Toronto Maple Leafs: What needs to happen to force Game 7

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21: James van Riemsdyk
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 21: James van Riemsdyk /

The Toronto Maple Leafs can continue to extend their playoff series against the Boston Bruins, but it will take a much better defensive effort in Game 6.

The stress level among Leafs Nation in Game 5 was at an all-time high, but the Toronto Maple Leafs came through, with the victory against the Boston Bruins.

Safe to say, the Bruins knew they had the Leafs on their heels, but Frederik Andersen stood tall and held his team together through many nervous moments. It was similar in Game 3, but a goal from Patrick Marleau and incredible save from Andersen helped ease the pressure from the Bruins.

So what needs to happen in Game 6 in order to extend the series? Limit the mistakes which could have cost the team in Game 5 like they did in Game 4.

It starts with scoring the first goal of the game, which has been a significant advantage in this series. The other is ensuring the Bruins’ powerplay chances are limited, something that was a big problem on Saturday.

Mike Babcock made a surprise move to bump Nazem Kadri off his line and put him with Andreas Johnsson and William Nylander, after practicing with Marleau and Mitch Marner. Now it appears that Babcock is playing chess once again ahead of Monday night’s game.

Will Kadri stick with his usual linemates? It is hard to go against the instant chemistry between Kadri and Johnsson on the second Leafs’ goal. Then there is the fact the Leafs will have the ability to match lines, so that likely plays into Babcock’s gameplan.

Even Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy engaged in some mind games, while speaking with the media after the morning skate.

Another area the Leafs need to consider going into Game 6, is trying to get Auston Matthews away from Zdeno Chara. Granted the Leafs forward has been able to generate chances with Chara on the ice, but he only has one goal in the 57:18 playing against the towering defenceman.

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Instead, Babcock should try to get Matthews to go up against Adam McQuaid/Matt Grzelcyk, because that pairing has been dominated by the top line. It also helps that his linemates are showing more of an initiative to go to the net or retrieve pucks efficiently.

This is a good opportunity to put Marner against Chara, which has been a successful matchup as he his line has outscored the Bruins’ top pairing 3-1. The speed that Marner and Marleau bring is clearly an issue for Chara to deal with, so expect the Leafs to try and exploit that.

On defence, Babcock will have to make a tough decision on who plays against Boston’s top line, as both Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner have struggled to contain them for the most part. At this point, it might be the best option to have Rielly and Ron Hainsey against them, as they are the better defensive choice.

Even if the Leafs are able to make the necessary adjustments, what continues to be the path to success is a strong game from Andersen. Unless he’s dialled in from the start, it will be tough to overcome a deficit against the Bruins.

Next: Yegor Korshkov preparing to join Leafs?

What do you think the Leafs chances are in Game 6? What do they need to do to beat the Bruins and force a Game 7? Let us know in the comments below.