar on an open look that could haunt him at bedtime — but when you trail early and then ask one of the league’s more porous 4-on-5 units to kill five penalties, it’s too tall an order.

“You put a team like that on the man-advantage that many times, they’re gonna capitalize,” Matthews said. “[It’s about] sticking up for one another, but not crossing that line where we’re the ones that are getting taken to the box.”

A shaky PK wasn’t the only troublesome trend that carried over from the regular season. Toronto’s power play had struggled the final three weeks and was no better on this night, missing the injured William Nylander.

“It was not good. Not good. Really slow and disconnected,” Keefe said.

Mitch Marner, a key member of both the top PP and PK units, agreed: “Obviously playoffs is a special-teams kind of thing — can really win you series. So, I’m sure tonight we’re going to talk about it, tomorrow we’re going to look at it, and see what we can do better.”

If there’s time, the Maple Leafs — who won’t hit the ice Sunday — should also examine their shaky breakouts, discover a way to fly through the neutral zone with tempo (a Nylander specialty), and figure out how sustain O-zone pressure without sticking Bruins defencemen in the face.

So adverse to rehashing history or discussing its burdens, Toronto must now lean on the recent past for Game 2.

Just last April, the Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Leafs 7-3 in the Round 1 opener, and the Maple Leafs dug deep and rallied to take the series in six.

They’ll lean on that past resilience Monday in Game 2 before the series shifts home.

Because there is very little from Saturday’s experience to summon confidence.

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With Game 1’s defeat, the Maple Leafs have now gone winless in five straight games, giving up five goals minimum in each of them. They haven’t had a losing skid this long since Nov. 19, 2019.

So as the Bruins, now 5-0 versus the Leafs in 2023-24, rolled again, the broadcast cued up Aerosmith’s “Same Old Song and Dance” heading to a late commercial break, twisting the knife.

The onus falls upon the Maple Leafs to change the tune.

“We got a taste of what the series is all about here in this game,” Matthews said. “And we got to elevate our game and continue to put our best foot forward and get better.”

Fox’s Fast Five

• Jake DeBrusk didn’t have a single three-point effort the entire regular season.

By the time his playoffs were 38 minutes old, he’d already snapped two goals and registered a primary assist.

The man loves playing Toronto.

“I didn’t like my season. Pretty disappointed,” the pending free agent said. “But now we’re chasing the ultimate goal.

• The Maple Leafs allowed a goal on their first shot against for the seventh time this season.

Ilya Samsonov has surrendered 15 goals over his past three starts, but Keefe is standing by his No. 1.

“I would categorize each of their goals from his perspective as good goals,” said the coach, noting his goalie’s lack of run support. “I don’t put this on him.”

• That time Pat “Big Rig” Maroon deposited Timothy Liljegren into the Bruins bench…

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• The Leafs and Bruins combined for 48 hits in the first period, tying March 7’s Leafs-Bruins tilt for the most hits in any NHL period this season.

The sides finished the game deadlocked 50-50 for 100 hits.

• Jeremy Swayman has always watched the other guy start Game 1. The goalie said he was nearly brought to tears leading the club out for its first playoff game in its 100th season, at home, against an Original Six rival.

His reaction to getting picked?

“It’s about time,” Swayman told Kyle Bukauskas.

Jim Montgomery said it would be difficult to stray from Sway in Game 2 but reiterated that Boston would also be comfortable turning to Linus Ullmark.

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