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What Leafs must do vs. Bruins in Game 3 to gain series lead

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The journey to a 1-1 series with the Bruins wasn't pretty, but the Maple Leafs are surely pleased to split a playoff-opening road trip to Boston.

Next up after Monday's 3-2 win: Game 3 on Wednesday at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena. Aside from the obvious - star forward William Nylander returning to full health and another stellar start from goalie Ilya Samsonov - what can the Leafs do in Game 3 to gain a series lead?

Let's discuss three areas of focus.

Steer Matthews away from Lindholm

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The main advantages of playing at home: the crowd and last change.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe must tap into that second edge by doing everything he can to find favorable matchups for Auston Matthews.

Matthews, after 69 regular-season goals and 107 points, has been terrific through two games. He was so close to changing the course of Game 1 but hit the post in the second period. He did it all in Game 2, collecting the primary assist on Toronto's first two goals and sniping the third and final marker. In 44 total minutes, Matthews has a whopping 22 shot attempts (13 on target); nine hits; and won 21 of 41 faceoffs.

Hampus Lindholm is the only Bruins defenseman who can match Matthews' blend of size, strength, and skating. The 6-4, 224-pound Swede has been on the ice for 24 of Matthews' 32 five-on-five minutes and Toronto's scored twice and Boston's been shut out in that time. That's a victory for the Leafs, yes, but also not a huge disaster for Boston. Lindholm's done OK.

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The logic behind Keefe chasing better matchups is less about Lindholm's ability to tame Matthews and more about Boston's alternatives. The defenseman not paired with Lindholm - either Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo - would be worth targeting, while any of Boston's other blue-liners could be seriously exploited. Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Andrew Peeke (if he’s healthy after a Game 2 injury) are ill-equipped to handle No. 34 in blue.

Matthews has developed tremendous chemistry with wingers Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi; all of them bring something unique to Toronto's top line. Yet Matthews stirs the drink. He's talented enough to take over the series himself.

Stop taking unnecessary penalties

There are justifiable and unjustifiable penalties; infractions that save a potential goal against and infractions that accomplish nothing, that do more bad than good.

Toronto's been assessed 11 minors already and at least three qualify as unjustifiable: Domi's slash on Brad Marchand in Game 1; and Jake McCabe's cross-check on Jakub Lauko and Ilya Lyubushkin's roughing of Charlie Coyle in Game 2. (Boston's power play scored on two of the three.)

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It's one thing to take dumb penalties. It's another to take them when you don't have a trustworthy penalty kill. Only nine teams had a worse kill rate than Toronto's 77% in the regular season. Through two playoff games, that rate has dropped to 57%, after three Bruins power-play goals on seven opportunities.

Officials tend to call a bunch of minors in the first few games of the playoffs before establishing a more lenient standard the rest of the spring. If history repeats itself and whistles are put away sooner than later, perhaps the Leafs' discipline issues become a moot point starting in Game 3. But Toronto must do a better job here.

Get more out of Marner, Liljegren

Before the series, Toronto's playbook for winning revolved around leveraging its forward depth. Overwhelm the Bruins and hopefully the rest falls into place.

Game 2 was a step in that direction, overall, although Mitch Marner's performance so far leaves much to be desired. The $11-million winger, who’s been widely criticized for poor showings in previous postseasons, has failed to record a point or lead the second line. Toronto needs him to be an elite playmaker - full stop. Captain John Tavares can't be the focal point of a line anymore and other linemate Matthew Knies is a complementary piece.

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Marner's perimeter play has coincided with Nylander's absence. If Tavares is generally limited, Marner's playing meh hockey, and Nylander's unavailable, Toronto's forward group is all of a sudden shallow beyond Matthews.

That's concerning for the Leafs given their top-heavy roster.

While Marner isn't in danger of being scratched (he hasn't been that bad), Keefe should consider a shakeup on the back end. Timothy Liljegren has been a disaster with the puck on his stick to start the series (a center-ice turnover midway through Game 2 was particularly egregious). The 24-year-old right-shot is either due for a lengthy video session, healthy scratch, or both.

TJ Brodie had a challenging season and he's no longer in the prime of his career, but he's typically reliable with the puck and would be a better option on the third pair alongside rangy Joel Edmundson. It's a worth shot.

John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him via email (

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