BOSTON -- It certainly feels like the Ottawa Senators have fully wrapped a sleeper hold on the Bruins offense, doesn’t it?
The Sens took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 1-0 shutout win in Game 4 at TD Garden where they shut out leading scorer Brad Marchand for the third game in a row, and have held David Pastrnak to a paltry two shots on net in four playoff games in the series. In this particular game, the B’s had their chances early with 12 shots on net in the first 20 minutes, and top shelf scoring chances for Marchand on two different breakaways behind Erik Karlsson. Ryan Spooner had the Bruins' third chance, a high slot off an odd-man rush to the Senators' net.
But they came up empty and more than a little frustrated afterward. Still, they pledged to turn the page to Game 5 on Friday night in Ottawa.
“You just have to stick with it,” said Brad Marchand, who missed on a couple of breakaway chances in the first period. “We know that’s the team we’re playing and that’s fine. We were that [defensive-minded] team for many years. So, you know, they say defense wins championships and that’s obviously their motto over there. We just have to find a way to continue to do the same thing [generating chances].
"That’s hockey. You’re not going to win 7-6 every night. You’ve got to be able to play any style, so that’s the way it is.”
Team-wide the Bruins managed just 10 shots on net in the final 40 minutes as Ottawa clogged up the neutral zone and prevented the B’s from holding the puck in the offensive zone for any meaningful period of time.
The Bruins could make the argument that it was just another one-goal game that could have gone either way, but some of the oomph is lost from that take when one realizes that Wednesday night is exactly the pace and style of play that the methodical, frustrating Senators are looking for.
“They’re good [on defense], for one,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. “They’ve done a good job with that. The identity of their team is they’re always five back for the most part. So there’s not a lot of free ice in there. And they break out pucks well. They’ve got a goaltender that handles it well. They’ve got some defensemen, so they’ve got good structure.
“We knew it would be difficult. But, for us, the flip side of that is the first periods when we did have our ice and we did have our opportunities, we weren’t able to bury them. Sometimes, with a team like Ottawa, or with any team, if you get a lead, the game opens up a little bit and some of those opportunities are a little easier to get through there.”
So now the Bruins have gone through four playoff games against Ottawa with fits and starts offensively where it can burst through for two or three goals in a period’s time, or multiple periods where nothing is doing against the Senators' zone-clogging trap. But the bottom line is that the B’s have only done enough offensively to win one of the four playoff games in the series, and it doesn’t look like that trend is going to change with Boston’s back now firmly against the wall.