The Boston Bruins came into Game 2 of their first-round matchup in need of a bounce-back game after a challenging Game 1 loss that saw them lose 5-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Going into the game, they obviously needed to make some sort of change, and it came on defense. Hampus Lindholm was shifted down to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo while Matt Grzelcyk moved up to the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.
Game 2 was a nasty game that saw injuries to Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta, as well as Lindholm. From the beginning of the game it was obvious things were going to get heated, but the second period saw the game reach a boiling point after every play seemed to be ending in penalties and scrums.
It was only fitting that the game even ended in a fight as the clock struck zero.
It was a wildly frustrating game to watch for Bruins fans. While they started to put together some good hockey at the end of the third period (they finished the third with 16 shots vs. Carolina’s nine), it was already too little too late, and they lost the game 5-2 after the Hurricanes from start to finish. The team now heads back to Boston down two in the series, and things are not looking great. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy definitely has his work cut out for him going into Game 3.
Bruins Don’t Take Advantage of Opportunities
The story of the series so far has been who’s able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them (Hurricanes) and who hasn’t (Bruins). The Bruins had their opportunities in Game 2, from two power plays in the first period to facing a third-string goaltender after Raanta left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period. Carolina, on the other hand, has been able to take advantage of the Bruins’ challenges of clearing the puck, and have been winning the net front battles and scoring off of those battles.
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Playing gets tough in the playoffs, and guys need to take advantage of every opportunity given to them because chances are, they might not get another one. The Bruins are not winning the net-front battles, the power play is abysmal, and overall, they are failing to prolong plays and have extended time in the offensive zone. They’re struggling to get pucks on net, which is why they only have three goals so far this season in comparison to Carolina’s 10.
The Hurricanes had the opposite issue. Their first goal of the game came off of the Bruins’ failure to clear the zone, giving them extra opportunities to get pucks on net, and their second goal came off of a net-front battle that they won. They are taking advantage of their chances, while the Bruins have failed to do so during this series so far, and that’s why they are 2-0 in the series right now.
The Bruins were facing off against the Hurricanes’ third-string goaltender for most of the game, something that should have been able to take advantage of. But, the Bruins spent too much time in their own zone, ultimately losing an opportunity to take shots on an inexperienced goaltender they could have used to their advantage.
The Bruins demonstrated a complete lack of discipline in Game 2. They gave the Hurricanes three 5-on- 3 opportunities, and that just cannot happen. Again, they’re playing against a third-string goaltender, and you don’t get a lot of opportunities to shoot on him when you’re spending so much time playing a man down.
Now, the Hurricanes have not been saints and, as always, there are some questionable decisions by the referees, but you cannot deny that the Bruins took several bad penalties in Game 2. From Brad Marchand retaliating on a slash from goalie Pyotr Kochetkov (it created offsetting penalties instead of a man-up for Boston, or at the very least it made it even since they were already a man down) to Derek Forbort’s bad high sticking in the third period, the lack of discipline was the nail in the coffin of an already-bad game for this team.
The refs lost all control of Game 2 midway through the second period. The Bruins lost their cool, and it showed in the on ice, as well as in the final score. They’ll need a complete regroup after that performance.
Linus Ullmark Isn’t to Blame
Linus Ullmark cannot score goals. He cannot run point on the power play. He can’t play defense, and he can’t help the team in the neutral zone.
After this game, I’m sure there will be plenty of calls for Jeremy Swayman to start in net in Game 3, but that isn’t going to solve all the issues on this team right now. In fact, if the team plays in front of him the same way they’ve played in front of Ullmark, I’m sure they’ll lose Game 3 as well. At the end of the day, the Bruins losing the first two games on the series is not on the goalie.
The Bruins did Ullmark no favors in this game. From playing a man down nine times, to losing net front battles, they did very little to help their goaltender against a tough team. As mentioned above, they gave Carolina three 5-on-3 opportunities. They also didn’t take advantage of their own power-play opportunities.
Would it have been nice for Ullmark to play completely out of his mind and save this team? Sure, I would love to see it, all fans would. But the blame is not on him for the performance of the rest of the team and he is only one player participating in the ultimate team sport.
Series Getting Away From Bruins
Things are not looking great right now. After a great first two periods in Game 1, the Bruins have struggled in almost all aspects of the game. They’ve struggled playing on offense, on defense, in transition. They look like the team that couldn’t get any momentum going in November, and not like the team that seemed unbeatable for stretches this Spring.
Credit also must be given where credit is due: the Hurricanes came to play, and look like the complete package. They have few weak spots, and everything’s coming together at the right time for them.
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There, of course, are always bright spots. Erik Haula was fantastic in the faceoff circle, and Patrice Bergeron continues to show that age is just a number. Connor Clifton had some decent moments in the first period. They also had 43 hits, compared to Carolina’s 33, and only seven giveaways (Carolina had 12). Still, it’s hard to focus on those bright spots given how glaringly bad other (most) areas were in this game.
The series heads back to Boston for Game 3 on Friday, and the Bruins need to clean up their act. They need to keep their cool, take less penalties, and play good, clean hockey. Anything can happen in hockey and It’s possible to come back from being down two in a series, but not if they play like they did in Game 2.