Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock can't single out a specific issue his team needs to improve on ahead of Game 3 against the Boston Bruins.
That's because the list of his club's mistakes in the first two games of the series - that's left the Leafs in an 0-2 hole - is too long to pinpoint just one.
“Any way you look at it, we're down 0-2 and we haven't been as good as we're capable of being. When you go right through it from - the way I look at it is, there are so many things we can do better,” Babcock said Sunday after holding a team meeting.
“They scored a goal that was offside (in Game 1), we didn't have the (evidence in time), we didn't (challenge). Our penalty kill hasn't been as good, we've left our goalies alone. We've had two too-many men on the ice penalties where a guy is substituting for another guy. All those things, when you look at it, it hasn't gone very good. That's real disappointing.”
Here are five things Toronto needs to happen to have any success against Boston when it hosts Game 3 on Monday.
BOUNCE BACK FROM FREDERIK ANDERSEN - Andersen admittedly hasn't been there to bail his team out through the first two games of the series and found himself yanked in Game 2 after allowing three goals on five shots. Not every goal against has been his fault, though, with the Bruins continuously being allowed to skate right to Andersen's crease for a scoring chance. Andersen's 6.65 goals-against average is worst amongst the 16 starting goaltenders in the post-season, while his .822 save percentage is second last behind New Jersey's Keith Kinkaid (.804).
“I think an early save on their first goal (in Game 2) would have been huge and that's playoff hockey for you,” said Andersen. “Sometimes you make that save and we build off that. I know we're capable of playing better, myself included.”
SPECIAL TEAMS - Toronto had the second-best power play (25 per cent) and 11th-ranked penalty kill (81.4) in the regular season while Boston had the fourth-best power play (23.5) and finished second in killing penalties (83.7). But only the Bruins are taking advantage of special teams in the first two games of the series. The Leafs have allowed five power-play goals against on 10 opportunities while Boston killed off six straight penalties before giving up a goal on the man advantage late in Game 2 when the score was already out of reach. Toronto defenceman Ron Hainsey has been relied on heavily, playing 10:59 on the penalty kill in two games.
“Obviously their power-play unit is very good, a lot of fire power, make good plays, wins faceoffs and they got guys who can score,” said Leafs centre Tyler Bozak. “Our power play has been good all year, nice to get one late (in Game 2) and hopefully it gives us a little boost.”
TOP LINE DOMINANCE - David Pastrnak was everywhere in Game 2 and finished with three goals and six points in a 7-3 win. He alone has nine points in Boston's two victories, while linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have contributed another 11 to give the trio 20 points in the series. The Leafs knew Boston's top line would be difficult to stop, but have been blindsided by its talent all series. Toronto's top line has been cold and shown no pushback, with Auston Matthews still searching for his first point.
“I think we just need to eliminate some of their space,” said Andersen. “They've been getting a little too much time and they're too skilled to do that. You see the nice goals, it looks pretty easy for them. I'm sure we can fix that.”
CHEMISTRY - A three-game suspension for Leafs forward Nazem Kadri forced Babcock to switch his lines in Game 2, and he may need to do more shuffling for Game 3 with a lower-body injury to forward Leo Komarov. Komarov is uncertain to dress Monday because of the injury suffered in Saturday's 7-3 loss. Forwards Dominic Moore, Matt Martin and Josh Leivo are all healthy and ready to go, with all three taking part in post-season practices.
“The way I look at all of this is none of that matters,” said Babcock. “You've got to get your mind right and you've got to play right. Whoever puts on our sweater is good enough.”
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HOME ICE - Babcock is thrilled to be back at Air Canada Centre for the simple reason he now gets last line change in his attempt to matchup against Boston's elite. The Leafs thrived on home ice in the regular season, going 29-10-2 at ACC and at one point set a new franchise record with 13 straight victories. The belief amongst many NHL players is you're expected to win on home ice in the playoffs, so the Leafs aren't exactly showing too much concern being down after two road losses.
“I think we have an opportunity to play at home and that's a big game for us,” said Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly. “We have to find our confidence, we have to be ready to go. We control what happens. If we can come out here and put forth a good effort and play the way we're capable of, you've got to start on somewhere.”
“Obviously, the first two games didn't go as planned,” said Bozak. “You know you want to go in (to Boston), get a split for sure and come home with a win. But now we're just going to have to go to work at home and get both of these games.”