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Leafs assoc. coach: I was thinking about Round 2 home ice during Boston collapse

Jul 17, 2013, 9:35 PM EDT

GregCronin

Over at Maple Leafs Hot Stove, there’s a terrific and extremely candid interview with Toronto associate coach Greg Cronin, in which he sheds light on his mindset during the Leafs’ Game 7 collapse against Boston in the opening playoff round.

Most interesting? Despite the shift in momentum over the final 10 minutes of the third period — during which Boston erased a 4-1 deficit — Cronin was looking ahead to potential home ice advantage in the second round.

That’s right.

Here’s more, from the Hot Stove:

“If you watch the game over again, watch the last three minutes. Did you know that [Mikhail] Grabovski had the puck in Boston’s zone, behind the net, and they had no goalie in the net? It was 4-2, and there was just around 2 minutes to go in the game.

“I was not in any shape or form worried about being under assault like we were in Game 5. It just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening up until that point. We had the puck in their zone, and Grabovski turned the puck over. They came up the ice, [David] Krejci passed it up to [Milan] Lucic, and Lucic skated by our bench. There was about a minute and 45 seconds to go and he dumped the puck in.

“I looked at the clock and I saw the Rangers were beating Washington. This was how comfortable I was. I was thinking, ‘the Rangers won and we’re going to have home ice for the next round of the playoffs.’

“That’s what I thought in my head. I didn’t feel that the Bruins had established any consistent threat. They had some rushes where they came into the zone and dumped it in and had a couple of shots from the boards, but there wasn’t any sustained pressure that when you’re a coach you think, ‘oh boy we’re in trouble.’

“Until Lucic scored the goal.”

Lucic’s goal came with 1:22 left in the contest. Thirty-one seconds later Patrice Bergeron scored the equalizer, then potted the game-winner just 6:05 into overtime.

The comeback, as has been stated on numerous occasions, was truly one for the ages. The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period, something that Cronin tried to explain.

“I think were were looking at a group of players who had never been in that situation before in their careers,” he said. “Did the pressure get to them?

“I don’t think they’d be human if didn’t.”

  1. pastabelly - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    Choke of epic proportions. The Leafs are talking a good game now, but that loss is in their heads.

    • tmlhockeyfan - Jul 18, 2013 at 1:29 AM

      I hope it’s in their heads.

      Just like Boston blowing a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in game 7 to the Flyers stuck with them. They’ve done pretty well since that fire was lit.

      • pastabelly - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:26 AM

        Those two Bruins teams were very different (actual players).

      • tmlhockeyfan - Jul 18, 2013 at 1:14 PM

        The team that blew the 3-0 lead in 2010 and the team that won a cup in 2011 were pretty similar. All the key players were there for both years.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 18, 2013 at 3:08 AM

      I remember another epic comeback/collapse. 1982 record-smashing Oilers led the 24-41 Kings 5-0 in the 3rd and lost 6-5. They were out of the playoffs 2 games later and that so epically shattered their young psyches that they failed to make the Finals until, well, the very next season. Lost, but won it all the following year.

    • sunderlanding - Jul 18, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      The Leafs teams are different as well. No more Grabo or MacArthur, and added Clarkson and Bolland. That chocke doesn’t happen with those two on the team.

  2. imleftcoast - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    I watch the replay on the NHL Network, and I still can’t believe. Lucic should have been serving a penalty for the hit from behind. Why he and the Bruins get special treatment is beyond me.

    • loinstache - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:12 PM

      The Kelly elbow on Van Riemsdyk is the one that always sticks with me. The Leafs probably would have lost regardless, but those are two super predatory plays that simply sour me on the standard of officiating.

      • harkins1721 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        @lolinstache

        Van Riemsdyk pushes Kelly to the ground but if you look more closely he also makes contact with his glove to Kellys face.

    • harkins1721 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM

      Seriously stop crying. There was no hit from behind on that play. He barley made contact with Gunnarsson. That giant bang you hear is Lucic going into the boards. Please pay attention next time you watch a game.

      • lordstanley65 - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:07 AM

        A day can’t go by where Leftcoast can’t say something bad about the Bruins.

  3. buffalo65 - Jul 17, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    It was great

  4. dayno66 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    The Bruins beat up every opponent they had in the playoffs. Sometimes with clean plays and sometimes with dirty ones. It’s just part of playoff hockey and always will be.

    • tmlhockeyfan - Jul 18, 2013 at 1:30 AM

      every opponent? Boston had nothing on the Hawks.

      • alexbaymac - Jul 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        Oh no, they DID beat up the Hawks. On the ice, they took it to Toews & Co. every shift, most times clean & sometimes dirty, but every shift, they hit hard. The only place the Hawks beat the Bruins was on the scoreboard.

        I’ll take that. :-)

      • tdrusher225 - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:08 PM

        Are you kidding? The Bruins and Hawks were a part of one of the most competitive and closest Finals in history. The Bruins could’ve won that series in 5, just like the Hawks could’ve done the same thing. It was that close.

    • tampashot - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:01 PM

      That was the Penguins downfall. The strategy of out-hitting the Bruins (which they did 150-97) took them out of their game. Hawks realized the key was attacking Chara and that strategy worked very well once they implemented it. Bruins out-hit the Hawks 274-203 and that didn’t get them the Cup.

  5. sergeikremlin - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    #blameitongrabovski No wonder he had some choice words for the organization after he was bought out.

    • dueman - Jul 18, 2013 at 2:23 AM

      Exaggerate much? Nobody is blaming Grabovski. Cronin is just stating that, that was the point at which Boston turned it on. That’s the shift that Lucic decided that Boston wasn’t going to lose. The guy was on a mission!

  6. letsgopens8771 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    I like the Leafs, I think they are going to have good days ahead and are now a team that consistently can make the playoffs and give teams a run for their money. However, I am not a fan of how cocky they are acting right now. Sure, you’ve got a very good team with young talent on both sides of the puck which is generating a lot of noise, but honestly, quiet down with the Cup Parade planning and the looking ahead to round 2 business. The Playoffs and the road to Lord Stanley’s cup is quite the grind and it is not a cake walk. (I mean, the Islanders even gave my boys a tough fight.) Go Leafs go, but when it comes to arrogance, no Leafs no.

    • dueman - Jul 18, 2013 at 2:56 AM

      The President of MLSE made that ONE comment about the parade, but he never made any claims on it actually happening.He said that he would like to help make it happen at some point before he retires from the job, because the guy in charge when it does happen will be a hero in Toronto. I wouldn’t say that’s being cocky. What team executive would say that they didn’t have the parade planned? He’s just doing his job. It’s the media that likes to exaggerate anything to do with the Leafs! The guys on this site do it all the time. As far as looking ahead to the next round – give me a break, who wouldn’t be, with a two goal lead and less than two minutes on the clock. Losing in that situation is far from normal. The team is young and that was a learning experience, but for an assistant coach to have those THOUGHTS in his head at the time is far from being cocky.

  7. Windmiller4 - Jul 17, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Honestly, im shocked that a coach would admit to this, and im even more shocked he wasn’t fired/released because of it. When a coach shows this lack of focus it’s bound to affect the players. With all the next year round two, the way they mishandled Grabovski, and cup parade Bullsiht im glad to see they lost that game. Cockiness kills and these guys are gonna shoot themselves in the foot if they keep it up

  8. tru2joelu4eva - Jul 17, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    leafs fans should be optimistic! in 2010 the flyers did, more or less, the same thing against the bruins, and the next year the bruins won the cup! the 2013 first-round game 7 doesn’t have to be disastrous for the franchise, it can truly be a productive learning experience.

    -not a leafs fan.

  9. mistercue62 - Jul 18, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    I honestly cannot BELIEVE that so few (if anyone for that matter) have the guts, common sense and basic hockey intelligence to assign at least SOME of the blame for the Leaf’s “epic” game 7 collapse to the most obvious element; the goaltending of James Reimer. It never ceases to AMAZE me just how instantly defensive and reactionary Leaf fans become whenever I offer even the slightest of criticism at this flagrantly flawed netminder or suggest that he was even partly to blame for what happened that night in Boston.

    How is this even possible?? How is it that Reimer can surrender 4 unanswered goals to blow a 3-goal lead late in the third period as well as the series winner early in overtime and be held accountable by virtually NO-ONE?? Fingers of blame have since been pointed in literally EVERY direction EXCEPT the net by analyst after analyst! “Fire Carlyle”, “Trade Phaneuf”, “Sign a veteran backup goalie” (the most ludicrous of all), “Trade Kessel” “Buy out Phaneuf” “Sign big money free-agent defensemen”, “Trade Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner for a stud d-man” are just a handfull of the myriad ridiculous and totally unnecessary “solutions” that I’ve seen proposed by fans over the past month, none of which would solve anything or even BEGIN to acknowledge and deal with the elephant in the room; Toronto’s sub-par goaltending! As far as I’m concerned (as evidently is Toronto’s management team), there is but one solution to the Leaf’s shortcomings: “REPLACE REIMER”!

    Furthermore, for all of you Leaf fans that are buying any of the recent propoganda concerning an impending “healthy competition” at next season’s training camp, Jonathon Bernier is and will continue to be Toronto’s #1 goaltender for years to come (an opinion shared by Dave Nonis et al, based on the timing of Bernier’s acquisition and what the team surrendered in that trade). Make no mistake about it, Bernier did NOT come here to back-up James Reimer (as many have suggested) nor did he agree to be traded to Toronto to be “#1A”. Anyone that has followed the story behind this brilliant young goaltender will know that he only requested the trade out of Los Angeles so that he’d be able to start for another team. Why then would this former 1st round pick (11th overall in 2006) have agreed to Toronto after waiting so patiently behind Jonathan Quick for so many years for a starting gig if there were ANY chance that he would have to remain a back-up? Or for that matter, why would the Kings, who LOVED this guy, even consider sending him to such a situation? Trust me, the starting job was promised to him from the word “go”and was in all likelihood a condition of the deal. The only reason for the lack of clarification from Leafs management and this whole “competition/pushing each other” nonsense was to spare Reimer’s feelings while concurrently appeasing his unfathomable legion of fans. I’m guessing as well that Bernier was told to maintain a low profile in the interim evidenced by his lack of media presence or statements of opinion on the issue.

    Finally, if Leafs’ management had any intention whatsoever of allowing Reimer to continue as the team’s #1or had any doubt that Bernier was the answer in net for many years to come, they NEVER would have made this deal! If Reimer weren’t finished, they would instead have signed a veteran back-up to mentor Reimer going forward rather than the up-and-coming young superstar that so many GM’s covet and have publically referred to as “the best young goalie in the league” or “one of the best netminders in the NHL”. As for Reimer, just because he has more NHL experience doesn’t inherently make him a better goaltender! On the contrary, Reimer has shown very little in the way of improvement and possesses the same critical flaws that he had 3 years ago. He still goes down too early on nearly every shot, he can’t handle the puck to save his life particularly behind the net (often giving it away in dangerous situations), he still plays too far back in his net, rarely coming out beyond his crease to challenge shooters (a glaring sign of low-confidence), he plays a butterfly style yet lacks the fundamental ability to block his 5-hole by simply putting his stick on the ice (he gets beaten 5-hole almost nightly), his glove is HORRIBLE (a widely known weakness by snipers around the league) and most of all, he gives up rebound after rebound right in front of his net or into the slot rather than steering them into the corner as elite goaltenders (including Bernier) effortlessly do. And as far as his “stats” from last season are concerned (the most common ‘Reimer-defence’ that I’ve encountered), stats van be extremely deceiving and Reimer’s are certainly no exception. In response to Reimer’s propensity for dangerous rebounds, Randy Carlyle was forced to impliment a “collapse-down-low” defensive system to ensure that his endless rebounds would be cleared away, resulting in a lot of low-percentage shots from the subsequently uncovered points (much to Don Cherry’s endless chagrin). Once the Bruins woke up and decided to finally take advantage of this opportunity to constantly cycle the puck rather than to continuously blast the puck high-glove from lousy angles, the Leafs were doomed as Reimer left to his own devices is quite simply not a very good goaltender; at least not good enough to stop the likes of Patrice Bergeron! I hardly think that a goalie who is so flawed that his weaknesses demand a dramatic alteration of the team’s entire defensive philosophy is the kind of player that the Leafs would want to continue to entrust with the most significant responsibility in hockey; the #1 goaltender!

    Don’t fret Leaf fans; this is the greatest news the team has had in at least a decade. In fact, I’d say that the trade to acquire Jonothon Bernier was the smartest move the Leafs have made in over 20 years!

    We FINALLY have a true #1 and an elite future superstar between the pipes!!

    • dueman - Jul 18, 2013 at 3:51 AM

      Ya, sure! I take it you don’t like Reimer. That’s fine, but there is no reason for all that bs. There is no propaganda about the two goalies pushing each other, lol You don’t know what’s going on inside Nonis’ brain. lol The starting goal tending job was not promised to Bernier as a condition of this trade, and is not in his contract. In fact Bernier had no choice in where he was traded! Also, the Leafs gave up hardly anything to get him.

      Carlyle was never forced to implement any system based on Reimer either. Carlyle’s system is Carlyle’s system. He’s a defensive minded coach, and with or without Reimer, this is the system that the Leafs would be playing under him period.

      You did say something that was correct, and is something that you should let sink in, and that was, “Fingers of blame have since been pointed in literally EVERY direction EXCEPT the net by analyst after analyst!” The reason for that is simple. Reimer played great, and is the number one reason that they got as far as they did. Is there room for improvement in Reimer’s game? Sure there is. Is Bernier for sure better? Nobody knows, but we’re all going to find out! Toronto now has two young, up and coming, goal tenders, that will push each other as each guy tries to win, and hang on to the starting job. I’m hoping that they both end up being great goal tenders!

    • rpettit123 - Jul 18, 2013 at 4:26 AM

      Oh Please, only a moron can blame a goalie for not stopping pucks defensemen are paid to pick up and a goalie cant be expected to score goals, its a team game you win as a team and you lose as a team. We will see how good Bernier is when phanuef throws the puck to a streaking opponent or when the giveaways in their own end overwhelm him as they did Riemer blaming a goaltender who had the skills enough to get you in the playoffs in the first place shows lack of percentage knowlege Riemer saved Torontos ass on more than a dozen games where was the defense when he needed them also? Where was Carlyle to call a timeout at 4-2 to slow the game up some and rest the crew like I said you win as a team and you lose as a team live with it, its not rocket science.

    • dropthepuckeh - Jul 18, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      I started to read mistercue62’s post but then scrolled down and saw the length of it. Cliff notes please, my ADD cannot sustain that kind of focus with so many other things online….

  10. mendenhallfumblemachine - Jul 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    It’s not Reimers fault. Don’t be silly, without him we aren’t even close to game 7 against Boston and the defensive coverage in the collapse was absolutely pathetic the last 2 minutes.

    I don’t know who to blame, just a bad collapse all around as a team. Move on.

  11. ndnut - Jul 18, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    @mistercue62 I think you just set the all-time standard for long-form commenting.

  12. nhstateline - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    And who wasn’t thinking something along these lines when the Leafs went up 4-1 ? Half the section I was sitting in left when that happened and people continued to go even after Horton scored. Chiarelli was making lists of free agents, the Bruin players were wondering who was getting traded and not enjoying what the remaining fans had to say about them getting eliminated by the Leafs and losing game 7. It was over and then it wasn’t. Just like in the Cup Final Game 7, it was headed to game 7 then 17 seconds it wasn’t. That’s why pro sports are so compelling, they’re unscripted and anything can happen. I’m not sure Toronto fans have much in their history to help them cope with something like this but us Bruin fans have decades of epic Red Sox collapses to act as a comparison case and speed up the healing process…..

    • nhstateline - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:33 AM

      game 6 of the Cup Final. Excuse me. Still processing the idea it didn’t get to Game 7…..

    • micasa81 - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Yep, this is bang on. Unreal to hear people criticizing this guy for speaking so candidly. He certainly wasn’t being cocky. He was eating crow about how he made the mistake of assuming it was a done deal, before it actually was.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 18, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Amen. I was watching that game to the end because that’s just what real fans do. Didn’t expect it to turn out like that.

  13. pastabelly - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    Wow, the blame pie on the epic collapse should be organization wide. They stopped skating and got away from the things they were doing so well. That’s not ALL on the goalie. Toronto can talk a big game now, but they haven’t proven that they aren’t soft. Up until game 7, 3rd period, they were playing like they had nothing to lose. Now, more is expected of them and questioning their guts is fair game.

    • dueman - Jul 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      Are you serious? Toronto hasn’t proven they aren’t soft, and questioning their guts is fair game? You obviously haven’t watched Toronto play much! If you want to raise question marks about their defensive play, that would be valid, but to question their guts, and toughness is completely moronic. Toronto is one of the toughest teams in the league by far! That’s the least of their problems, and they got even tougher to play against with the additions of Bolland, and Clarkson.

  14. jcmeyer10 - Jul 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Just like Lucic said he was thinking of what Chiarelli would do to the team after they lose. It clearly didn’t stop him from playing he was just living in the moment.

    I like this guy for having the balls to admit it.

  15. nhstateline - Jul 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    fans say they want the players and coaches to speak candidly instead of in trite cliches then they do it and people get upset about it meaning the players and coaches get the message that trite cliches is the way to go. I never leave early because something interesting could happen but mostly, even after Horton scored, it was mostly just to enjoy the last few minutes of live hockey for five months. Then Lucic scored…..

  16. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Jul 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    If they were blaming Reimer, Reimer would be gone. Reimer is still on the team. Getting Bernier was just upgrading what the Leafs had in net. Bernier is a HUGE improvement over Scrivens. Having two goalies duel it out for the #1 spot isn’t a bad thing. Seems to work in St Louis with Halak, Elliott.

    As for Grabovksi, no one was blaming him either. Kadri and Bozak are better top line centers, Bolland and McClement are better checking line centers. Grabovski and his big contract were expendable. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, although his exit rant makes it safe to assume he had an attitude problem during the regular season after getting demoted. He showed up and hustled in the playoffs, but no results. Losing him will not hurt at all.

    Can’t wait for the season to get going.

    • mistercue62 - Jul 24, 2013 at 7:13 AM

      If they WEREN’T blaming Reimer, they never would have traded for Bernier! Rather, the Leafs would have picked up a veteran back-up to support and mentor James Reimer if the organization had any real confidence in him as the #1 guy going forward. And yes, Bernier is a “huge improvement” over Scrivens just as he is a “huge improvement” over Reimer! You people just don’t get it; Reimer’s days as a Maple Leaf are numbered. In fact, if they could have gotten rid of him already, he’d already be gone. The problem is that other GMs around the league see Reimer for what he truly is and always will be, based on his inability to improve upon his flagrant flaws and nagging weaknesses; a serviceable back-up at his best and a catastrophic nightmare at his worst. I also have it from a usually reliable source that it was Reimer and not Scrivens (a goaltender with far more fundamental ability and a much higher potential ceiling than Reimer) who the Leafs initially offered along with Matt Frattin in the Bernier negotiations with the Kings, but L.A. didn’t want him; they felt (as many others including myself do) that Scrivens is a better all-around netminder and a more suitable replacement to back-up Quick.

      I really don’t care what you folks think of Reimer or even understand this bizzare affinity; Bernier is a FAR superior goaltender and a genuine marquis #1 in the making (in short order, I predict). I’ve had the pleasure of watching Bernier play for the Kings and the dude is nothing short of spectacular! During that stretch of games where he took over for an injured Jonathan Quick, he turned in one brilliant petformance after another, keeping his team in the playoff race in the process. His glove (unlike Reimer’s) is amazing and he gives up FAR fewer rebounds, routinely directing them into the corner as opposed to in front of his net. The guy reminds me of Tony Esposito (the father & master of the butterfly) the way he plays the style so efficiently (unlike his soon-to-be predecessor.

      Competition or not, Bernier will be the starter next season, you can bet on it!

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