Bruins' slow start leads to bad finish in Game 3

Bruins' slow start leads to bad finish in Game 3

BOSTON -- The Bruins pride themselves on strong starts and quality first periods, but they achieved neither Monday night in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators as their opening-round playoff series switched to TD Garden.

The B's showed few, if any, signs of life in the opening 20 minutes of play and fell behind by a pair of goals as they were outshot, 10-3, and picked apart by a Senators bunch more than happy to target Boston's undermanned defense. It took an energetic, emotional three-goal effort in the second period to right the ship, but all that did was set the stage for a 4-3 overtime loss that was certainly disappointing . . . but perhaps unavoidable, given the way they started the game.

"They came out and brought it in the first period; we were kind of caught on our heels and [it's] been the storyline maybe for the first four games we've played against them in the regular season," said David Backes, who helped key the second-period comeback with his first goal of the playoffs. "They were able to get off to a good start and we were chasing the game a bit."

The Bruins have yet to score a goal in the first period in any of the first three games, not a positive trend since the Senators can lock down with their 1-3-1 trap if Boston doesn't have the lead.

That said, B's interim coach Bruce Cassidy said Game 3's start wasn't about structure or game plan or even plain old systems. He thinks the Bruins just dropped a stink bomb on the ice with their worst 20 minutes in the series thus far.

"We tried to play with structure right from the drop of the puck," said Cassidy. "We just weren't very good, or they were better. We picked up our game as it went along. We had to. It was getting away from us. We played with more urgency, won more pucks. I don't know if structure was necessarily the problem. I think they were on the puck better than us early. It showed.

"We were on our heels, and then we picked it up, got a goal. We were able to score a quick one right after that by Backes, gave us a lot of life. We fed off the energy of the crowd, got ourselves back into it, and then had chances in the third to win it. We didn't, and they did."

The Bruins went 18-8-1 in 27 games down the stretch in the regular season under Cassidy based partly on the ability to get out to good, strong starts and force other teams to chase them. Very clearly, that hasn't happened thus far against the Senators. And it needs to change if the Bruins are hoping to come back from their current 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.