Heading into game three between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, all eyes were on the newly formed shutdown line of Mitch Marner, Patrick Marleau and trade deadline acquisition Tomas Plekanec. After being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick, Plekanec has done less than impress with only two assists in 17 games in the regular season.
Through the first two games of the playoffs, he was virtually unnoticeable as the Bruins racked up 12 goals in two games in Boston. Game three was back Toronto and little was expected from the marginalized center. However, head coach Mike Babcock’s newly formed line would carry the Maple Leafs to victory in game three and put them back in the series.
Patrick Marleau scored twice, both times via a Mitch Marner pass. Plakanec made a great defensive play to lift David Krejci’s stick and turn the puck up ice. He joined Marleau on a two-on-one and provided enough of a decoy for Marleau to net the insurance goal and put the Leafs up 4-2.
Plekanec may have been the third wheel to Marner and Marleau, but Plekanec allowed for his linemates to have some extra space, something sorely missing in the first two games. The former Hab was praised by Marner following the game. “Plakanec is a hell of a player, he’s very good at shutting down the other team’s best player. He’s always above people and always above the puck and when he gets it in his hands he makes smart plays.”
The 5’11” pivot will have his hands full once again in game four. After taking 21 draws against the Bruins top center Patrice Bergeron, it’s expected he’ll see more of the same. Boston will no doubt adjust for game four, and it’s incumbent on the Leafs and Plakenec to continue shutting down the top line. Continuing to win defensive zone draws like Plakenec did in game three will be crucial.
The Maple Leafs take on the Boston Bruins on Thursday at 7pm EST.