How the Maple Leafs used an anchor to win game 5 against the Bruins

Marvin Azrak
May 1, 2024  (10:20 PM)

Matthew Knies celebrates after saving the Toronto Maple Leafs season with the overtime winner in their 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 5.
Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Maple Leafs are still alive in their series against the Boston Bruins and they have their «Anchor» to thank for it. No; not Jospeh Woll, their backup netminder who was truly a wall in net. Rather it was their anchor transition play which spread across all three zones of the TD Garden Ice in their 2-1 overtime win in Game 5.

Former Toronto Marlies video coach Jack Han broke down the leafs execution of their tactics in his latest video workshop. The anchor is in simpler terms a one touch breakout. the weak side defenseman fires the puck off the near boards to the winger, who then sets up the center in motion as they charge up the ice. It's a classic move in hockey, one I've even participated in during my college club level practices.
Here, timing and execution are everything. Get it right, and you have a clear path to the offensive zone with speed. Mess it up, and you're looking at a rush chance against you. Without Auston Matthews, the Leafs had to nail this play to keep their hopes alive.
Han pointed out that the Leafs' defense was consistently sending the puck up the forehand side, creating opportunities.
With the way Toronto's D core is composed right now. They're sending the puck up their forehand side every single time.

Jack broke down a play with 12 minutes left in the first period. Ilya Lybushkin sent a puck up the wall to Max Domi who sealed off the Boston player by coming a smidge off the wall.
Instead of a center being there, Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe decided to have the weak side defenseman (The side where the puck is not), which was Joel Edmundson catch the puck and skate up ice. Once he entered the offensive zone, three Boston players collapsed on him but it opened things up for a drop pass to Tyler Bertuzzi at the point.
Unfortunately, the forward mishandled the puck, forcing Toronto to reset but it was still a zone-entry.
Sure, these might not be the fanciest scoring chances, but they put pressure on the Bruins' defense, making them scramble to cover.
The Leafs ran «Anchor» throughout the contest and when done right, it resulted in a shot from the high-dot off the rush. Yet as Han explained, there was more to it than that.
Obviously these aren't grade-A chances but at least you're getting shots off the rush and when you get shots off the rush like this, you look how panicked the Boston defenders are. They're going to collapse to the slot which means it's probably going to be an easy retrieval at the opposite corner and then Toronto gets to play in the O-zone a little bit.

When they didn't pull off the pass, it was terrifying. Like in overtime, when a botched stretch pass almost spelled disaster.
Boston captain Brad Marchand. Marchand then had the middle of the ice open and took advantage, flying into the offensive zone and could've ended the series if he didn't lose control of the puck or Charlie Coyle, who was right behind him didn't whiff on the pass. Toronto tried to save themselves with the anchor, and luckily great hand-eye coordination by Calle Jarnkrok completed the zone exit.
Then on the overtime winner, Leafs John Tavares recognized he had a one on one with Matt Grzelcyk, who was passive in coming to cover his check and was exposed as Tavares attacked the open space, going straight to the net where the rebound attempt found Matthew Knies for the game winner.
That goal has sent the Leafs into Game 6 back on home ice with a renewed sense of confidence. Yet the big question is will the Anchor play work its magic once again or will Boston shut things down. We will find out on Thursday.
MAY 1   |   571 ANSWERS
How the Maple Leafs used an anchor to win game 5 against the Bruins

Are you confident the Toronto Maple Leafs can execute their anchor strategy as pointed out by Jack Han and win game 6 against the Boston Bruins

Yes46481.3 %
No10718.7 %
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