By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512
The Bruins have found themselves in a 3-1 hole in their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Digging themselves out of it will be a difficult process, but it certainly isn’t impossible for the President’s Trophy winners. Some of the most important things are to play confidently and for the players to rely on their teammates rather than trying to do too much individually. Besides the obvious (scoring more goals than your opponent), here are a few strategies that the Bruins will need to employ if they want to push this series to six or seven games.
Back to Basics
It’s a cliche, but it’s repeated by every player and coach for a reason: get pucks to the net. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is incredibly talented and even won a Vezina trophy in 2019, but it won’t necessarily take the perfect shot to beat him. A lucky bounce or a perfect tip-in can only happen if the Bruins aren’t afraid to shoot from a distance. Bruins defensemen have accounted for ten or fewer shots in every game this series, with Torey Krug leading the way having registered a total of eight (including five on Saturday). The Bruins blue line has also contributed just two goals since the playoffs began (McAvoy and Clifton have one each).
Play Physical, But Smart
Boston acquired Nick Ritchie at the trade deadline in an attempt to beef up the forward group. Unfortunately, Ritchie’s major contribution in Game Four was a major penalty after a hit on Yanni Gourde that resulted in a power play goal for Tampa. If Ritchie does play tonight (he is a game-time decision according to coach Bruce Cassidy), he’ll need to find a balance that allows him to play hard but clean.
Hits and even fights are one way to slow down Tampa’s forwards and push the momentum to the Bruins’ side. Players like Ritchie, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, and Connor Clifton aren’t afraid to get physical in an attempt to get under opponents’ skin. Goading the Lightning into taking penalties when they’re frustrated is something that the Bruins can capitalize on.
With penalties come power plays. If the last strategy works out and a player on Tampa is sent to the box, the Bruins need the power play to make a difference. David Pastrnak is the greatest weapon in the arsenal, with a lethal one-timer that goalies can’t seem to stop even when they see it coming. If the Bruins can secure an early man-advantage, setting Pastrnak up for a goal to give the Bruins the lead is a huge step towards a win. Boston has scored the first goal just twice this series: in their Game One win and their Game Two overtime loss. These two games were also the only ones in which the Bruins scored multiple goals.
So, scoring first is crucial. Playing with the lead is what worked in Game One, with Boston holding strong even as Tampa put the pressure on late. They will definitely want to come out strong and set the pace early to show the Lightning that they mean business.
Overall, it will be a difficult battle. Tampa is a strong team with a recent history of making it to the conference final. This Bruins team still has a lot of fight left, though. It remains to be seen if it will be enough to extend this series to six games. Fans are hoping it won’t be a repeat of 2018’s 4-1 defeat.