Leafs' Gardiner shoulders blame for Game 7 loss: 'I didn't show up'

27 April, 2018, 00:37 | Author: Ellis Copeland
  • TORONTO ON- APRIL 23 General view prior to action between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup Play-offs at the Air Canada Centre

With the series tied going into game seven, the Boston Bruins proved their resilience with a 7-4 victory and will advance to the second round.

Matthews directed 27 pucks on goal against Boston - tied for fourth in the entire first round - but had a shooting percentage of just 3.7 over the seven games. Leading the way was Jake DeBrusk with two goals. DeBrusk had two goals in game seven and scored five in the series.

Tuukka Rask made 20 saves in net for the B's. The Bruins will open the second round in Tampa Bay on Saturday against the Lightning, who finished off New Jersey in five games last Saturday. In his first National Hockey League postseason action, DeBrusk had seven points in seven games. At the other end they have goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Veinza Trophy finalist.

"Not much I can say, really", Gardiner said Wednesday night.

There were many players who shouldered blame for this defeat, and a (by their own definition) disappointing first-round exit. Definitely it's a little bit easier when you have experience from that kind of game, I was trying to stay calm and battle through it. It was just one of those things where he never wanted Matthews and (Mitch) Marner together at any point in the regular season, and if he did, it was nearly to show people 'this is why I don't want it, because it won't work.' For whatever reason - there has to be a strong bond between a coach and his best players; there has to be a trust. Babcock says that there was no reason for them to play like they did in the third and yet it happened.

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Boston did get their second powerplay of the game as Tomas Plekanec interfered with Brad Marchand.

Beating a team that was just a bit better was always going to be hard for the Leafs, especially if their two most valuable players from the richest regular season in franchise history played just, well, OK. However, Rask wouldn't allow a puck past him in the third period, but that doesn't excuse him for giving up four goals.

Looking back at Game 6, there was a scrum after a play where Roman Polak went after DeBrusk, and he just smiled and laughed back at him as he skated away, not shying away from any moment. While the Bruins did have two shots on goal, the Leafs converted on the man advantage as Patrick Marleau tipped a point shot by Jake Gardiner underneath the pad of Rask and the Maple Leafs had an early 1-0 lead. "Game 7 should be the same". However, even if their run ends in this upcoming round against a more seasoned Lightning team that led the East practically all season, the Bruins have achieved everything anyone could have reasonably expected them to achieve when they opened the season by shocking the defending Western Conference-champion Nashville Predators or after they opened the postseason by outscoring Toronto 12-4 through the first two games of the first-round series. "The (second) half of the series, had chances". It will all be gravy because we now know just how bright the Bruins' future is for this playoff series and beyond. We put ourselves in a good position there, up by one in the third and a couple of mistakes cost us. "That's a lot", Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey said. After being scratched in Game 6, Heinen returned in a big way, converting on Rick Nash's pass back into the slot from behind the net.

"This is going to be a tough one to swallow", Gardiner said. The NHL's playoff system pushed Toronto into a series with a top-four team, but that's the game. And they lost to a team that aims to win a Stanley Cup this year.

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