by Bob Morello
Bruins regrouping for game 4
Monday night in Toronto’s 4-2 win over Boston, it was obvious that the hockey Gods were watching over the Leafs. Despite the fact that the Bruins were unable to finish their plethora of chances during Game 3, especially in the third period, it was the solid 40-save performance by Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen that made the difference in the outcome. It was a game that saw some soft goals by both netminders, but it likely was the adjustment made by Toronto coach, Mike Babcock that helped his team to their first win of the series.
During Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference first playoff round, Boston’s first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak literally shredded the Toronto defense, notching 20 points over those two games. The adjustment by Babcock was the creation of a line that included, Tomas Plekanec, Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner matchup against the Bergeron line. The summary of Game 3 showed that against the Plekanec line, the Bruins’ first line did not earn a single point, and they were held to a mere nine shots the entire game. Although Boston had a good amount of scoring chances during Game 3, they were not able to finish on several. The total of Boston’s scoring came from the defense, as Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara found the back of the net. On several occasions the Bruins clanged shots (four) off the posts, the crossbar, or missed the Toronto goal entirely, and the spectacular goaltending of Andersen negated the rest.
Despite the loss, the Bruins put forth a decent attack, especially in the final frame when they had several chances to get right back into the game, but Andersen was the deciding factor on each and every opportunity. Tonight (Thursday), Boston is expected to hit the ice ready to play (the right way), putting the outcome of Game 3 totally in the rear view mirror, and feel confident that they have the ability to leave Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with a 3-1 series lead. For Boston, the plus side of Game 3 featured a solid effort by their fourth line, finishing the night with a plus-6 effort, as Sean Kuraly assisted on both Bruins goals, and Tim Schaller assisting on McQuaid’s goal.
Entering tonight’s Game 4 (7:00pm), the Bruins should not feel any frustration despite the 4-2 loss suffered on Monday. They definitely outplayed the Maple Leafs in that game, but could not emerge on top in the all-important scoreboard. If they can get back to playing the style used in the first two games, they can pull out a victory tonight, and return to TD Garden ice with a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, and be in good position in this first round. No matter what, Game 5 will be Saturday with the Bruins hosting the Leafs, in what will likely be an 8:00pm start due to Hockey Night in Canada’s schedule. A loss to Toronto tonight would make this a best-of-three series, which would have Boston holding home ice advantage.
The remaining schedule would have Game 5 (Saturday in Boston), Game 6 if necessary (Monday) at Air Canada Centre, and Game 7 if necessary (Wednesday) on TD Garden ice. Surprises continue to surface as the Vegas Golden Knights swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of their playoff series, putting the final nail in the Kings’ coffin with a 1-0 shutout in Game 4. Winnipeg continues their mastery over the Minnesota Wild leading 3-1 in games, same with the San Jose Sharks with a commanding 3-0 margin over the Anaheim Ducks. All other series currently stand 2-1 at press time (Wednesday).