Bruins’ Power Play Won’t Carry Them Again

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Thursday to take Game 1 of their first-round series. The boys in white and blue dictated play all night long, staying a step ahead of the Bruins throughout the contest. Their high-powered offense, featuring Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner was too much for the black and gold to handle.

Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner
The Boston Bruins lost Game 1 of their first-round series largely due to a powerful performance by Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Mitch Marner (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Boston only had a firm grasp on the game for a handful of shifts at a time – which wasn’t enough to solve Frederik Andersen more than once. In fact, it hasn’t been enough all season. Their lone goal came on a Patrice Bergeron power-play tally roughly 10 minutes into the first period. Brad Marchand faked out the entire building as he looked ready to uncork a wrister from the left circle before sending the puck across the zone to his wide-open linemate.

At even strength, the Bruins couldn’t seem to get much done. They relied on the power play which went 1-for-2. This was a recurring theme during the team’s 2018 postseason run which resulted in a close call against the Maple Leafs, taking the series in seven games. They were only able to extract a five-game series out of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

Bruins’ 2018 Playoffs

Boston relied far too heavily on the power play during the playoffs last season. They managed seven power play goals against Toronto in their seven-game series. The team went on to pot five goals with the man advantage during the five-game series against Tampa Bay.

All in all, the Bruins led the league by scoring on 36.4-percent of their power plays during last year’s playoffs. While that stat is very impressive, they still only managed to win five of their 12 games played. It simply wasn’t enough, especially against Tampa Bay who outskated the Bruins throughout the series.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand
While the power play was solid during their 2018 playoff run, the Boston Bruins struggled on the penalty kill and were average during 5-on-5 play. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

When at even strength against Toronto, the Bruins were average at best. While they were able to come up big when they needed to most, Boston never seemed in total control of the series. After a good game they’d follow it up with a poor performance and failed to capitalize on a 3-1 series lead. The Maple Leafs forced a Game 7 and even then the Bruins struggled to reel it in until they managed a slew of goals in the third period.

To make matters worse, they only killed 73.5 percent of their penalties throughout their unsuccessful run, ranking 13th amongst the 16 postseason teams that season. They were excellent at punishing the mistakes of their opponents but couldn’t seem to make up for their own.

Bruins & Maple Leafs Game 1, 2019

Toronto took the game by storm, rebounding from the Bergeron power-play goal quickly thanks to a tally from Marner. The young star earned himself a short-handed penalty shot in the following period and made the Bruins pay.

The Maple Leafs were clearly the better team throughout. They expertly took away space from Boston’s biggest threats, especially Marchand. Boston’s leading scorer only registered a single shot on goal in 20:47 of ice time while the Bruins’ entire first line was rendered a minus-2 rating.

Even the defense – a category in which Boston supposedly has the advantage on paper – wasn’t able to contribute much. There were too many turnovers by these blueliners which handicapped the team’s transition game. The Maple Leafs had full control of their own zone and the neutral zone. On top of that, they were able to harass Boston along the boards to create extended offensive possessions.

Charlie McAvoy
The Boston Bruins defense wasn’t able to keep up with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ high-powered offense in Game 1. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Combining all of this with a subpar performance from goaltender Tuukka Rask equates to a 1-0 series deficit. Other than trade deadline acquisition Charlie Coyle, the Bruins didn’t have much fight in them. They looked completely overwhelmed as wave after wave of Toronto attacks slowly chipped away at them.

Boston did give a decent push once they were trailing, but there wasn’t any consistent pressure to be found. The Bruins are now in a position where they need to look for a 1-1 split on home ice. Heading to Toronto with the series tied would warrant some uneasy feelings, but a 2-0 hole in this circumstance could be too big of a pill for the B’s to swallow.