It was bold, creative and acrobatic, and it showed something that has been growing in the Maple Leafs as a whole against a team that, not so long ago, was painfully lacking: Confidence. Mikhail Grabovski’s daring display two nights ago in Boston — where he scooped the puck on to his stick blade behind the Boston net, flipped it high, skated out in front and batted it out of mid-air toward goalie Tuukka Rask as it came down — typifies what has been going on psychologically with the Maple Leafs over the past several games. “That was pretty cool,” forward Clarke MacArthur said. “That’s a high-end move. It was a very witty play by him.” No matter that Rask got his glove on the puck and pulled it into his body for the save, it took confidence — and guts — to try the move, and it looks as if the Maple Leafs are amassing plenty of both as this series progresses. A hard-fought but disappointing 4-3 overtime loss on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre and then a gutsy 2-1 victory at TD Garden on Friday night to stave off elimination show that this team can play with the big, bad Bruins and, when their backs are against the wall, they can win. “I think were a different team from the start of the year, to mid-season, until now,” said centre Nazem Kadri. “Adversity has brought the best out of us. Every single game, we’ve battled adversity and been able to overcome it, so I think that’s a real positive feeling for us.” Coming out on the right side of adversity isn’t something that could have been said with any certainty just several weeks ago, either in the Leafs dressing room or in the city of Toronto. When it looked as if the Leafs were going to get the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, there was optimism they were a team Toronto could beat. When it turned out to be the Bruins, optimism turned to apprehension. The Bruins were a thorn in the Leafs side, a team to which Toronto had lost eight consecutive matches dating back to last season prior to picking up a 3-2 victory at the ACC on March 23, and nine out of 10 overall. They were a team Toronto as a whole didn’t feel good about facing. MacArthur, who scored what proved to be the winning goal on Friday night, said it used to be that the mood in dressing room prior to facing the Bruins was dark. “Especially throughout last year, last year was awful,” MacArthur said of the mood. “We just used to lay down in front of them. You know, were done doing that.” Done, indeed. Toronto has gone toe-to-toe with the Bruins in this series, matching or bettering them in the important hits and blocked shots categories. On Friday night alone, the Leafs outhit the Bruins 46 to 39 and had more blocks by a margin roughly 2-to-1 (27 to 13).
Leafs becoming believers
Toronto Sun | May 12