By Mike Miccoli
The team has this problem with complacency. They start out strong, get ahead of their opponents, and then they stop. Everything stops, actually. They stop skating, stop hitting, and stop any type of effort that helps them to maintain a lead. It has been apparent in games this season and now the Bruins are doing it in the playoffs.
So here we go again.
The Bruins squandered the chance to close out the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Maple Leafs in Game 5, losing 2-1. Now, the series goes back to Toronto for Game 6 on Sunday, momentum suddenly shifting to the Maple Leafs’ corner.
Of course, the Bruins need to win one game before the Maple Leafs win two. Odds are still in Boston’s favor, but Game 6, much like Game 5 should have been, is now an absolute must-win for the Bruins.
Bergeron line must contribute
The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin has to be the spark that gets the team going. Boston’s best line throughout the regular season has been ice cold in the postseason, combining for a total of one goal (Bergeron) and two assists (Marchand) between the three of them. Seguin has gone five games without a point.
It’s almost as if the trio is trying too hard. Even though he leads the Bruins with 24 shots, Seguin has been invisible in the postseason; a non-factor when he could be the sole difference between a win and a loss for Boston. While Bergeron has been consistent with his two-way play and effort, the line just looks out-of-sync, almost lost at times when on the ice. Since David Krejci and his linemates have taken over the bulk of the offensive production, it’s almost as if the Bergeron line sat back, knowing that the pressure is off of them to contribute.
They became complacent.
The third line of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Jaromir Jagr looked better in Game 5, cycling the puck and keeping the pressure going in the offensive zone but still lacked offensive prowess. It was telling, however, that after Chara’s goal, Kelly’s line was rolled out, rather than the Bergeron line, to keep Boston’s momentum’s going. The Bruins now-second line needs to start contributing in order to be a vital part of the team’s success. When Boston needs them most in Game 6, they need to be the ones to deliver.
Defense must remain composed
When acquired, it was projected that Wade Redden would only be used for depth purposes. Turns out, he’s pretty solid defensively and can contribute on the power play. So when the news broke that veteran defenseman was ruled out for Game 5 and that Matt Bartkowski would be taking his place, it didn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal.
Who knew that Redden was so important to the Bruins blue line?
It’s not that Bartkowski played poorly, but his six minutes of ice time hardly made a difference. It’s more that the shuffling up of defensive pairings when the core six of Chara, Redden, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid is not intact impacts the team. Ference replaced Redden on the second power play unit and mishandled a puck allowing Tyler Bozak to score a shorthanded goal on the breakaway. Later, Boychuk misfired what should have been a clean breakout pass to Nathan Horton but rather ended up on Clarke MacArthur’s stick and past Tuukka Rask.
The defense needs to tighten itself up and find ways to shut down the speedy Toronto offense. The cracks in their game have been more visible than often and the Maple Leafs are finding ways to capitalize on the Bruins’ mistakes. Led by the top pairing of Chara and Seidenberg, the B’s have to be almost flawless in Toronto.
Stay out of their own heads
Boston won both games played at the Air Canada Centre this past week, proving that the hostile Toronto environment won’t be too much for them to handle. Excuses are out the window and Julien’s team must now put aside any blunders made in Game 5 and focus on the task at hand—eliminating the Maple Leafs in Toronto in Game 6.
Moreover, the Bruins have been the better team most of the time during the series. The Bruins took over Game 5 in the last ten minutes of the third period, completely rendering the Maple Leafs offense useless. The Bruins can’t let the Maple Leafs swing the momentum in their direction and need to go back to playing the full-60 if they’re going to be successful.
Game 6 can’t be like Game 5 because it could mean that Game 7 is the Bruins’ last of the season.