What we learned: Maple Leafs force Game 6
No shortage of indigestion in the Hub of Hockey from morning till midnight Saturday.
And likely beyond for a few more days.
With the Bruins up 3 games to one 1, the first buzz was the status of Patrice Bergeron for Game 5.
“We will make that decision after warm-up,” Bruce Cassidy said after practice, “but it is looking good.” So was the chance that Boston would close out the series when Cassidy affirmed a few hours later that Bergeron would start.
Later Saturday afternoon, the Lightning punched their ticket to Round 2 with a 3-1 win over New Jersey to end that series and await the B’s-Leafs winner.
With Nazem Kadri back after a three-game suspension for his Game 1 hit on Tommy Wingels, Toronto coach Mike Babcock’s philosophy regarding the must-win Game 5 was fairly simple: “We have to create more offense. That’s the bottom line.”
Bottom line from Cassidy about an elimination game? “We talked about how it’s hard to win in this league. It’s especially hard to win in the playoffs.” The Bruins’ all-time record stood at 18-2 in best-of-7 series when they led a series 3-1, but only 11-9 in Game 5’s when leading a series 3-1.
Make that 11-10 following Saturday’s 4-3 loss.
Here’s what we learned as Babcock’s boys accomplished their bottom line, and the Bruins once again struggled in a close-out Game 5, as the series shifts back to Toronto Monday night for Game 6.
May 13, 2013, not to be replicated
The Bruins came close Saturday night to what would have been a repeat of the comeback of comebacks when they erased a three-goal third-period deficit against Toronto in Game 7 of 2013’s first round en route to a 5-4 OT win — a feat never accomplished in NHL playoff history at the time.
Trailing 4-1 with 22:42 left, the Black and Gold pushed the game back to 4-3 but could not produce the equalizer despite a boatload of opportunities in a frantic final stretch.
Noel Acciari potted the Bruins’ third goal at 5:56 of the closing period with Tim Schaller and Torey Krug assisting. Rick Nash had missed an open net and Charlie McAvoy had rung the post moments before. The final frame had Boston outshooting the Leafs, 20-5, and 45-21 for the game.
The Bruins also went 1-for-6 on the power play — including coming away empty-handed from a 5-on-3 in the second period for 1:34.
“Well, anytime you’re shorthanded six times, it was six times,” Babcock said about his netminder, Frederik Andersen. “I don’t know if you noticed…and once for 5-on-3. It was ridiculous, and so your goalie’s going to be under the gun. I thought our penalty killers did a good job and I thought Freddie [Andersen] did a good job.”
“He was very good tonight; let’s face it,” Cassidy said about Andersen. “He made a lot of good saves.”
Bruins chased the game
One of Cassidy’s common refrains is: “We can’t chase the game.” And yet, on Saturday, the Bruins did that all night long.
“We found our legs eventually and fought our way back in,” Cassidy said, “but the start wasn’t good enough.”
Auston Mathews swung the net and Connor Brown knocked the rebound home at 6:36 of the opening stanza. Andreas Johnsson swooped in at 10:12, off a Kadri seeing-eye pass, for the two-goal lead on the Leafs’ sixth shot, while the Bruins put 15 on Andersen.
A Ron Hainsey clear was right onto David Backes’ stick and past Andersen at 9:45 of the second period; Krug and Jake DeBrusk assisting. But 45 seconds later, Tyler Bozak nailed a 10-footer past Tuukka Rask. James van Riemsdyk’s power play tally at 11:55 marked the end of Rask’s night.
Sean Kuraly scored off a Matt Grzelcyk feed to end the middle frame; Noel Acciari also assisting.
Rask not up to the task
After stoning Toronto in Game 4, Rask was far from the same level in Game 5 allowing four goals on eight shots.
“I didn’t think he had it tonight,” Cassidy said about the Finn, “so we went with Anton [Khudobin], who has been very good for us. And then there’s always that part, gets the rest of the team’s attention as well. So, it’s both. I don’t want to measure, quantify what percentage of each, but clearly, if I thought [Rask] was on, then he wouldn’t have got pulled. I guess I’ll put it that way.”
“Probably could’ve stopped more pucks with my eyes closed,” Rask said about being pulled for the first time in his playoff career. “That’s about it. It’s on me, but moving on to the next one and we’ll finish it out in Toronto.”
Khudobin, for his part, put in an eight-save shutout in relief.
Leafs turn the table in blocked shots
In Game 4, the Bruins blocked 27 of Toronto’s shots, compared to the Leafs’ nine; it was the key stat with none of those 27 shots getting to Rask’s doorstep.
Saturday was a tale of opposites, with the Leafs finishing with 22 blocked shots compared to Boston’s eight.
“Just trying to make the next save,” Andersen said. “We all want to keep the series going and take it back to Toronto.”
Bergeron’s availability going forward
“I won’t project past Game 6,” Cassidy said about Bergeron’s status. “He made it through today’s game healthy, finished the game. You always want to see how they are in the morning. I don’t anticipate there will be any issues going into Game 6. Of course, that could change, but that’s the way it is right now.”