NHL Playoffs: 3 Key Takeaways for the Boston Bruins Following Game 2April 15, 2012
NHL Playoffs: 3 Key Takeaways for the Boston Bruins Following Game 2
When Nicklas Backstrom beat Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas at 2:56 of double overtime to pull the Washington Capitals even in the series, bystanders should have taken a less-than-subtle hint.
This matchup poses much more parity than the second- vs. seventh-seeding discrepancy will confess. The contesting clubs will shuffle down to Washington for Game 3 having split a pair of sudden-death decisions and having tallied two goals apiece in that span.
With that being said, the Bruins could have done more to assert themselves on their home ice, where they lost for only the second time in their last 13 postseason games, dating back to last year’s comeback versus Montreal.
More widespread success at the dot and more qualitative attacks at even strength as well as on the power play could have easily granted Boston a 2-0 series lead on Saturday. Those three aspects of their game, and how they potentially hampered their cause in Game 2, are detailed as follows.
All Hands On Attack
Only the third line of Chris Kelly, Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston has cracked the code to lighting up Washington goaltender Braden Holtby. But everyone has taken at least one stab at him in the first two games.
Every Boston skater, with the exception of Joe Corvo, contributed to the 44 shots on net in Game 2, and everyone except stay-at-home defenseman Greg Zanon made multiple attempts. None other than Shawn Thornton logged a team-high five shots on Holtby despite a team-low 8:02 of ice time.
This certainly justifies head coach Claude Julien’s four-rolling-lines approach, but everybody needs to do more to work around the unripe Washington stopper.
Holtby clearly cannot be mollified by overwhelming quantities of pucks, thus quality rebounds and an inclination to pounce on those rebounds are in order. Everybody on the Bruins bench ought to have sufficient energy for that, seeing as they are receiving relatively balanced ice time.
Still No Real Man Advantage
The Bruins and Capitals are now 0-of-6 and 0-of-5, respectively, on the power play through the first two games in this series. Naturally, that generates a mixed bag of news that blends nicely in the 1-1 deadlock.
But for Boston, the most jutting aspect is not unlike a prominent pimple from last year’s opening round.
Recall that the 2011 Bruins famously prevailed in seven games against the Montreal Canadiens despite failing to convert on all 21 of their man-up segments. And it’s worth a reminder that three of their victories required overtime, just as the first two postseason games versus Washington have.
And on Saturday, a radiant invitation to break the ice was passed on what proved to be the Bruins’ second and final power play of the afternoon.
After drawing a cross-checking minor on Roman Hamrlik at 1:54 of the middle frame, Brad Marchand could have had an easy icebreaker in the fourth minute of the period. As Marchand swooped behind the Capitals’ net, linemate Patrice Bergeron’s shot brushed the near post, which sat before a slab of the net vacated by a post-hugging Holtby.
With a little more quickness and attentiveness, Marchand could have crossed paths with Bergeron’s rebound and buried a backhander to convert the man-advantage and nab a crucial 1-0 lead before the halfway mark of regulation.
Only the hockey gods know how that might have altered the complexion of the game, let alone the series. We mortals know this much: It would have been the first time the unripe Holtby had surrendered a lead during regulation in the playoffs.
Possessed by a One-Man Show
It ought to be frightening for Bruins buffs to imagine where their team would be without Bergeron, who has all but single-handedly ensured Boston its share of puck possession.
In Game 1, Boston won 33 out of 65 faceoffs with their alternate captain and longest-tenured skater going 18-of-25. Delete Bergeron’s performance and the rest of the team was an egregious 15-of-40 at the dot.
On Saturday, Bergeron was not quite a runaway but a respectable 14-of-24. The Bruins as a whole were 30-of-64 with everyone not wearing the No. 37 going a cumulative 16-of-40—a negligible improvement from Thursday.
David Krejci, Bergeron’s fellow top-six pivot, was the worst faceoff performer in Game 2 with only one win on nine tries. But at least he has a worthy alternative on his wings in Rich Peverley, who swiped five of the eight draws he took Saturday.