Given the production of the Bruins top line through the first few games of the series, one would think that secondary scoring wasn’t necessary, at least in Games 1 and 2. Well, in Game 3, they got some secondary scoring from the back end with Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid each responding to prior Maple Leafs tallies to tie things up.
On a night where Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak stepped back a bit despite developing quality chances, the Bruins could have used more secondary scoring from their second, third and fourth lines Monday. It wasn’t for a lack of trying as those trios also had their share of chances.
Additional secondary scoring could have helped the Bruins overcome a desperate Leafs bunch that looked and played like a more confident squad in front of their home crowd at the Air Canada Centre. Whether it was establishing a physical presence early, getting behind the Bruins D with some long stretch passes that led to odd-man rushes, presenting matchup problems with the benefit of last change or getting timely goaltending from Frederik Andersen, Mike Babcock’s squad have made things interesting heading into Game 4 Thursday night.
“I thought we didn’t recover out of the offensive zone as defensemen as well as we could have at times to sort of stifle some of those rushes,” Bruce Cassidy told reporters following the 4-2 loss in Game 3 (via Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston).
“I thought our top line was fine for the most part; they just didn’t finish. Pastrnak got robbed about three or four times, and that goalie made some head-scratching saves at the end. They had a tougher matchup [against Patrick Marleau, Tomas Plekanec and Mitch Marner] and they were determined to keep them off the score sheet, and they did. We’re not surprised by that. They’re a very good team. They’re at home and it didn’t go their way in Boston. It’s well-documented that they didn’t defend well enough and they put an onus on that.”
That they did, even though the Bruins top line, despite a combined minus-seven outing, fired 11 of the team’s 42 shots on goal. They’ll still get their share of the attention as one of the best trios in the league, and deservingly so.
Things won’t go as smoothly for Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak as they did when they compiled 20 points en route to a 12-4 aggregate in Games 1 and 2. Even as the Leafs tighten up defensively, they’ll still find time and space and feed off each other as the series progresses.
Five other forwards other than Marchand and Pastrnak found the back of the net in Boston. That was a good thing. Riley Nash, despite an ill-timed penalty, returned to the third line in Game 3. That trio of Nash, Danton Heinen and David Backes combined for eight shots on net, but still looked a little outmatched against the Leafs third line of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Connor Brown.
Sean Kuraly notched a pair of assists in the losing effort. Fellow linemates Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller brought energy and physicality but still found themselves in some tough spots at times when Babcock sent Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews and William Nylander out against the fourth line in certain shifts.
Noted playoff performer David Krejci has had problems coughing up the puck in certain moments. He also had a golden opportunity to finish off a great individual effort from Jake DeBrusk — who was the best B’s forward Monday night despite not tallying a single shot on goal — in the second period of Game 3 before the puck exploded off his stick on a tip-in attempt. Rick Nash, the other member of the second line, has drawn penalties and a few chances himself, but the Bruins need him to shake off his past postseason disappointments with the Rangers.
Adding Rick Nash, Brian Gionta, Tommy Wingels and Ryan Donato at the trade deadline made the Bruins a deeper team. Every forward, sans Gionta, has done their part in giving the Bruins a 2-1 series lead. All that was missing from Game 3 was the finish. That can only help as team’s key on the Bergeron line.
Game 3 proved that they still need a little help in the secondary scoring department despite goals from Chara and McQuaid. The Bruins will need that secondary scoring from their second, third and fourth lines in Game 4.