Why The Bruins Prevailed In A Grueling First Round Against The Maple Leafs

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(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

When a Boston-Toronto matchup comes to fruition in the playoffs, it is sure to be a battle — the last two, and now three playoff matchups between the two teams are indicative of that. For the third time in the past six seasons, the Bruins came out victorious in seven games over the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t a squeaky clean series from the Bruins, but they found a way to get it done in the end. Sure, the reasons I state aren’t the only reasons the Bruins prevailed, but they are important ones.

Deadline additions come in clutch

The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson were orchestrated by Don Sweeney at deadline time. Coyle didn’t light up the score sheet as a Bruin post-trade deadline, but really helped a third line that saw ebbs and flows throughout the season.

Coyle broke out in the first round, big time. With three goals and an assist, his four points were good for fifth on the team in scoring. The stability of his presence on the third line never faded, and his ability to score and push the pace in all three zones really came through and was paramount in the team’s success. His empty netter last night sealed the deal on the series, but his lone assist of the series in the team’s game four wins was a huge one. Coyle’s importance can’t be overstated.

Despite only playing in five of the seven games, Marcus Johansson made an impact as well. Overall, he had a solid series, but he really came through last night with a huge goal to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Not to mention a big blocked shot late in the second period of an eventual game four win — the Bruins were up by two goals at the time.

The fourth line came up big when it mattered most

Overall this season, the fourth line has seen its share of ebbs and flows, like the third line. They really got a boost when known buzzsaw Sean Kuraly returned from injury in game five. At times, the fourth line looked pretty rough, but they saw a resurgence when Kuraly’s presence and high-energy style was at its peak.

The bottom line’s most notable performance, with Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Acciari making up the line, came in game seven. In combining for two goals and three assists in the game, the fourth line pushed the pace and put the Bruins over the top to win when it all came down to it. Big-time players make big-time plays.

Tuukka Rask, plain and simple

Tuukka Rask was phenomenal in the first round, and has been for much of the season as a whole. He wasn’t perfect, but he made crucial saves when they were needed most in the end. After the game last night, Rask hinted at being his changed workload in the regular season helping, and he sure gave us a glimpse. Credit can certainly be given to the Bruins’ coaching staff and Jaroslav Halak for this, additionally. Rask finished this series with a 4-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. Here’s arguably the best save he made, if you somehow haven’t seen it already.

Brandon Carlo was consistently excellent

A first playoff rodeo didn’t intimidate Brandon Carlo. Injuries in year’s past robbed him at a chance to show what he could do in the playoffs — this year, he got his shot.

In doing so, Carlo gave anyone watching a real glimpse of how much of a legitimate shutdown defenseman and leader he can be. Everything viewers could have expected and then some. He was the team’s best defenseman and got the recognition he deserved from media. Have a gander at this short thread for some more perspective, in a game six sample size.

Resilience shined through

Individual performances obviously shined through, but so did the resilience of this Bruins team as a whole. They had their backs against the wall after a game five loss with a game six in a hostile Toronto environment on the docket. They battled to win an extremely stressful game six, get back to home ice, and clinch the series on home ice.

Game six saw the Bruins down a goal in the first thanks to Morgan Reilly, but they battled back to eventually win 4-2. Scoring the first goal can often be crippling, especially in a must-win game — not this time.

Speaking of scoring the first goal, Nordstrom helped in that regard last night and the Bruins didn’t fall behind once, despite a dominant second period from Toronto. That resilience that was so huge in their success was huge in the end.

Also, I feel obligated to mention the fact that the camaraderie between Boston sports teams is something special. Most recently with Julian Edelman going crazy at the Garden last night, we also saw members of the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens, and prominent Patriots players like Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and James White, amongst others showing their support. All of this that we have seen recently, as well as over the years is too cool not to mention, and the players do appreciate it.

As I said, the importance of the Bruins’ stars and other players who didn’t get a mention in this discussion, obviously contributed to the team’s success as well. The lack of a mention isn’t meant to discredit them. But, these were the factors that stuck out to me the most. It was an epic series, and now the Bruins are on to Columbus.

Bruins, Boston Bask in Rask

Image result for tuukka rask game 7(Photo Credit: NESN.com)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

While the beleaguered “beLEAFers” belabor their Bieber, the Bruins and Boston are basking in Rask who was up to the masked task in a riveting Game 7 at TD Garden. And for what feels like the first time (dare I say, only a Foreigner of hockey would not know this), the praise is finally universal for “Tuukks.” Here’s a collection of commentary backing up the B’s backstop who, with his team’s back against the wall, led them into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

The Media:

Image result for tuukka rask game 7(Photo Credit: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

The Team:

Image(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

The Fans/Internet:

The BeLeafers:

So, what comes next in net for the fortuitous Fin whose fighting finish finally finished the loser Leafs? Obviously, it’s Columbus. And then perhaps the Islanders. Then maybe the Sharks. Then hopefully THE CUP! I can guarantee one thing… if –actually WHEN– that happens, Tuukka Rask will never have to worry about criticism or praise again. He’ll truly be able to bask in it all…just like we should be doing right now!

Bruins’ Special Teams Pave Way To Second Round Appearance

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.  The Boston Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games to win their Stanley Cup Eastern Conference opening round series.  That’s right, for the third time in six seasons, the Bruins have advanced in a do-or-die, series decider on Garden ice over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This series saw its share of ebbs and flows, momentum changes from game to game, but ultimately the difference came down to special teams.  In a hard fought and extremely tight series, a lack of opportunities with the man advantage only worked to increase the importance of special teams’ performance.  After each team opened with a 4-1 victory in the first two games, the last five encounters were all closely contested, with empty net goals in each of the last three Bruins’ victories increasing the margins

When all was said and done there were a number of deciding factors but the difference in this series came down to the performance of special teams.   The Bruins out-performed Toronto on both the power play and the penalty kill, combined with the boost to their bottom 6 provided by the return of Sean Kuraly for the final three games of the series, and there was just enough for Boston to separate in a tight series and punch their ticket to the second round.

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Boston’s special teams outplayed Toronto’s all series long.  The Bruins scored seven power play goals in 16 opportunities for a 43.8% clip.  Toronto, meanwhile, scored just three power play goals in 16 opportunities, good for just an 18.8% success rate.  Toronto also added a short-handed, penalty shot goal by Mitch Marner in the opening game. 

The importance of the power play in a tight, relatively low-scoring series is illustrated by considering the impact that special teams had in deciding a number of the games played in this series.  Special teams were the difference in each of the last five games played.

  • In Game 3, Toronto outscored the Bruins 2-1 on the power play in a game that ended 3-2 in their favor.
  • In Game 4, Boston outscored Toronto 2-1 in a 6-4 victory.
  • In Game 5, Boston’s power play went 0 for 3 in a low scoring affair in which capitalizing on any of their opportunities may have changed the flow and outcome of that game.  The Maple Leafs won 2-1.
  • In Game 6, the Bruins went 2 for 2 while the Maple Leafs went 0 for 3 and the Bruins prevailed 4-2 to stave off elimination and force Game 7.
  • In Game 7, the Bruins were not given any power play opportunities but they did kill both of the power plays the Maple Leafs had, including one in the second period with the Leafs pressing in a one-goal game. They also killed off a too-many-men on the ice call midway through the third period that could have allowed Toronto to pull within a goal.

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The expectation going into Game 7 was that there wouldn’t be many power play opportunities.  Given what was at stake, we expected to see disciplined play from both teams in the finale.  There is, after all, no margin for error in a win-and-move-on, lose-and-go-home decider.  That was exactly how it played out. The referees ‘let them play’ and in the end there were only two minor penalties called, both against Boston. The Bruins came up big on the penalty kill and were able to leverage that into the series clinching victory.

Both the Maple Leafs and Bruins struggled to carry the momentum of a victory from one game to the next in this series. The Bruins were finally able to buck that trend and grab the necessary consecutive wins in games 6 and 7 to capture the series.  Boston clearly established a special teams advantage and at the end of the day in a seven-game series that went right down to the wire, yet again, it was superior special teams play that propelled the Bruins into an Eastern Conference Semi-Final match-up with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 7: Toronto at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

Tonight, it ends. The first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs see yet another Game 7. Both teams have had strong games, weak games, and everything in between. For one team, they move on to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round Two, the other heads home for the offseason.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (3-3)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-3)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 4-2

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Everything remains the same for the Bruins after Sunday’s Game 6 victory in Toronto. Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen are the starting goaltenders for Boston and Toronto.

First Period:

Right out of the gate, the Bruins attacked the Leafs defence with some quick shots and a close wraparound shot by David Pastrnak. Frederik Andersen seemed a tad bit slow on the wraparound but makes the save nonetheless. Boston looking not too bad to start off this Game 7. Not too long after, Tuukka Rask makes a large save for himself on Auston Matthews right in the slot.

Later in the early stages to the period, the Bruins with some solid shots on goal or some that just miss by a hair. Torey Krug lightens up the crowd even more than they already are with a huge hit on Trevor Moore that knocks his helmet off. After a solid Game 6, Krug is looking to have another big playoff game tonight.

As the period continued, Boston seemed to relax a little or Toronto just had their legs more. Both teams commit numerous icings consecutively but the Leafs are the ones getting shots and pressure on the Bruins defence. Tuukka Rask has made some good stops including some huge saves on Mitch Marner but the B’s need to be better defensively.

With around five minutes to go in the opening frame, the Bruins fourth line strikes first. Noel Acciari picks off a breakout pass by the Maple Leafs just on the line, feeding it to Sean Kuraly. Kuraly drives the puck in deeper, getting a shot on, but it is Joakim Nordstrom that somehow beats Andersen right in front of him. The puck found the smallest gap imaginable and quite frankly, I’m not sure Nordstrom even saw that opening. No matter what, Bruins are up 1-0 late in the first.

With the crowd going crazy in the TD Garden, Jake Gardiner makes a terrible turnover behind his own net with Kuhlman close behind him, leading the puck to Marcus Johansson who spins and shoots the puck past Andersen. Johansson finally gets on the board for his first goal of the postseason and Boston takes a big 2-0 lead late in the frame. With the constant pressure on the top-six by the Leafs, the Bruins’ bottom-six needs to show up and so far, they are.

As the final seconds tick away, Boston nearly strikes again with some good chances by DeBrusk, (who is all over the puck tonight) and Pastrnak. However, Andersen makes a big toe save and we enter the first intermission.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 11 TOR: 12

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Nordstrom (2) Assists: Grzelcyk (4), Kuraly (1); Johansson (1) Unassisted

Second Period:

In the first five minutes, Bruins get some chances off a long airborne pass to Pastrnak but some fanned shots don’t result into anything. Exactly 3:54 into the period, John Tavares comes onto the ice, gets the puck, and snipes one far-side on Tuukka Rask to cut into Boston’s lead. Tyler Ennis does a great job taking the puck away from the Bruins player – resulting in the goal. 2-1 Bruins early in the second.

The goal for Toronto gave them tons of momentum as the Matthews line puts hard pressure on with some high-quality shots and chances but with the help of Rask’s play in net, Boston keeps it 2-1. The Bruins need a big hit or preferably, another goal to shift the momentum once again.

Eight minutes into the second, Zdeno Chara does a great job pinching to keep the puck in the offensive zone. As a result, Danton Heinen rips a wrist shot at Andersen’s chest, leaving a juicy rebound for Brad Marchand. Marchand shifts the puck to his backhand but cannot lift the shot over the sprawling Andersen. Extremely close opportunity to extend the lead to two goals again.

In a net-front battle, Brandon Carlo cross-checks the back of Andreas Johnsson and the officials are not going to have it and Carlo goes to the box for two minutes. I personally think it is a weak call, but it is called so Boston heads to the penalty-kill. The Maple Leafs get some close calls with the scary threats of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Rielly but a lot of missed shots keep it a one-goal game. Boston successfully kills off the penalty.

Even though the game is back to 5-on-5, Boston is allowing the Leafs to walk all around their zone and they fully rely on Tuukka Rask in the net. Fortunately, Rask has made some big saves but the five skaters on the ice wearing the Spoked-B are chasing the Maple Leafs and cannot form any sort of breakout whatsoever.

Eventually, the Bruins get some offensive control of their own and the team is able to make a successful line change while in Toronto’s zone. In the final six minutes or so, the B’s have been able to shut down a lot of the chances against Rask and they have looked a bit better since the goal by Tavares.

With all of that, the second period ends there – only twenty minutes remain in Game Seven. The Boston Bruins finished the frame with a lot better pressure and much better control. Not as many shots, but a good end to the period. Also, some post-whistle pushing and shoving before we head into the second intermission.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 TOR: 25

Score: 2-1 Bruins – Goals: Tavares (2) Assists: Ennis (2)

Third Period:

Twenty minutes to go… and the Bruins strike early. Noel Acciari leaves the puck for Sean Kuraly in the neutral zone. Kuraly weaves into the Leafs zone with slick hands and snipes it clean past Rask. The clutch play by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs continue with this massive insurance goal less than three minutes into the third period. He has been a key player for Boston in the two games that he has returned.

With 14:41 to go in the third, the linesman catches the Bruins with six players on the ice – too-many-men – a bench minor that will put Boston to the penalty-kill for the second time tonight. Boston kills off the penalty will almost ease and it is back to 5-on-5, impressive to be honest.

As the minutes go by, the Bruins play gets better and better. All of a sudden, the Maple Leafs are having trouble entering the zone, especially Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Boston is not laying back, but not taking risks either. It is a calm style of game for the Bruins right now and it is exactly what they want.

Toronto did not have many great opportunities to score in the final regulation period, except for a close call that took a weird bounce off of the post. Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with roughly three minutes to go in the game and Sean Kuraly makes a nice play to allow Krejci to find Charlie Coyle who buries it in the open cage. Bruins take a 4-1 lead and are only minutes away from round two. Bergeron added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to make it 5-1.

And with that, the Boston Bruins eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games and advance to the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 32 TOR: 33

Final: 5-1 Bruins – BOS wins series 4-3

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 28 Saves, .970 SV%

2nd Star: BOS F Sean Kuraly – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots, 50% Faceoffs

3rd Star: BOS F Joakim Nordstrom – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots

7 Factors That Will Decide Game 7 Between the Bruins and Maple Leafs

Illustration for article titled Tuukka Rask Ruined The Maple Leafs' Best And Maybe Last Chance

(Claus Andersen-Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Goaltending

I mean, of course this was going to be on the list. We’ve seen really strong, and really weak goaltending from both Tuukka Rask and Frederik Anderson over the past two series. Outside of a softy or two from both guys, the two have been really solid throughout the first six games of this series. Rask has a .921 save percentage with a 2.54 GAA and Anderson has a .925 SV% and a 2.70 GAA. With the potency of both offenses and some questionable defense by both teams, I can’t see this being a 1-0 game. There will be goals, it’s just a matter of who can make the saves when it matters.

Can the Offensive Stars Produce?

The superstars on both sides have been very on and off all series. Austin Matthews has lead the way for Toronto, scoring five goals in the six games (but in all honesty, hasn’t really dominated at any point). The Bruins top defensive pair of Charlie Mcavoy and Zdeno Chara have done an excellent job shutting down the John Tavares and Mitch Marner line, but with all of that talent, how long can that last?

The trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have been very streaky throughout the series for the Bruins. We all know how dangerous they can be when they’re on their game (they all absolutely torched the Leafs last series) but something has been off with them this series and for the Bruins sake, that better change.

Leafs vs Bruins

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Special Teams

We’ve seen how important special teams have been in this series and throughout the entire playoffs. The Nashville Predators just fell to the Dallas Stars, largely in part to their horrendous powerplay (going 0-15 in the series). Boston and Toronto both have very good powerplays, with Toronto converting on 21.4% of their PP chances and the Bruins scoring on a staggering 43.8% of their chances. There’s no question the game will be a chippy one and I’d assume the referees arms will stay down for most of the game, but when a penalty is called, converting on that opportunity will be huge.

Forechecking

In Game 7 last year, the Bruins hard-nosed forechecking was a big reason why they were able to come back and take the lead late. In the games the Bruins have lost this series, they haven’t been able to maintain consistent pressure in the Leafs zone. The Maple Leafs defense is very susceptible to making mistakes with the puck when pressured so that needs to be the Bruins #1 priority throughout this game.

Forechecking obviously isn’t just a component of the Bruins game, it’s just as important for the Leafs to keep the pressure on the Bs. Putting pressure on smaller guys like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk will be huge for the Maple Leafs, they’re easier to out-muscle compared to the rest of the d-core and getting them to cough up the puck will lead to big-time chances for Toronto. Isolating Zdeno Chara is also just as key, as he certainly doesn’t have the legs to keep up with Toronto’s speedy forwards.

Depth Scoring

Depth scoring is a key component of every single game and it’s just magnified in the playoffs. Guys like Charlie Coyle and Andreas Johnsson (who both have had very strong series) have key roles with their respective clubs. If the big names aren’t able to step up, look for these middle-six guys to pick up the slack.

(Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Maintaining a Lead

Scoring the first goal is massive, but keeping that lead is even more important. The team that has been ahead going into the third period has won every game this series and with every player fighting for their playoff lives, there’s sure to be a lot of pressure on both sides of the bench. Looking at the history between these two teams, the Maple Leafs have held the lead going in to the 3rd period in the past two game 7s, but have lost both after outstanding comebacks by the Bruins. If the Maple Leafs or the Bruins want to get to the next round, maintaining a lead will be the reason they get there.

Matchups

Despite having a combined -10 rating in the series, Nikita Zaitzev and Jake Muzzin have done a pretty good job at keeping the Bruins top line in check. Unlike last series, the Bruins top line hasn’t been nearly as good. They haven’t been able to maintain possession of the puck quite as much and their cycling game, which leads to the majority of their chances, is nothing like it has been all season long. If Toronto wants to keep this line at bay, trying to keep this matchup will be their best bet.

As I said before, Mcavoy and Chara have done an excellent job holding Tavares and Marner to minimal offense in this series. With last change and home ice advantage, coach Bruce Cassidy will have to be on his game to keep the matchups in he wants throughout his lineup.

Regardless of the outcome, this should be a great game as it always is. I’ve had Bruins in seven from the start and I’m sticking with that pick. Go Bs.

The Future Of The Boston Bruins ECHL Affiliation

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By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

The Boston Bruins recently announced a 10 year extension with their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. It was a record agreement and a tribute to the successful partnership between the two teams, which Bruins president, Cam Neely, cited as a major factor in securing a long-term deal. With the AHL affiliation tied down until 2029, the B’s have yet to make a decision, at least publicly, on the agreement with current ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, which ends this season.

The Gladiators became the ECHL affiliate of both the Boston Bruins and the Providence Bruins after signing a two-year agreement in 2015. In February of 2017, the agreement was extended a further two years, securing the affiliation until the end of the current season. With the announcement of the 10 year extension with Providence back in March, many expected the B’s to follow-up with news on their relationship with Atlanta, but we are still waiting. With the Bruins focused on the Stanley Cup playoffs, an announcement on the future of the ECHL affiliation is unlikely until the team is finished on the ice.

Boston has a number of options, the most obvious would be to extend the affiliation with Atlanta. The Bruins have a number of goaltenders in their prospect pool and the ECHL is a great place for them to hone their skills. Providence goaltender Dan Vladar featured regularly for Atlanta in the 2017-18 campaign and with Kyle Keyser eligible for the pros next season, Atlanta would be an ideal spot for him to continue his development. Throughout the regular season, as players were summoned from Providence to Boston, Atlanta reinforced Providence with the likes of Tanner Pond and Sean Bonar, while giving regular playing time to Olivier Galipeau, Joel Messner and Brett McKenzie. The fundamental role of a minor-pro affiliate is to support the senior teams, Atlanta has certainly fulfilled that role for the Bruins.

It is possible that the Bruins part ways with Atlanta. If they do, there are currently two independent ECHL teams that they could partner with, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits or the Rapid City Rush. Geographically this would not make much sense, as neither team is close to New England. Unless the B’s plan on bringing the affiliation closer to home, it would be a shame to sever ties with Atlanta after building a close relationship with them, only to start over with another team based so far away.

It was reported earlier in the season that the Manchester Monarchs are seeking new ownership, casting doubt on their future. This creates a potential opportunity for the Bruins to step in and replace the LA Kings as the senior affiliate. It would make sense to have an affiliate closer to both Boston and Providence to reduce travel between the teams, making it easier for players to move up and down and allowing the organization to keep a closer eye on prospects. Perhaps a relationship with the Bruins would help the Monarchs, who have seen their attendance decline since they were switched to the ECHL. This is of course speculation, for now the Monarchs are still affiliated with the LA Kings, though things could change quickly with new ownership.

If the Bruins were to end the affiliation with Atlanta, expect the Glads to strike a deal with the Nashville Predators organisation. The Gladiators have worked closely with the Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals this season. Atlanta coach, Jeff Pyle, likes to push his players towards the higher levels and a relationship with a senior team makes that possible. Atlanta would most likely become Nashville’s ECHL  affiliate if Boston were to move on.

The Gladiators have certainly lived up to their side of the bargain, what Boston decides to do remains to be seen. For now we can only speculate on the future of their ECHL affiliation.

Seven Key Bruins Who Need To Perform In Game Seven

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photo credit: Matthew J. Lee / Boston Globe staff

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on twitter @phoneymahoney

For the third time in seven seasons, the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing off in a seven game playoff series. The Bruins made a legendary comeback to win in 2013, and won again in 2018. Should the following players keep their heads in the game and perform to their capabilities, there is no reason the Bruins can’t advance to the second round again.

Tuukka Rask

Always a controversial topic among Bruins fans, Rask has had a whirlwind season. Things started off ugly with a blowout loss to the Washington Capitals, then there was a short leave of absence, followed by some streaky play. All in all, the Finnish goaltender has been solid, but not world class, this season, putting up a 2.48 goals against average, and a save percentage of .912. He was very good in game 5, but the rest of the team wasn’t, so the Leafs were able to take the series lead. His performance on Easter Sunday was masterful, and the Bruins went on to force game 7 by nothing a 4-2 win.

The Bruins will need another great performance out of Rask, as nothing takes the wind out of their sails like a bad goal can. Obviously the team defense has allowed Rask to be tested far more than he should be, but the Finnish netminder is going to have to overcome his skaters’ shortcomings if the Bruins are going to advance to the Conference Semifinals. It’s certainly not encouraging when the team is giving up breakaways to a star studded roster of forwards on the regular, but these goals need to be prevented nonetheless. However frustrating it may be, Rask has got to keep his head in the game, as he has for the last two games.

Torey Krug

Torey Krug is another player some Bruins fans love to hate. Sometimes their annoyance is understandable, especially during the last six games, as the puck has jumped over his stick at the blueline multiple times this series, causing a breakaway for the Leafs, or at the very least, squandering an offensive opportunity for the Bruins. Krug, however, is a double-edged sword: the Bruins employ a high-risk, high-reward strategy during the power play, and Krug is a vital piece when they’re on the man advantage. The Bruins also have trouble breaking out of their own zone cleanly when he’s not on the ice, so while he may leave something to be desired defensively, he is indispensable to this Bruins team.

If the Black and Gold want to be successful in game 7, Torey Krug will have to keep his nerves in check, and will have to try and avoid the blue line mishaps that have been his calling card lately. At the very least, he’s going to have to do what he does best: make up for his defensive gaffes by scoring or setting up goals. His offensive talent is fantastic, and he’s going to have to bring it tonight for the Bruins to get the win.

Brandon Carlo

As Torey Krug’s defensive partner, Brandon Carlo will naturally be responsible for a lot defensively. No good offensive defenseman can do what he does without a good shutdown partner, and Carlo is exactly that. Brandon Carlo has played very well in this, his maiden playoff voyage, and he’s going to need to be aggressive and keep his head in the game tonight. Toronto’s top two forward lines are no joke, and they’ve been jumping on breakaway chances repeatedly during this series. Carlo is going to have to do his best to keep the door to the crease closed tonight.

David Krejci

Having led the NHL in postseason scoring twice before, the Bruins’ second line center is known to have a lycanthropic streak, where he turns into am absolute beast once the postseason begins. Krejci Beast Mode is here again in 2019, and it needs to make its presence known in game 7. At this point, Krejci has scored 2 goals and assisted on two more in six playoff games. Four points doesn’t sound like much, but Krejci brings more than points to the table. He’s been playing the body all series, hitting anyone and everyone he can. The Czech center can also play well without the puck, so the Bruins are able to rely upon him a bit defensively, as well.

Ideally, Krejci will be centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak tonight. The combination of Pastrnak’s speed and shot combined with DeBrusk’s straight-line speed and love for crashing the net match perfectly with Krejci’s bizarre ability to slow the game down and allow his teammates to get to where they need to be before making the magic happen. If Krejci continues to play like a man possessed and he’s skating with DeBrusk and Pastrnak, good things will happen for the Bruins’ offense. Like they say, as David Krejci goes, so go the Bruins.

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photo credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Jake DeBrusk

Jake DeBrusk is all heart, and is exactly the kind of player you want on your roster for games like this. He emits this “young Mark Recchi” aura, and it is wonderful. His going head-to-head with Nazem Kadri and causing him to be suspended for most of the series was entertaining, and actually pretty important. DeBrusk has only scored one goal and assisted on another in the six games he’s played in this series, though, and that will have to change if they’re going to make a run of this.

Playing alongside the Czech Davids is both a gift and a responsibility. DeBrusk has earned his ice time for sure, but he’s going to have to produce if he wants to keep it. DeBrusk will need to do what he’s best at – winning puck battles and crashing the net. If he continues to move his feet and fight for his ice like he did against Kadri, the goals will come.

David Pastrnak

In the first six games of this series, David Pastrnak has scored two goals, and has notched four assists. He hasn’t looked like his usual self through much of it, though — he’s tried to get cute and make the extra pass instead of shooting a few too many times this series — Pastrnak will need to get away from that and play his usual game. Pasta cannot let Toronto’s defense out-muscle him and force him to the boards. He will need to fight for the middle of the ice and put as much on net as possible. Krejci will undoubtedly be feeding him passes for one-timer opportunities, and DeBrusk will be in the crease to hit any rebounds home. If Pastrnak is able to put up with Toronto’s physical game and get as many pucks on net as possible, it should pay off.

Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron is the heart and soul of this Bruins team. He is far and away Boston’s best player. Bergeron is a gamer and will likely have a big game 7, as he typically does, and the Bruins need it, badly. Bergeron is their go-to when it comes to must-win faceoffs, and his line is typically the one Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy turns to when a big goal is needed. It is rare that Bergeron has consecutive bad or no-show games, but he has looked a little bit off this series.

Bergeron being engaged, healthy, and allowed to take important faceoffs (instead of being kicked out, as NHL linesmen seem to love doing to Bergy) are paramount to this Bruins’ team success. If Bergeron can play his game and not be neutralized by the Leafs, the Bruins will have a much better chance at a successful game 7. He and Brad Marchand, like David Pastrnak, need to put pucks on net rather than making the extra pass. Andersen needs to see as much traffic and as many shots and possible if the Bruins want to win tonight. Pray to the Hockey Gods that Bergeron comes up big tonight.

Bruins Look to Kuraly & Kuhlman to KO Leafs

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Photo Credit: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

In a playoff series that features an excess of star-power and offensive prowess, an appreciation for roster depth can often go by the wayside. The Boston Bruins, despite boasting arguably the best forward line in hockey, have proven to fall short of the Toronto Maple Leafs when considering world-class skill at the forward position. The collection of Marner, Matthews, and Tavares, when supplemented by several players that could slot in as top-6 forwards on most teams (Johnsson, Kapanen, Nylander, Marleau, Hyman), has outshined the forward units of the Black and Gold for the better part of the series.

The Bruins have been able to string together enough bounce-back wins to even the series at three games apiece, and have been lucky to do so, as they have struggled to find a lineup that provides them with their best matchup against a high-skilled Toronto squad. However, Game 6 on Sunday might have sparked some hope for the Boston faithful as the series concludes after Tuesday’s Game 7 in Boston.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s Game 6, the Bruins maintained almost complete control. They out-chanced the Leafs. They out-worked the Leafs. They killed penalties. They rallied for three unanswered goals after surrendering the game’s first tally. They created their own energy with their backs against the wall in a game on the road. To say the least (apart from the final 10 minutes of the game), Sunday’s effort was largely encouraging for the Bruins and their fans. It showcased the team’s most complete effort throughout the course of a 60-minute battle, and did so in the face of adversity and immense pressure.

Why?

Here’s a fun fact for hockey fans everywhere: The Boston Bruins have, in their entire history as an organization, never lost a playoff game in which both Sean Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman were in the lineup for Boston.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why this is the case. Is it because their last names begin with ‘K’? Is it because they both come from the Midwest? Is it because they both bring a workman style approach to each game?

These are all fair questions. Quite simply, the Bruins have never lost when both players take the ice in the playoffs (1-0-0, 1.00 Win %) because of the completeness of their game, and the versatility that each player provides.

While Kuhlman and Kuraly play somewhat different styles and have suited up among mostly different linemates during the 2018-2019 campaign, they both possess the necessary speed to compete with Toronto’s forward units. Their ability to get behind Toronto’s defensemen on the forecheck is invaluable in a series that, for the first four or five games, featured a Toronto defensive unit that broke the puck out of their zone with relative ease. While David Backes and Chris Wagner (the two Bruins relegated to the press box in lieu of Kuhlman and Kuraly) play a somewhat physical game, their deficiencies as skaters proved to be too much for Bruce Cassidy to continue to put them on the ice.

Kuraly’s game is mostly devoted to North/South trajectories and an ability to lug the puck from zone to zone, and Kuhlman’s game can also feature similar attributes. In a “grind it out” style of game, Kuhlman can use his legs and grit to be effective and keep things simple. However, in a more skill and creativity-centric game, Kuhlman also possesses the necessary skill set to make plays, and pass the puck well. The combination of puck possession and play-making ability between Kuraly and Kuhlman prove to bring much more to the table than the one-dimensional styles of both Backes and Wagner.

The Bruins’ lineup is deeper throughout with both Kuhlman and Kuraly on the ice. Cassidy has shown that he trusts both players in the later minutes of games, when he has shortened his bench during crucial minutes. The Bruins, especially in a Game 7, cannot afford to suit up forwards who can’t be trusted in crucial minutes and high-pressured situations. Wagner and Backes’s minutes in the late stages of their most recent playoff games reveal just how little Cassidy can trust their play, at least in this particular series. Having more bodies that can be effective on Cassidy’s bench is paramount in the latter stages of playoff games, as they will be able to provide Cassidy’s top players with adequate rest, so that they can continue to play at their highest level when the Bruins need them most.

 

It’s been said before, but it’s worth restating: The Bruins have never lost a playoff game in which both Kuraly and Kuhlman have been in the lineup for Boston.

I’m no rocket scientist (yet), but I don’t need to be in order to know that I wouldn’t bet against that combination of K’s as they look to KO Toronto in Game 7.

Kuhlman and Kuraly? That’s deep.

Bruins’ First Line Is Pivotal To The Bruins’ Success

 

(Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The narrative for the Bruins over the past few seasons has been a significant lack of depth scoring. In last years playoffs, the Bs were lead by the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak who combined for a staggering 16 goals and 53 points throughout the Bruins first two rounds. Following the first line, David Krejci (10 points) and Jake Debrusk (eight points) both had solid playoffs but after those five forwards, the next highest scorer was Rick Nash who had a measly five points and a -7 rating. The lack of depth was the downfall of the Bruins in last years playoffs.

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In last year’s first round, the Bruins top line was incredibly dominant and the graph above shows just that. For reference, anything over 50% was in the Bs favor so yea, the line was incredible all series (Bergeron was hurt game four). In game five (which the Bruins actually lost) the Bergeron line outshot Toronto 31-6 (84%) and out-chanced them 18-3 (86%). That dominance was the main reason the Bruins were able to make it past the Maple Leafs last season.

This is a new year, and a new Bruins team. The Bruins AREN’T relying solely on their top line. Their third unit has arguably been their best line this entire series. Charlie Coyle has shown why he was so popular in Minnesota and has impressed all of Boston with his strong play the series. Danton Heinen hasn’t slumped as he did last playoffs with a goal and two assists in five games and Both David Backes and Karson Kuhlman have played pretty well, giving the Bruins a legitimate 3rd line unlike last playoffs.

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the strong play of the 3rd line the Bruins are still down 3-2 in the series. What was most apparent after their 2-1 loss to the Leafs on Friday was the lack of dominance, or dare I say it, poor play shown by the 1st line. Playing primarily against the line centered by John Tavares and the pair of Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitzev, the “perfection line” has been far from perfect. The trio has scored just three even strength goals this series and, especially in game five, have really struggled to generate offense.

After the line was stymied again in game three, Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said “they’re having a tougher time getting to the net, and as a result I think they’re trying really hard one-on-one to get there. I think they need to use each other a little bit more to get there. [Maybe] get an old-fashioned goal whether it’s a center lane drive, a puck to the net or a second chance. They’re pretty determined guys.” While the line bounced back to have a solid Game Four, it clearly didn’t carry into Game Five.

Like Cassidy said, the line just needs to simplify their play. I’ve seen Marchand and Pastrnak carry the puck into the zone and attempt to finesse through three Toronto players too many times. The line is just too good to continue to get stifled by the Leafs D.

Brad Marchand David Pastrnak Patrice Bergeron Bruins

(Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers)

In the three Bruins losses this series, the Bergy line has scored once, which was a powerplay goal in game one. Maybe Bergeron is playing through an injury and Pasta’s hand is still not fully recovered but a line consisting of an 100 point player, a four time Selke winner, and a guy that was on pace for 45 goals this season shouldn’t be struggling this much, especially against a team that they have all had incredible success against in the past.

Now it’s do or die for the Bruins and their 1st line. The Bergy line MUST come out strong and replicate the success they were able to sustain in last years matchup. If they continue to play poorly in the 1st period, Cassidy needs to do his job and break them up, there’s no more time to wait for them to produce, it’s now or never. Maybe Danton Heinen or Marcus Johansson find their way to the first line or maybe David Krejci, who played incredible with Marchand and Pasta when Bergeron went down with an injury, slides up in the lineup. It’s time to see why this has been the best line in hockey over the past two years.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 6 Boston at Toronto

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( Photo Credit: NBC Sports )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

On Sunday afternoon, the Bruins and the Leafs battled in the first elimination game of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Boston Bruins forced a game seven back in Boston with the 4-2 victory and will face the Maple Leafs on TD Garden ice in a do-or-die game seven for the third straight time these two teams have met in the postseason. Here’s how it all went down:

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2)

Away: Boston Bruins (2-3)

Game 5 Result: Toronto Maple Leafs (2) – Boston Bruins (1)

Bruins Lineup:

Bruce Cassidy announced at his pre-game press conference that Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman would draw back into the lineup and Chris Wagner and David Backes would be the scratches.

First Period:

The first period started off much quicker and with more energy than Game 5 in Boston. The first penalty call was a controversial one as it initially appeared Zdeno Chara sent the puck out of play. The on-ice referees conferenced and sent the Bruins captain to the penalty box but Marcus Johansson and Bruce Cassidy showed the referees the puck that had, in fact, landed in the Boston bench. Nonetheless, the Bruins went on the penalty kill and survived it.

With 10:18 left in the first, the Bruins failed to get the puck out of the zone a number of times and Morgan Reilly rifled a shot from the point that beat Rask, giving the Maple Leafs a quick 1-0 lead.

Right after Toronto struck first, Sean Kuraly drew a holding penalty and the Bruins had a chance to tie the game on their first powerplay of the game. Right off the face off to the right of Andersen and about halfway through the powerplay, Brad Marchand ripped a shot that deflected off a Toronto leg and through the five-hole of the Leafs netminder. The Bruins PP answer tied the game 1-1 — something the team failed to do three times in game five.

After the Bruins tied the game, Joakim Nordstrom was battling Travis Dermott in the Leafs corner but was called for high-sticking (another controversial call after replays showed Dermott slew-footing Nordstrom). The Leafs would go on their second powerplay of the game and the period but the Bruins would again make the kill.

Right after the successful PK, you guessed it, the Bruins went back to the powerplay when Dermott tripped Jake DeBrusk behind Frederick Andersen. The Bruins looked to take the lead in the game on their second PP of the period. After good zone time, David Pastrnak threw one off Andersen and Krug buried the rebound, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead late in the first. The B’s looked to be playing some of their best hockey in the series at this point after giving up the first goal early.

With just a minute left in the first, Andersen robbed Patrice Bergeron on the doorstep after Marchand wrapped the puck around the net. Bergeron did not get everything on the shot but Andersen nevertheless made the big glove stop.

Shots on Goal: Boston 14 – Toronto 6

Score: Bruins 2 – Toronto 1

Second Period:

The Bruins came out strong in the second period and were the faster, more physical team in the beginning of the middle period. At 7:53 of the second, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk brought the puck into the attacking zone and in a give and go play, Krejci found DeBrusk who deflected the pass past Andersen, extending the B’s lead with an insurance goal to make it 3-1.

Right after the Bruins goal, yet another questionable call sent the B’s to the penalty kill when Charlie Coyle was whistled for tripping. However, like the previous two times, the Bruins made the kill and kept the lead by two.

The Leafs responded (after coming up empty handed on the PP for the third time in a row) with a few strong shifts of their own. After getting some looks on Rask and a scramble in front, David Krejci gathered the puck and sent it down the ice for icing to alleviate some of the Toronto pressure. Auston Matthews won the ensuing draw and the Leafs hemmed the tired Bruins in their own zone. The puck was worked around to the right side to Morgan Reilly who sidestepped a Bruin defender and rifled a shot that was answered by the glove of Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins would respond after the good shift by Toronto with two strong, cycle-the-puck and physical shifts by the third and fourth lines – something that was much needed for Bruce Cassidy’s bench as it wore down the Maple Leafs’ defense.

After a few more chances for both teams, the period ended with two “almosts” for the Bruins, but the Black N’ Gold still took a 3-1 lead to the dressing room heading into the last period of regulation.

Shots on Goal: Boston 30 – Toronto 15

Score: Boston 3 – Toronto 1

Third Period:

Clinging to a two-goal lead entering the third period of play north of the border in Toronto, the Bruins needed to keep their foot on the gas in order to force a game 7 back in Boston at the Garden.

After a slow start to the period for both teams, the Leafs began to put some pressure on the Bruins. John Tavares had a point-blank chance in front after a great pass from behind the cage and Rask pushed over to rob him. Right after the ensuing draw, a passing play for the Leafs found Auston Matthews wide open on the right wing side. He fired a wrist shot off the pipe and in that beat Tuukka Rask to the blocker side and the Leafs cut the deficit to one, 3-2.

The Leafs then continued the pressure all period long, hemming the Bruins in deep almost the whole period. The Bruins held on with Rask having his best game of the series. The defense also stood tall with Brandon Carlo in particular playing like he did in the regular season, shutting down the Leafs and making fantastic plays in his own zone. Charlie McAvoy also had an incredible game as he played 9:19 of the third period, with Zdeno Chara logging 8:49 of ice-time himself.

The Leafs pulled Andersen late in the third but Brad Marchand sealed the game for the Bruins with an empty-netter at 18:06 of the final frame, giving the B’s a 4-2 lead.

With the big win, the Bruins have now forced a game seven back at TD Garden on Tuesday night for the third straight time in the playoffs against Toronto.

Shots on Goal: Boston 41 – Toronto 24

Final Score: Boston Bruins 4 – Toronto Maple Leafs 2