Before the series between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning began we broke down what we thought were the top 10 keys to be successful and win this series. (You can refresh your memory: https://northernlightssports.com/2020/08/23/bruins-lighting-round-2-our-top-10-keys-for-the-bruins-to-win-the-series/
After game 1 it seemed the Bruins and their coaching staff may have actually read the article and all I had to do was wait for the kudos to start rolling in. Well, things have gone slightly off the rails since then. Lets have a look at each of the 10 keys and analyze what and where things have gone wrong.
#10) Nick Ritchie: Oh boy, what a way to start. Brought in to be a factor in these type of series due to his physical play and size Ritchie has seen action in all 4 games. And he HAS been a a good contributor in that regard. He is one of the Bruins leaders in hits (17 hits in 4 games) averaging about 12 minutes per game. He has stuck up for and stepped in for his linemates and even got into a pretty good scrap with Barclay Goodrow. Oh, and he scored the opening goal in game 2. That’s the good. There have been a couple bad penalties, especially in game 4. The two minute roughing penalty (that resulted in a goal) and the 5 minute boarding major (called on review) didn’t lose the Bruins game 4, but it didn’t exactly help. But that is what you get with players like Ritchie. You ask them to play on the edge, finish checks, stick up for teammates etc. And you are going to get some bad penalties. He has become a bit of punching bag for some fans (questioning the Heinen trade, or calling for Studnicka or a younger/faster player). That’s for another article. The Bruins need more of the good Ritchie and less of the unnecessary penalties.
#9) Bruce Cassidy: We thought the Bruins bench boss needed to make moves in the lineup and use his last change opportunities to exploit Tampa’s weaknesses (which are few) and highlight Boston’s strengths. Check marks in game one and two…but game 3 was a bit of a head scratcher for us. Benching Clifton to add both Lauzon and Moore (to go with 7 defence) didn’t work. At all. And there are those who question keeping Ritchie in the lineup. I think outside of game 3, Cassidy has done an ok job. There was a plan for game 3…but nobody showed up. It will be interesting to see who slots in for game 5, but it would be fair to say Bruce needs to find a way to get more out of this group.
#8) Handling the Back-to-Back Games: I think it is safe to say that this did not go well. After losing in overtime in game 2 (4-3) the Bruins came back 22 hours later with just an all-around abysmal performance. They were just plain flat for most of game 3, and never got their legs under them.
#7) Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand: This line needs to be the best line on the ice if the Bruins are to win. And for the most part they have been with 11 points in 4 games. With a bit of a reversal of the regular season Marchand has 4 goals and Pasta has 4 assists. Bergeron has only contributed a single assist in the series, which is surprising, and getting him going on the score sheet wouldn’t hurt things at all. Bergy has had his chances, but hasn’t been able to capitalize as of yet. Overall, they have been outstanding on the power play and they have been great in 5 on 5 in keeping pressure and creating chances. It’s hard to ask more of them, but they will need to be better on the even strength scoreboard if the Bruins are to climb out of the 3-1 hole.
#6) The 3rd Line/Charlie Coyle: I felt this was going to be a really key line against a very deep team like Tampa Bay. Outside of Coyle, this line is ever changing in game and there have been several players play along side of Charlie, as expected. They have been good in spots, but have not at all been consistent in applying pressure and adding some punch on the score sheet. Hard to fault Coyle at all, he plays big minutes and with different players. If they are going to use Ritchie, Kuhlman, Bjork, Studnicka, Kuraly…whomever…they need to be a much better line at both ends of the ice.
#5) The 2nd Line/David Krejci: Secondary scoring was going to be huge in this series. Krejci had been the best Bruin (and leading scorer) through the Carolina series and DeBrusk and Kase on either side looked comfortable and were building chemistry. Fast forward ahead and that line has exactly zero points 5 on 5. Like the rest of the Bruins they have been good in spots and have had their chances, but collectively they are collectively they are minus 10. Krejci has 1 point (a power play assist) and DeBrusk has a single power play goal. That’s bad. Like the 3rd line, they need to find a way and it starts with Krejci.
#4) The 4th Line: The series had a good chance to be won or lost in trenches. The 4th line of Kurlay/Wagner/Nordstrom (with Lindolm) had been really good in these playoffs. They play physical, block shots and make life hard for the other team. That trend has continued in the Tampa series, with plenty of hits and blocked shots BUT they are a minus 11 in this series combined. Kuraly missing two games doesn’t help, but they just have not been effective on the defensive end. There is a trickle down effect here.
#3) D-Fence! D-Fence! Facing the leagues top scoring team was going to be a challenge and the defence has not stepped up to that challenge. A lack of consistent play in their own zone has led to too many Lightning chances. They have seen some bad breaks, but that doesn’t excuse the poor play. On the other end, they have done little to contribute to the offence. The entire defence has 0 goals and 6 assists in 4 games..and 3 of those are from Tory Krug. They have been making an effort to get more shots on net, but like the rest of the team not named Marchand or Pastrnak, they are not being rewarded.
#2) The Power Play/Penalty Kill: Special teams is always a key element to long successful playoff run. This series has been a tale of two halves for the Bruins when it comes to the penalty kill. A perfect 5 for 5 through the first two games they went 7-11 in the next 2 (allowing 3 PP markers in game 3). Game 3 everything went bad so we can give it a pass there. The power play, on the other hand, has been great scoring a goal in all 4 games and going 4 for 12 so far in the series. No surprise when you add Krejci to the the Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak on the top unit. I
GRADE: POWER PLAY: A PENALTY KILL: B-
#1) Jaroslav Halak: Once Tuukka Rask left the bubble, the keys to the Bruins yacht were handed to Jaro to captain the ship. They will go as far as he can take them. He won his first 4 games and all was looking right between the pipes, despite a few bad goals. Against Tampa, he has just let in too many soft goals. True, there have been some really unlucky breaks (deflections off defencemen, and a ref running a pick) but at the end of the day in two of the three losses the Bruins really only needed on or two saves and not that soft goal which seems to show up every game. You can erase game 3 as an overall bad team effort, but even outside of that, Halak has not been good enough.
Not the type of report card you went sent home. The Bruins are grounded and REALLY need to do some homework before game 5 Monday. Here’s hoping.
LETS GO BRUINS!