NHL Notebook: Leafs recognize concerns following 5-1 loss to Bruins and Referee Steve Kozari returns after injury for Playoffs

Toronto Maple Leafs Boston Bruins
Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
12 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night sent chills through Toronto as a recurring nightmare came to light once again. 
The Leafs entered into the series with the goal of asserting their dominance at the first puck drop, and they did… for two minutes and 26 seconds.
Despite aggressive plays, shoulders flying, and an assertive forecheck, Leafs Ryan Reaves unintentionally pinned teammate Joel Edmundson, resulting in a 2-on-1 for the Bruins, which rookie John Beecher took full advantage of and opened the game 1-0 for the Bruins. 
Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. For the remainder of the contest, the Leafs were playing what appeared to be an impossible game of catch-up until David Kampf captured a glimpse of hope, scoring early into the third and saving them from a total blowout. 
This season, the Leafs have been 0-2-2 against the Bruins, a record head coach Sheldon Keefe takes as an educational standpoint on saying they’ve learned what doesn’t work against the Bruins. However, it’s important to note that the Bruins are a team that the Leafs have yet to beat in a playoff series since 1959. 
Toronto had clear expectations of what they wanted to look like entering the series’ first game. They have tough players like Reaves, Joel Edmunson, and Simon Benoit but also scrappy goal scorers like Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi. Their size speaks for itself, as do the numbers, as the club finished second in hits and ninth in penalty minutes per game. The Maple Leafs aren’t afraid to shake things up. 
However, being tough may have been one of the factors that placed them behind after Toronto took five penalties, resulting in two Bruins goals, both from Jake Debrusk. 
“It’s just all about the mindset and keeping our composure and finding that fine line of competing and sticking up for one another but not crossing that line where we’re the ones being taken to the box,” Leafs superstar center Auston Matthews told reporters after the game Saturday.
Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin recognized that staying out of the box was one of many concerns for the Leafs in Game 1; their power play also struggled to generate clean shots on one of the NHL’s best netminders, Jeremy Swayman. 
“It was not good; it was really slow and disconnected,” Keefe told reporters. “Not good enough.”
The absence of William Nylander and Bobby McMann adds to the weight of the loss, but their offence shouldn’t have lacked any performance with Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares. 
Larkin also recognized that the defensive pairing of Benoit and Jake McCabe played a factor as they repeatedly took too long to clear the puck from the Leafs zone. 
Toronto didn’t look frightened by the Bruins, but Game 1 certainly raised concerns. As the second-highest-scoring team in the NHL, the Maple Leafs should be doing what they know best and getting the puck behind Swayman and the Bruins. 

Referee Steve Kozari returns after injury for playoffs

After recovering from a scary incident during a game on April 6th, referee Steve Kozari made his return on Sunday for the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 46-year-old official was injured during the second period of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning game when Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury and Kozari unintentionally collided near centre ice.
Both men were firmly knocked down to the ice, but Kozari was motionless for a few moments before he was stretchered off the ice and taken to hospital.
However, after missing the last push of the regular season, Kozari joined official Kyle Rehman for Game 1 of the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators series. which saw Vancouver win 4-2 Sunday night.
His return marks his 137th career playoff game, complimenting his 1151 regular season games and four Stanley Cup Final appearances.
Fleury, who struggled to his feet after the incident, missed the remainder of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Although he re-joined practice on Monday wearing a non-contact jersey, the 27-year-old was sidelined during Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Panthers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoff series.
This season, the defenceman recorded one goal and five points in 24 games while averaging 16:07 of ice time per night.
Tampa Bay will look to take Game 2 to tie the series with the Panthers on Tuesday.

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