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

 

Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 5: Toronto at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

On Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins tied up their Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 6-4 victory in Toronto. With the win, Boston regains home-ice advantage in what is now a best-of-three series. The winner of tonight’s Game 5 will have the opportunity to end the series on Sunday in Game 6.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (2-2)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (2-2)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 6-4

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Sean Kuraly makes his long-awaited return to the lineup after dealing with a hand injury since late March while Joakim Nordstrom is the healthy scratch to allow Kuraly back in the forward lines.

First Period:

The first period for this critical Game 5 was back and forth for all twenty minutes but at no time did either team “dominate” the other. Bruce Cassidy went with the Wagner-Kuraly-Acciari against that top line of the Maple Leafs off the opening draw, but as the period went on, we began to see more of a Bergeron/Tavares matchup on the ice.

The Leafs did have a lot of pressure in the offensive zone, putting some good shots on Tuukka Rask in the first half of the period, but the Bruins managed to get the puck out of the zone most of the time. On too many occasions, Toronto had possession of the puck and winning the battles along the boards.

Regardless, Rask made the saves he needed to make and Boston did get a few opportunities on some rushes of their own. Both Toronto and Boston stayed firm in the defensive zone, protecting the middle of the ice and forcing the offence to use the outside of the zone to get their chances. Neither team is making many mistakes and it made for a tight frame.

With three minutes to go, Zach Hyman gets called on a tripping minor that many people think was a light call, however, Boston is going to the first power-play of the game. On the man-advantage, both David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk get close chances, but either the shot missed the cage, or was stopped by Frederik Andersen. Bruins cannot score and the buzzer sounds for the first.

After the whistle, Auston Matthews took some shots at Zdeno Chara to try and get under the skin of the captain but to no avail. It was much better last six minutes for the Bruins than Toronto and that momentum needs to be used heading into an important second period.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 6 TOR: 7

Score: 0-0

Second Period

Toronto opens the second period with some good shots but Tuukka Rask looks a lot calmer and relaxed at this stage of the game compared to Wednesday in Toronto. Auston Matthews took some shots at the chest of Rask as well as some slight deflection shots but score stays scoreless.

Less than five minutes into the frame, Boston begins to make some passes around the Maple Leafs’ zone, resulting in a hooking minor against Patrick Marleau on David Krejci. Some of the best chances so far on the end of either team came from that man-advantage, including a Pastrnak one-timer that bounced off of Andersen’s pads. Other than that, the Leafs kill the penalty off and we return to 5-on-5.

Nearing the halfway mark of the middle regulation period, the Bruins get a chance off of  Brad Marchand wrist shot that leaves a sneaky rebound to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak’s rebound is batted off of the iron and the side of Andersen and remains out of the net. The Bruins continue the strong offence, but the Leafs are exhausted. A bouncing puck around the boards leads to Mitch Marner who golf swings his stick, hitting the puck up and over the glass – delay-of-game penalty and B’s are back to the power-play.

A weird bouncing rebound off Andersen somehow sets up Kasperi Kapanen on a shorthanded breakaway. Fortunately, Kapanen misses the net high and wide. Bruins, still on the man-advantage, turn it over in the neutral zone, leading Hyman to drive into the zone. Hyman is cut off but crashes hard into the end boards. He is slow to get up to his feet, similar to Game 4. Ultimately, Hyman remains on the bench in some discomfort and the Bruins’ terrible power-play ends there.

Easily the best chance of the game so far comes from David Krejci’s stick. Marchand left the puck for Krejci who took a quick shot and it appeared to cross the line. Even Pastrnak thought it went in, but the call on the ice was no goal by the official by the net. After seeing the replay, the shot rifled where the crossbar and the post meet, cleanly beating Andersen but the game remains nodded at zero.

Late in the frame, still 0-0, Tyler Ennis makes a strong move to the net around Matt Grzelcyk, curling in front of Rask but Tuukka stays strong and firm, stopping the chance cleanly. About a minute following, Kapanen takes a rip at Rask as well and cannot find the back of the net. Game 5 heads into the third and final period with a 0-0 tie.

It has been a very tight, defense-first type of hockey game with neither team giving up a chance to score or even get high-quality shots on goal. Only a combined 31 shots have hit the goaltenders and that is due to the lack of shots hitting the net and the high traffic in the slot area. In addition to the middle-heavy defence, shots are coming from the point. It really seems like the next goal scored with be the game-winning tally.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 15 TOR: 16

Score: 0-0

Third Period:

In a game where it truly seems like the next goal will win it, both teams come out with Boston taking the best chances early. A few icing calls against Toronto led to some shots against the tired Leafs unit. Sean Kuraly also got a short rush and ripped a quick wrister that hit Travis Dermott and then fell over top of Dermott. Good chances but still nothing.

Not long after, the Leafs try to get a rush of their own with Connor Brown, who has had a great game all over the ice, takes a shot that hits the side of the cage and gloved down by Rask. At the same time, Brown gets absolutely levelled by Chris Wagner with a hard collision. Charlie Coyle came right back with one of his own as well. Not many hard hits, but Boston may look to go that route at this stage.

With around 12 minutes left to tick away in the third, right before the TV timeout, the Bruins are called on a too-many-men call. A tough call to hear – sending Toronto to their first power-play of the night. Toronto blasted some bombs and got some solid shots on net too, but Boston holds on to kill the entire two minutes off.

With 8:27 remaining, Jake Muzzin makes a brilliant feed to Auston Matthews on the opposite side of the zone who blasts it past Rask to finally put a goal on the board. However, Cassidy challenges for goalie interference on Zach Hyman. On the screen, it appears that there was some contact with Rask in front of the net, but the call on the ice stands – good goal. 1-0 Toronto.

The game started to open up following that goal and it showed. Some intelligent passes by the Leafs lead to a 3-on-2 rush for Toronto – leading to a Kapanen goal past Tuukka Rask. After a tight forty minutes, Toronto takes a 2-0 lead in the game and the Bruins are looking in a tough spot.

The trio of Coyle, McAvoy, and Johansson had some fantastic chances in the dying three minutes with Rask on the bench but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. Every time it appeared to be close, Andersen or a defenceman somehow got a piece of the puck.

With the goalie pulled, amazing patience by Pastrnak to fake a shot and pass it to Krejci on the other side of Frederik Andersen leads to the first goal for Boston with 43.4 seconds to go. There is some life in not only the players but the fans as well.

The Boston Bruins had a few shots, including one off the faceoff with one second remaining, but too little way too late and the Toronto Maple Leafs win Game 5 on the road, taking a 3-2 series lead heading back to Toronto on Sunday.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 TOR: 27

Final Score: 2-1 Maple Leafs

Max’s Three Stars

1st Star: TOR G Frederik Andersen – 28 Saves, .966 SV%

2nd Star: TOR F Kasperi Kapanen – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 3 Shots, 15:56 TOI

3rd Star: TOR F Auston Matthews – 1 Game-Winning Goal, 5 Shots, 17:44 TOI

With Boston’s season on the line, the series goes back to Toronto on Sunday for Game 6. Puck drop scheduled for 3pm EST.

Boston Bruins: Four Games, Two Wins, Three Lines

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Photo Credit: Frank Gunn/AP

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

It doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to understand that the Bruins stole Game 4 from Toronto thanks to some big games from big names.

 

The Bruins, despite twice going up by two or more goals in the game, never seemed to have complete control, and their feeble attempt at staving off a Toronto comeback effort demonstrated how unstable their leads can be. Tuukka Rask allowed a bad goal, but he also played an outstanding hockey game. Game 4 was probably the strongest offensive effort the Leafs put together, pouring in four goals and matching their series high. Yet even as they were charging late having stolen every ounce of momentum, Rask was equal to the task (I hate that I just used that line), slamming the door on both the Leafs and Game 4.

The Bruins got solid games from their top defensive pairing and Brandon Carlo on the back end, with their top line and Charlie Coyle playing well up front. Outside of this group (and Rask) the Bruins played a “meh” hockey game. Maybe even “meh-minus.”

For the third time in four games, Toronto played a better hockey game than the Bruins. If not for the grace of Boston’s top dogs, the Bruins would be coming back to Boston down 3-1 with their backs secured firmly against the wall.

What’s encouraging about this scenario for Boston, is that they’ve essentially played four games (winning two of them), with just three lines. Butch Cassidy’s fourth forward unit of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner has been, to put it nicely, disappointing. While Nordstrom was able to score an empty netter with the game already decided last night, and even drew a critical penalty in the opening minutes of the game (which lead to a Charlie McAvoy BINGO), the unit as a whole put together another underwhelming game.

 

Kuraly, Please.

The string of playoff performances that this fourth line has compiled sheds a lot of light on just how valuable Sean Kuraly is to not just the fourth unit, but also the team as a whole. Sean Kuraly is the straw that stirs the fourth line drink. With Kuraly in the lineup, his speed makes the entire fourth unit faster and opens up the ice North/South. His ability to carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone drives offensive zone possession for Boston, something that is invaluable, especially coming from a fourth unit. Kuraly’s speed also allows him to be first on a lot of pucks that are dumped behind defensemen. While certainly this bodes well for Boston’s offense and scoring chances, it also (and almost more importantly) creates tougher minutes for Toronto’s defensemen. Forcing Toronto to play in their own end limits their energy and ability to bypass the Bruins’ forecheck with smooth and simple breakouts. Without Kuraly, the Black and Gold forecheck has been noticeably weaker (aside from Game 2). When examining the forechecking efforts of the fourth line specifically, they seem to lack the necessary speed to apply pressure in certain spots (Wagner, Acciari), and lack the necessary physicality to disrupt possession in others (Nordstrom). Kuraly will bring both physicality and speed to Toronto’s front door, and Game 2 showed just how important that is for the Bruins to succeed. To paraphrase the great Destiny’s Child, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

 

Kuraly’s role might be as significant to this team’s success as any fourth liner that I can remember. His presence on the fourth line makes the entire lineup deeper, and it opens up chances for other lines because it forces opponents to play tougher minutes. Toronto has shown that it is incapable of playing 60 solid minutes when presented with physicality and aggressiveness.

Having #52 rejoin will not only signal Kuraly’s return to the lineup, but it also signals the return of the fourth line to the Bruin’s rotation. Having Kuraly back means that Bruce Cassidy will have another line he can trust to put on the ice regularly, which will save the legs of the Bruins top scorers and open up the game for them to play as they are capable of. We got a glimpse of how good they can be in the playoffs on Wednesday night in Game 4. Imagine how good they will be when Kuraly’s line eats up some of their tougher minutes.

Put your Kuraly caps on! (I’ll see myself out.)

Moving Forward

As far as what the fourth line will look like upon Kuraly’s return, I think it’s anyone’s guess. While the Wagner-Acciari-Kuraly line had a lot of success during the year, it will be interesting to see if Cassidy doesn’t leave Nordstrom in for either Acciari or Wagner. While Nordstrom did outplay both of them, Acciari and Wagner’s chemistry with Kuraly might prove to be too significant to ignore.

If it were up to me, the fourth unit would feature Kuraly-Acciari-Kuhlman. Admittedly, while part of me thought that a “KKA” (pronounced “Ca-Caw”) line would have a cool nickname and be fun for Cassidy to shout when their time had come to grace the ice, I also think that this grouping brings the best balance of speed, skill, and physicality to the fourth line. And that’s a combination that the Bruins have been in dire need of for more than a week now.

In all likelihood, we will probably see either the WAK line or Nordstrom with Kuraly and Acciari. Either way, there’s no scenario in which Sean Kuraly returns and the Bruins’ fourth unit isn’t immediately miles ahead of where it was just days before.

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Photo Credit: Brad Penner/ USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins just got their swagger back. And are back on Garden ice. Uh-oh.

Coyle Proving The Doubters Wrong In Bruins Postseason

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( Photo Credit: The Athletic )

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

The Bruins received a major piece to their forward lineup ahead of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Charlie Coyle. The centerman, who played 47 playoff games for the Wild brings playoff experience and depth to Cassidy’s forward group. Many fans and media had questioned his effectiveness and fit in a Bruins uniform but, in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto, he has raised some eyebrows.

The Weymouth, MA native was shipped up to Boston on February 20, 2019, in a trade that sent Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild. Bruins fans and media were split in their reactions to the trade by Don Sweeney and did not know how well he would contribute to the Bruins offensive depth. In 21 games with his favorite childhood team, he put up two goals and 4 assists for six points along with a plus/minus rating of minus two.

Throughout the last few weeks of the regular season, Cassidy tried Coyle up and down the lineup on the center and the wing and was not able to really find a firm position in the lineup. In the playoffs, Cassidy started Coyle on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen on the wings in game one.

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After a disappointing loss in game one, Bruce Cassidy was looking to add more grit and intensity to the Bruins lineup. With Johansson out with an illness, David Backes drew back into the lineup and was slotted on the right wing of the Heinen and Coyle line. That line started off the game with intense hits and forechecking and began to go after the Leafs which the Bruins did not do much of in game one. At just about the five-minute mark of the first, David Backes finished a great forecheck behind the Toronto goal and knocked the puck loose and sent a pass in front to Coyle who buried his first of the playoffs and got the Bruins the much needed first goal of the game. Coyle logged 15:16 time on ice with a plus-two rating and had a strong performance.

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Similarly, on Monday night in game three North of the border, the Bruins found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the second period. As the Bruins went on the powerplay, Coyle parked himself in front, and after a scramble from a Grzelcyk shot and a rebound from Heinen, Coyle rifled a shot past Andersen and got a huge goal for the Bruins heading into the dressing room. Along with that big goal, Coyle logged 17:17 time on ice and was named the games third star.

Coyle and Heinen have found great chemistry in this first-round series against Toronto. Charlie Coyle has arguably been the Bruins best player in this series which is both good and bad. Although consistency and scoring from Coyle on the third line are key for the Bruins, the team also needs its top two lines to get going and tie the series up in game 4 in Toronto. (Wednesday, April 17 7:00pm Scotiabank Arena on NBCSN and NESN)

Coyle’s size, strength, and skill fit right into the Bruins lineup, and it seems as though he has found his spot and confidence in a Bruins uniform. His chemistry with Heinen is developing before our eyes, and the veteran centerman has stepped up on the biggest stage for the Black and Gold. It is essential for the third line depth to contribute for Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins in this series against Toronto. With the matchup game for both coaches imminent in this series, Boston and Toronto’s top two lines are battling for every inch of ice which increases the need for bottom six contribution for both teams and especially Boston.

Charlie Coyle is beginning to prove his worth to fans and media with his strong play of late, but it needs to continue in order for the Bruins to take this best of seven series from the rivals in Toronto. However, although it is a great sign that Coyle is beginning to find his game with Boston, the Bruins are seeking contributions from the other top players on the team in their effort to get back into this series.

Bruins Need The Same Intensity And Execution As Game Two For Success

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(Photo: Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Like my article on the Bruins needing to stay healthy in order to meet expectations in the playoffs this year, this title may seem pretty obvious to some. However, as obvious as it may be, it is true, after all. Just take a look at the footage from Games One and Three, the games that the Bruins have dropped in the series so far.

Game One saw the Bruins come out thinking it was going to be easy. Brad Marchand confirmed that after the game that this group thought it was going to be “easier than it was out there.” In that game, the Bruins came out of the gate buzzing, jumping out to an early lead on the power play.

Not long after, the game quickly shifted as the Bruins settled in and turned on cruise control far too early. Opportunities came and went on the heels of one or two passes too many rather than quality shots on Freddy Andersen. Lackadaisical effort and puck-management led to Tuukka Rask being hung out to dry on more than one occasion. Bruce Cassidy’s game plan of trying to slow down the Leafs, either through matching their speed with the Bruins’ legs or physicality, went completely out the window as Mike Babcock’s team was able to get through the neutral zone with complete ease and get behind the Bruins in several instances.

Looking at Game Three, the Bruins’ intensity was clearly there, for the most part–the B’s once again allowed Toronto to get in behind the defense too many times as a result of being caught flat-footed on the back-check–but the execution was lacking. Turnover after turnover and an inability to execute a clean breakout numerous times killed the Bruins, especially on the penalty kill.

Once again, the first line was a complete zero at even strength as Charlie Coyle was the best forward for the B’s once again, which is both a good and bad thing. It’s good since Coyle is producing and playing well; bad because Charlie Coyle of all people should NOT be the Bruins’ best forward. David Pastrnak is yet to establish himself in this series aside from a wonderful assist on Brad Marchand’s goal in Game Two.

The top trio of Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak has combined for only two points at even-strength and four on the power play. They need to break through for the Bruins; their ability to contribute is far too important for the Bruins. Cassidy said it best: the top line is far to talented, far too talented to not be able to break through at some point this series.

Now take a look at Game Two at TD Garden on Saturday. The Bruins were a completely different team compared to Game One; Cassidy’s game plan was executed to perfection as the Bruins came out and absolutely manhandled the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The insertion of David Backes into the lineup and a Boston team that was playing angry after getting its lunch fed to it in Game One created the perfect storm for the Bruins to be able to dominate the Leafs. The B’s stifled the Toronto breakout and attack right off the bat and maintained strong layers of defensive support in front of Rask.

The Bruins flipped the script on the Leafs and played the way they knew how to, matching the expectations that the fans had of the team leading into the series, as well as the expectations they had of themselves. Boston’s effort and execution in Game Two should stand as the blueprint for the remainder of the series, especially tonight in Game Four.

The B’s have their backs against the wall big-time; as cliche, as it may seem, tonight’s game is a must-win. Well isn’t every game in the playoffs technically a must-win if you want to make it to the big dance? That may be so, but this team cannot afford to bring the series back to Boston in a 3-1 hole. The Bruins best chances of coming out on top like we know they can is to bring the same combination of intensity and execution that we saw in Game Two for the rest of the series, take tonight’s Game Four to tie things at 2-2 and go to war in a de facto best-of-three series.

Bruins Could Really Use…Sean Kuraly?

(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

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

The Boston Bruins skated off the ice at Scotiabank Arena last night, left to lick their wounds and contemplate what it will take to recapture the momentum in their best-of-7 opening round playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Much of the attention following the loss was focused on the lack of production from the top-line trio, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.   Having opened up last year’s opening round series with a combined 20 points in the first two games at TD Garden, the line has only managed to amass a combined 6 points through three games in the series.

With much of the fan base and media speculating that the answer is now to split up the top line by moving Pastrnak down to David Krejci’s right wing, a close look at some of the indicators through three games suggests the Bruins true woes may be found a lot further down the lineup.  One of the Bruins strengths in the regular season was the relatively effective play of its fourth line, a line that when healthy features Sean Kuraly centering Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.  Kuraly went down with a hand injury suffered on a blocked shot in a game against the New Jersey Devils on March 21st.  The Bruins had indicated that Kuraly was expected to miss at least 4 weeks with the injury.

As the Bruins made their way through the regular season and skated to the second best record in the Eastern Conference, they were buoyed by the solid play of their fourth line.  Often sent out to match up against the opposition’s top line, the Kuraly line has proven particularly effective at hemming opposing teams into their own zone, being strong on the puck and providing valuable wear and tear on opposing defense corps.  In turn, by spending their shifts 200 feet from their own goal, despite often starting in the defensive zone, they were effective in neutralizing opposing scoring threats while creating favorable matchups for the Bergeron line.

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With Kuraly currently sidelined, that line now finds Acciari centering Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom.  Through three games of the current series against Toronto, the play and effectiveness of the so-called fourth line have been highly effective in Boston’s Game 2 win and far from it in their two losses.

One indicator of a player’s effectiveness (I won’t debate the merits of the metric here, but it is generally accepted as a reasonable measure despite some limitations) is his Shot Attempts Percentage (SAT%, also known as Corsi).  The SAT% is the percentage of shot attempts that the team takes out of total shot attempts.  The calculation of SAT% = SAT For/(SAT For + SAT Against).  As a general indicator players are looking to be above the 50% mark in this metric, considered to be above average.  As mentioned there are limitations but generally speaking, the indicator is reliable.

A look at this analytic through three games in the series tells an interesting story about the Bruins fourth line.

Regular
Season SAT%
Playoff SAT%
Through 3
Games
Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Acciari 49.96 50.00 36.4 64.3 30.4
Wagner 49.78 48.57 42.3 73.9 27.6
Nordstrom 50.04 45.31 43.5 53.6 22.7
Kuraly 49.74

(Stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com and NHL.com)

Nordstrom’s regular season SAT% is slightly higher than that of Acciari, Wagner, and Kuraly and this is attributable to his having played further up the line up for much of the season and a higher percentage of offensive zone starts.  Nordstrom starts in the offensive zone for 49.17% of draws compared to the others taking only about one-third of their draws in the offensive zone, averaging 34.51% between them.  Starting shifts in the offensive zone gives a greater chance of accumulating shot attempts for, hence their effect on this statistic.

So What Does It All Say? 

In a nutshell, the Bruins success in Game 2 was in direct correlation with the effectiveness of the fourth line.  Coach Cassidy’s decision to start them against the Tavares, Marner, Hyman line had Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock pulling his line from the ice in the opening seconds and setting a tone that would have the game played on the Bruins’ terms all night.  The Corsi numbers for the Boston’s fourth liners was off the charts in Game 2, Acciari at 64.3, Wagner at a mind-boggling 73.9, and Nordstrom at an above average 53.6.  As a result, the Bruins exerted pressure on the Maple Leafs defense all game long, forced turnovers, and forced their best players to play far more in their defensive zone than they would prefer.  By playing with the lead most of the night, all three players were able to log minutes in line with their regular season average.

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In Boston’s two losses in this series, however, the fancy stats are far less glamorous for the fourth line.  In Game 1, Acciari was at 36.4, Wagner at 42.3 and Nordstrom at 43.5.  The result as we all know was a game played very much on Toronto’s terms.  The Maple Leafs were able to overcome an early deficit to play with the lead most of the night and used their highly publicized speed to create several breakaways and odd-man rushes that kept the Bruins chasing the game most of the night.

In game three, the effectiveness of the fourth line was even worse.  Acciari led the line with a SAT% of 30.4, Wagner was 27.6, and Nordstrom was 22.7.  Those numbers are simply not going to get the job done.  If the Bruins are going to be successful, I would argue that the key is not going to be breaking up the top line.  Rather, they need a more effective contribution from the bottom of their forward group.  If the fourth line can re-establish their identity as a hard-working, effective, forechecking group and force the Maple Leafs back into their own zone, effectively helping tilt the ice, the Bruins are going to be just fine in this series.  The middle forward lines have been effective thus far, and you have to feel that the top line is not going to be held in check much longer, they are simply too good.

A return to the line-up of Sean Kuraly would go a long way to getting the fourth line back on track.  Kuraly combines speed and strength and a bull-like tenacity to hunt the puck and contain it.  His energy is infectious and is arguably what has been lacking on the fourth unit in the two losses against Toronto.  If the Bruins are to regain momentum and bring this series back to Boston on even terms, the fourth line needs to lift.  It is unknown when Kuraly may return to the line-up, but he will unquestionably be a welcome addition when he does.  In the meantime, the Bruins are looking for an effort reminiscent of the one provided in Game 2.  Anything less and the return of Kuraly to the fold may be too little, too late.

Boston Bruins Playoff Preview: Round 1 – Game 3

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

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

After a pair of games in Boston, the first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs officially makes its way to Toronto, Canada for Game Three. The Bruins tied the series on Saturday with a 4-1 victory after losing Game One by the same score on Thursday.

Game Three Information:

Arena: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs

Away: Boston Bruins

Series: 1-1

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.02 GAA Last Game: 30 Saves in 4-1 win vs TOR

TOR: Frederik Andersen 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.50 GAA Last Game: 37 Saves in 4-1 loss vs TOR

Projected Bruins Lineup:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Heinen – Coyle – Backes

Nordstrom – Acciari – Wagner

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Kampfer

Per reports from Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, forward Jake DeBrusk and defenceman Torey Krug will be in the lineup for Game Three. DeBrusk took a cross-check to the head by Nazem Kadri, who is facing an in-person hearing today and left the game while Krug left Game Two after taking a massive hit from Jake Muzzin. Connor Clifton (upper-body) is out, Kampfer to replace him and Marcus Johansson remains out with an illness.

Who’s Hot

Charlie Coyle scored the game’s first goal on Saturday, ultimately giving the Bruins the confidence to continue out the game, but his play has been consistent throughout the series so far. Even in the loss in Game One, Coyle had numerous chances and opportunities to score but just could not bury one and he continued that in the second game. With the loss of Leafs’ third line centre, Nazem Kadri, Coyle’s role could be all the more important.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Frederik Andersen may have allowed four goals on Saturday night, but he was one of the only good things that came from Toronto in their Game Two loss. Andersen stopped 37 of the 41 shots Boston threw at him, making some big saves throughout the entire game in order to keep it within reach for the Maple Leafs. If Andersen can continue to be hot in the net at home in the Scotiabank Arena, then the Leafs could have the momentum moving forward.

Jake DeBrusk does not have a point in either of the two games, but his usual work-horse attitude and play were present in both games, but especially in Game Two. DeBrusk managed to get under the skin of Kadri, resulting in the terrible cross-check by the Leafs forward. Jake had four hits on the night and was a beast on the forecheck, as he often is during gametime. It is only a matter of time for when that first goal comes.

Mitch Marner was held to zero points in Game Two, but in Game One, it was all him, scoring a pair of goals including a short-handed penalty shot past Tuukka Rask. Marner played 20:28 on Saturday night with over six minutes of speciality team time as well. Mitch could arguably be the biggest threat for the Bruins defence for the entirety of the series.

Who’s Not

William Nylander has had a rough 2018-19 season in general, with all the contract issues and then the lack of production once he started to play again, but that was only amplified on Saturday night in Boston, as he found himself on the wrong end of too many negative plays, including a terrible mishap that led to Heinen’s 3-0 goal for the B’s. The young forward also had a team-high three giveaways during his 13:56 TOI. Nylander was skating down the middle on the Leafs’ third line, replacing Kadri.

For all of the players that were struggling on the Bruins after the first game, did much better for the second. Every single player on the Bruins roster played their part and did their job to ultimately get the win and tie the series at one apiece. Boston will look to continue that ideology moving forward into Game Three.

Jake Muzzin had a terrible night on the Leafs blue line and only had one good play – a huge hit that injured Torey Krug. Other than that, Muzzin turned the puck over twice (on the statsheet), and made a crucial error that led to Marchand’s first-period tally. When Torey Krug lofted a puck up the ice, Muzzin tried to grab it with his hand, missing, leading to a 2-on-1 for Pastrnak and Marchand, leading to one of the best goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Muzzin is supposed to be the best defenceman on the roster for Toronto and he needs to be better.

Bruins vs Leafs – Game Three Outlook

The script was flipped on Saturday when the Bruins came back from a dismal Game One to dominate for a 4-1 final score. A change from Game One, the Bruins were aggressive on the forecheck and made a successful hit on every Leafs player that moved at any place on the ice. Even players like David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk were throwing the body.

The physical play of Boston kept the Leafs weary and afraid to push into the zone further, as a lot of their shots on goal came from the point and far along the boards. Their only goal came off of a deflection from one of these point shots and that strategy could be evident in Game Three.

Boston’s shots came right around the net of Frederik Andersen, mainly due to the turnovers on breakout passes by the Maple Leafs defenseman. One of the best chances that did not cross the red line came off of a turnover in the slot, leading to a David Krejci shot and a rebound from Heinen that was robbed by Andersen.

Regardless, the goaltenders of both teams will need to be on fire once again and the defence will need to prevent chances. No matter how far this series goes, that narrative will be the case for both franchises. Toronto will also have the home-ice for the first time this postseason, so expect an energetic Toronto crowd.

Game Three puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm EST from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Playoff Grit Returns to Boston

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

By: Greg Aker | Follow me on Twitter: @akesNpains1

How do you beat Toronto? Hit them in the mouth, both literally and figuratively. The Boston Bruins did none of that in Game One of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A disappointing 4-1 loss sent them to the locker room licking their wounds. In true Bruce Cassidy fashion, he was blunt and made it very clear that they were beaten in all aspects of the game. They were most definitely going to make changes. Changes they made.

From the drop of the puck, Game Two had a completely different feel than the first one of the series. Cassidy threw out his fourth line against Toronto’s finest right out of the gate. The game plan was clear: Let them know you are there.

A goal just 4:44 into the first period by Weymouth, MA native Charlie Coyle sent the TD Garden into an early frenzy. The entire roster had their skating legs going, and nobody finished a play without finishing a check (Boston registered 44 hits in Game Two versus 31 in Game 1). Scoring changes were heavily lopsided in Boston’s favor early and often. Usually, when the Bruins score first, especially on home ice, they win. During the regular season, the Bruins were 18-3-3 on home ice when scoring first. Additionally, the Bruins were 13-3-2 when tied after one period at home.

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Game One proved to be an anomaly. A nifty power play goal by Patrice Bergeron midway through the first period on Thursday night ended up being the Bruins’ only tally in what ended up a 4-1 loss. It was only the Bruins’ fourth loss over 25 home contests when scoring first. A penalty shot goal by Mitch Marner and a late breakaway goal by William Nylander in the 2nd period resulted in the Leafs taking a 3-1 lead into the dressing room after two periods of play in Game 1. Toronto has yet to lose (21-0-1) on the road when leading after two. We all know the end result from Thursday.

If one thing is known about the NHL playoffs, it is that no lead is safe. All one has to do is think back to a particular Game 7 in 2013, involving these same two teams. In Game Two, Boston never looked back. A beautiful finish by Brad Marchand on a slick behind-the-back pass from linemate David Pastrnak put the Bruins up 2-0 heading into the 2nd period. A Danton Heinen goal off of a Toronto miscue midway through the 2nd period resulted in a 3-goal lead by Boston. Toronto, as stated earlier, hasn’t lost on the road this year when leading after two periods. Inversely, they have never won on the road when down after two (0-12-3). Good starts matter in this series, for both teams.

Toronto’s lineup is littered with high-end talent and point production. With 10 players totaling over 30 points during the regular season, they have some of the best scoring depth in the entire league. Boston has the firepower of their own, but it was clear that the end-to-end pace of Game One favored the blue and white. Enter Bruce Cassidy.

I am one to think that Bruce doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one heck of a hockey coach. The Jack Adams conversation rarely involves him. Names like Barry Trotz, Jon Cooper, and former Bruin Rick Tocchet dominate the headlines. Cassidy is lying in the weeds and getting excellent results. Over the stretch of 82+ games this year, he has had to constantly juggle the lineup due to injuries. Many felt that with aging veterans, the Bruins would see a down year compared to last. Instead, they finished second in the league in points only behind Tampa Bay and their record-setting season.

Adjustments are where Cassidy hangs his hat. The Bruins sustained losses in three straight games on only four occasions this year. Only twice did they go three straight games without earning a point. That defines consistency. Their top goal-scorer missed significant time with injury and Bruce helped orchestrate a run of 19-straight games of earning at least a point without him. The in-series adjustments have been fairly obvious thus far. Cassidy stated that his team needed to play more physical and with more emotion following the loss in Game 1.

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The return of David Backes into the lineup reflects this mindset. He knows they can’t sustain the up-tempo style that Mike Babcock wants to establish for 60 minutes each night. However, Cassidy will be the first to tell you that he wants his team to play fast too. The players answered the call. Puck battles were won all night on Saturday. Technical, responsible hockey was on display all while showing both speed and grit. There has to be established physical play for the Bruins to be successful and that is what we should see in the foreseeable future.

Game 3 will be telling in how this series looks to shift. The cat and mouse game has only just begun, but the playoff grit is back. Don’t blink.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 2: Toronto at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Sportsnet.ca)

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

After losing the first game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins are back in the TD Garden on Saturday night for Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, down the series 1-0. On Thursday, Boston failed to generate good offensive opportunities and played poor on defence, allowing too many breakaways. Changes need to come in order to equalize this series.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (0-1)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0)

Last Game Result: Maple Leafs won 4-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup

David Backes enters the lineup for the first time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and forward Marcus Johansson is out with an illness. Jake DeBrusk is, in fact, in the lineup after being a game-time decision earlier today.

First Period:

The Bruins needed to come out with something to play for in the beginning stages of Game Two and they did exactly that. Only five minutes in the game, Boston is in full control. Hard aggressiveness on the dump-and-chase with some hard hits on anyone and everyone. As many other fans are saying on Twitter, the Bruins are playing the most physical hockey to begin any game in 2018-19. Great start to this big game.

Boston’s hard, physical play early paid off when David Backes found Charlie Coyle close in front of the net, burying it past Andersen to take a 1-0 lead early for Boston. Great forecheck by Backes to win the puck battle behind the Toronto net to find Coyle who shot before Andersen managed to locate the puck.

On the opposite side, the Leafs seemingly can’t get an early edge on the Bruins defence who is taking control on their individual man and shutting down the offence. The numbers just around halfway through the opening period were well in favour of Boston and the frustration level may have started to set in for Toronto.

Nazem Kadri and Jake DeBrusk got into a scuffle on the ice, resulting in offsetting 2-minute roughing minors. The intensity and tenacity of both Original Six rivals are growing by the second in this Game Two, making for a brilliant game thus far. On the 4-on-4, Auston Matthews drives hard around Rask, going for a wrap-around, but Rask keeps his pad tight to the post, keeping it out.

Surprisingly, David Krejci has been great at laying hits himself early on. On one rush by Gauthier, Krejci puts him to his back with a clean check along the boards. Not long after that, Travis Dermott holds DeBrusk on the boards, no holding penalty called, but DeBrusk answers the bell with some shoving back. Kadri in the middle of it again. DeBrusk is fiesty and aggressive tonight and it’s working so far.

With around four minutes left to trail in the first, Torey Krug fires a pass up the ice, a pass that is missed by Jake Muzzin, going right to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak makes a beautiful 180-pass to Brad Marchand who fakes the shot and buries it past a sprawling Frederik Andersen. That is how dangerous that duo and that line can be together. 2-0 Bruins.

Just as we approached the final minute of the period, David Pastrnak lays a hard, heavy hit on Jake Muzzin along the end boards, but the referees around the hit noticed it was a charge and Pastrnak is off to the box for two minutes. Toronto can’t build anything on the limited power-play and the energetic first period comes to a close there.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 14 TOR: 7

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Coyle (1) Assists: Backes (1); Marchand (1) Assists: Pastrnak (1), Krug (2)

Second Period:

Right away, the Bruins keep the hard play on Toronto, forcing mistakes including a Muzzin turnover that nearly leads to a Pastrnak to Marchand goal. Each and every time that Toronto tries to enter the zone, they are shut down and when they do get off a shot, it misses the net or is easily stopped by Rask.

Later in the frame, the hits keep on coming. Just as Pastrnak puts John Tavares to the ice, Jake Muzzin demolished Torey Krug into the sideboards as Krug’s helmet flew off. Krug’s head appeared to hit the boards and he stayed on all fours for an extended amount of time before needing help up to the dressing room. Krug tried to get up on his own, but he stumbles – does not look good at all.

Immediately after the TV timeout, William Nylander makes an atrocious error around his own net, leaving the puck right for Danton Heinen to tap it past a clueless Andersen. Nylander taps Andersen on the pads as he skates by as that is all his fault. Bruins make it 3-0.

The frustration of the Maple Leafs comes out, even more, when Freddy Gauthier goes to the box for roughing as some more pushing and shoving happens after the whistle. On the first power-play of the night for Boston, the B’s get many high-quality scoring chances on an exhausted Leafs penalty-kill unit. Right as the PP ended, David Krejci picks off a puck in the slot, but Heinen’s rebound on his shot is robbed by Andersen – huge save to keep it a three-goal game.

With less than five minutes to go in the second, captain Zdeno Chara flips the puck up and over the glass, causing the dreaded delay-of-game penalty and Toronto heads to a man-advantage of their own. Toronto only gets 1:20 of actual power-play time before Kadri gets called on a hooking minor and it will be 4-on-4 for 40 seconds before heading to a Bruins power-play.

Nothing happened on either opportunity, but when Kadri exits the box, he briefly strips Krejci of the puck before getting rocketed into the air by Jake DeBrusk. It looks like contact was to Kadri’s knee and he remains down on the ice before heading to the locker room. This game is getting uglier by the minute. With that, the period concludes – one more period to play.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 TOR: 16

Score: 3-0 Bruins – Goals: Heinen (1) Unassisted

Third Period:

Not letting off the gas, the top line of the Boston Bruins look to extend the lead to four early in the third, with Brad Marchand getting the best chance on the side of Andersen, but the Leafs goaltender sees him and makes a solid glove save to keep it 3-0.

Five minutes in, Krejci gets involved with some hard pushing after Tuukka makes a save, but he goes a bit too far in the eyes of the refs and the Bruins are going to the penalty box for two minutes. On the penalty-kill, the Bruins made some good plays and cleared the puck effectively, killing it off entirely.

Toronto had the pressure in the third, showing the desperate attitude they need and with 9:16 remaining, they finally strike. Kadri, who is back after his knee incident, perfectly deflects a Dermott point shot to score and make it a 3-1 game.

Another Bruin defenceman, Connor Clifton, leaves the ice and heads to the room after taking a shot from Kadri. Boston can’t afford to lose too many players on the blueline with Kevan Miller and John Moore already out of the lineup.

Later on in the frame, Kadri makes a dirty play, cross-checking DeBrusk square in the head, dropping Jake to the ice. A very dirty play from Kadri and like most agree, will be suspended for this. In response, Kadri is handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

On the long power-play, Bergeron finds a rebound, firing the puck past the red line, making it a 4-1 Boston lead with over four minutes remaining on that man-advantage.

Frederik Andersen is still playing hard in this game, regardless of the score late in the third, as he robs David Krejci cold in front of the net with a sprawling glove save. The team around him is failing to help him out and you know Mike Babcock doesn’t like that from his squad. But, the Boston Bruins win Game Two, 4-1 the final score.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 41 TOR: 31

Score: 4-1 Bruins – Series Tied 1-1

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 20:00 TOI

2nd Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 30 Saves, .968 SV%

3rd Star: BOS F Charlie Coyle – 1 Goal, +2 Rating, 3 Shots, 16:00 TOI

Game Three is Monday in Toronto.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Bruins Need to Right The Ship…Quickly

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

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

Put plainly, the Boston Bruins did not do enough to win Game 1 of their matchup with Toronto on Thursday night. You can point to the shot total and fool yourself into thinking that they outplayed Toronto, but that’s exactly what you’d be doing…fooling yourself. The Maple Leafs finished the game with more scoring chances, more physicality, and yeah… more goals. To drop the first game of the series at home by three goals is about as disappointing to Bruins fans as it is to the team itself, but the manner in which the game was lost made it even worse. The Bruins, for the better part of the game, looked disinterested, unengaged, and soft.

Defensively

The Bruins surrendered far too many odd-man rushes. Amidst the myriad chances they allowed were a handful of breakaways, including a shorthanded breakaway, and subsequently a goal on a penalty shot. Boston’s neutral zone defense, which one might think would be a key point of emphasis against a team with Toronto’s speed and big-play potential, was absent. Stretch passes picked apart the defense. Gaps were poor. The speed of Toronto’s forwards wasn’t given the respect it deserved, and this became evident on several rushes.   While the Bruins’ play in their own zone was admittedly somewhat better, Toronto’s first goal was a result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage. A tipped puck brought the attention of both Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy to the crease, leaving Mitch Marner with the entire slot to himself, and enough time and space to pump one past Rask. Chara and McAvoy did not look like a top defensive pairing last night against Toronto’s skilled forward units.

Defensive Fixes

It’s been said before, but Kevan Miller’s absence was notable last night. Aside from a big Connor Clifton hit in the first period, Toronto’s star forwards were able to navigate the ice sheet relatively undisturbed. For the Bruins to turn things around, this can’t continue. The Black and Gold defensive unit needs to inject a little grit into its game, and rough up the Toronto forwards at every opportunity. As good as the B’s skating on the back end is, they won’t outskate Toronto’s forwards. The fix to their Game 1 issues defensively will come in the form of smart gaps in the neutral zone and on transition, taking away time and space from Toronto in the Bruins’ own zone, and hammering them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

Soft hockey won’t win in the playoffs, regardless of how skilled a team is. Hopefully, last night’s game was enough of a wake-up call to the Bruins’ back end to light a fire under their collective back end.

Offensively

Too cute. Way too Cute. As easy as the Bruins’ first (and only) goal came in the first period, they looked as though they expected all of their goals to come as easy. Aside from Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci, very few Bruins forwards were driving offense and possession.

The Bruins had plenty of chances, and Frederik Andersen deserves a lot of credit for how well he played last night. But he didn’t steal the game from Boston. The Bruins simply didn’t put together enough sustained pressure to create the chances they needed to score on a good goalie. Anyone hoping for or expecting a recreation of the Bruins’ first-line dominance of last year’s series has a loose grip on reality.

Apart from the line of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, Boston’s attack was quieted by the Toronto defense and the subsequent sustained pressure of Toronto’s attack. Any time the Bruins started to roll and pick up some much-needed momentum, they gave up a big play that put Toronto right back in the driver seat.

Offensive Fixes

While the offense was not the reason why the Bruins surrendered an absurd amount of high-quality scoring chances, you can’t expect to beat a team like Toronto (or even a decent high-school team) by scoring just one goal. The aforementioned Coyle line drove much of the Bruins’ attack and accumulated a decent number of scoring chances, but was unable to bury the biscuit. The Bruins’ top two lines were essentially neutralized and unable to string together effective shifts. This can be attributed to the fact that these lines were relying too much on trying to make skill plays. The Bruins’ forwards are high-skill players, but playoff hockey is hard-nosed, fast-paced, and requires a willingness to keep things simple and get to the “dirty” areas (cliché much?) to win games.

While it wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Cassidy tweaked his line combinations to move some players away from matchups that hurt them last night, I do think the Bruins can win without that response. A commitment to shots on goal and sustained pressure—things that the third line did well on Thursday—will help rejuvenate the Bruins’ offense for Game 2 and likely the remainder of the series.

As far as possible line tweaks go, if something does change, it will likely be David Pastrnak coming off of Patrice Bergeron’s line. Toronto matched up against that line well, so much so that whatever chances Pastrnak did have came on the powerplay. The Bruins are at their best when Pasta is contributing to their 5v5 offense, and my guess is that we’ll see him on Krejci’s right on Saturday. In all likelihood, this will see Danton Heinen on Bergeron’s right, while Karson Kuhlman will join Coyle’s unit.

Don’t be surprised if David Backes slides into the lineup to bring some grit and toughness to the Bruins fourth unit, either.

Goaltending

Get real. There was nothing wrong with the goaltending. We’ve seen Tuukka stop a million breakaways as a Bruin, but you can’t give up 5 breakaways and expect him to stop them all. To his credit, he did stop a large number of high-quality chances, including a John Tavares (47 regular season goals, cute pajamas) breakaway, an Andreas Johnsson chance in a prime scoring area, and a few Auston Matthews chances that made every Bruins fan hold their breath.

 

As far as goaltending goes, Tuukka’s performance was no cause for concern. He’s a competitor, and losing at home will, in my opinion, only motivate him to come out and build on a solid Game 1 performance as the B’s try to turn things around.

Spin Zone

For Bruins’ fans looking for anything to feel good about, welcome to my Spin Zone. Quite simply, as far as bad results go, this one was about as well-timed as it gets. It’s much better for the Bruins to lay down a stinker in the first game of the series, as opposed to the sixth or seventh. This way, the Bruins can clearly see where they need to improve their game early on in the series and have enough time to turn things around and win. With how relaxed they looked last night, a win might have almost been worse, as it would have positively reinforced that the series would be easy… we know now that it absolutely will not be. What a blessing for the Bruins to be shown exactly what they need to improve on so early on as far as systems, strategy, and mentality. For that, we say, “Thank you, Toronto.”

(I’m reaching. I’m reaching so hard.)

The Boston Bruins lost a few games last spring to this Toronto Maples Leafs club, and if anyone needs a reminder of the outcome of that seven-game series, I suggest you take a gander at the Youtube video below.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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