Bruins

Talking Points: Bruins dominating and depth is the deciding factor

Talking Points: Bruins dominating and depth is the deciding factor

GOLD STAR: They weren’t rewarded until late in the game with actual points, but Tim Schaller and his fourth line cohorts were dominant throughout the game. They consistently pounded the offensive zone with long puck possession shifts and continued wearing down the New York Islanders defense before it finally broke in the third period. Schaller finally got on the board through a nice play by Sean Kuraly that his linemate popped in on the rebound. He finished with a goal and two points, and a plus-2 in 11:54 of ice time along with four shots on net. While it’s clear that the Bruins third line has been really productive over the last few weeks, the fourth line has also been serving notice that they’re going to be an impact energy group as well. Tuesday night might have been the fourth line’s best night of the season, and it was easily one of Schaller’s best games of the year.

BLACK EYE: John Tavares had a forgettable night as he was dominated by just about every line the Bruins threw at them. The Isles franchise cornerstone finished with minus-3 and just one shot on net in 19 minutes of ice time, and also lost 8-of-14 face-offs while getting worked by Boston’s down-the-middle crew. It was Tavares that was beaten cleanly by Riley Nash for a goal in the first period off the draw. Perhaps that threw Tavares off for the rest of the night, it was certainly a poor game on his part.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins worked to get a 2-1 lead entering the third period, and they truly dominated the middle 20 minutes by outshooting the Isles by a 17-4 margin despite getting just a single goal of separation. So the Bruins could have buckled holding a small lead, and almost did at the end of the second period when Mat Barzal went end-to-end through the Bruins defense in a play that ended with Nick Leddy jacking a ripped point shot off the post. After escaping that segment, the Bruins came out and scored three unanswered goals in the third period to take home an eventual 5-1 win over the Islanders. The Bruins have shown an ability to finish strong and they did it once again against the Islanders after physically grinding them through the opening 40 minutes.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron only needed to play 14:22 of ice time, but he made it count while snapping home the game-winner in the second period when it was still a tightly-contested game. Bergeron batted a puck out of mid-air at the Islanders net, guided it toward his stick and then fired a puck at the skates of Jaroslav Halak in an incredibly heady play. In all Bergeron finished with a goal, a plus-1 rating, two shots on net, two hits and 12-of-17 face-off wins in a game where he got to rest a bit in the third period. But No. 37 was right where he needed to be during the money portion of the game before they run away with it late.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – The Bruins line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were finally on ice for their first 5-on-5 goal against this season when Brandon Carlo fell down with the puck right in front of the B’s net after a Bergeron D-zone face-off win. They deserved a better fate, but it doesn’t take away any of the dominant even-strength play they’ve had this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “[The Bruins] are a good offensive team and they don’t give up a whole lot. But it’s not good enough for our group starting with myself. We need to set the tone the right way and start playing to expectations.” –John Tavares, who paid the Bruins plenty of complements while taking responsibility for an Islanders team that didn’t play well. 

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Bruins step up with Bergeron down for key victory over Leafs

Bruins step up with Bergeron down for key victory over Leafs

TORONTO -- It was a shock for just about everybody in the building when it was announced shortly after the beginning of warmups for Game 4 that Patrice Bergeron, suffering from an upper-body injury, wouldn't be playing for the Bruins.

The home fans at the Air Canada Centre celebrated it as a good sign for the Maple Leafs. On the Bruins side, there certainly was an unsettled feeling that their best player was missing from the lineup.

But the B's slid Riley Nash into Bergeron's spot in the middle, as they did so many times this season, and then went out and played strong hockey to earn a gritty 3-1 win that gave them a commanding 3-1 series lead.

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Boston responded the way it did during the regular season, when Bergeron missed 19 games to injury (including 13 in a row late in the year because of a broken foot). The B's were 12-5-2 without Bergeron, and -- in the short haul -- were able to withstand his absence once again.

"We understand how much [Bergeron] means to this team, [especially since] we lost him during the regular season," said rookie Jake DeBrusk, who sealed the deal with a third-period goal that gave the Bruins a two-goal lead. "Obviously, it's magnified in the playoffs. [But] Riley has played there a bit, so those guys have chemistry from before.

"We knew we'd need a good effort from top to bottom and I thought tonight we showed a good example of that. We had some big players make some big plays, and it was nice to be a part of."

It's still unclear exactly what's wrong with Bergeron, though there were at least a couple of heavy, physical hits in Game 3 that might have caused an injury. He participated in practice in Wednesday -- though there were a couple of instances where Nash hopped into line rushes and drills -- and spoke to the media Thursday morning with no indication that anything was amiss. The first sign there was a problem was when he wasn't present when the Bruins took the ice for pregame warmups Thursday.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said the decision to hold him out of Game 4 was made shortly before the start, but "hopefully he's better and ready to go on Saturday" in Game 5 at TD Garden.

"We were managing [an undisclosed injury] and he wasn't able to go, so we're classifying it as day-to-day," said Cassidy.

Now the question becomes whether the Bruins, with a 3-1 series lead, should rush Bergeron back into the lineup for Game 5. An injury that sidelined him for a playoff game after two off days has to be considered fairly significant, and it might be a better long-term move to let him continue healing.

For now, though, the B's can draw a great deal of satisfaction for circling the wagons and securing a crucial road playoff victory without their best player.

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Bean: Leafs had their chance; now they're done

Bean: Leafs had their chance; now they're done

Even with the status of their best player in doubt, the Bruins will surely win their first-round series against the Leafs. It will probably happen Saturday. 

Such a thought would have been hard to believe heading into the series, but by now we've seen enough to know where things stand: Toronto's defense is exploitable and its stars aren't doing enough to make up for it. 

Consider Game 4. The Leafs outplayed the B's, who were sloppy and missing Patrice Bergeron, for much of the night. Still, all it took was one odd-man rush in a period that saw them spend the entire time in their zone to turn the tide. 

BRUINS 3, MAPLE LEADS 1 

The B's went the whole night without a power play. In fact, there was just one penalty the whole game. 

But that suited the Bruins, as they got even-strength goals from Torey Krug, Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have just one even-strength goal combined this series from Auston Matthews, William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk.

The question now becomes whether those guys will get going with elimination looming. Lord knows JVR can do it against the Bruins. But even if they do, they'll have to do it in a building that saw Boston score 12 goals over Games 1 and 2.  

While Toronto's stars continue to cool, Boston got a very welcome sight Thursday with David Krejci creating DeBrusk's goal. Krejci, who scored goals in Games 1 and 2, had a quiet showing in Game 3. With Bergeron's status up in the air, the Bruins could use a productive Krejci. 

The Leafs got back in the series when it shifted to Toronto for Game 3. There, Mike Babcock used last change to get Bergeron's line with Marchand and Pastrnak away from Matthews. The line of Tomas Plekanec between Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau not only quieted Boston's top line, but scored a pair of goals against it. 

That was not sustainable, as the Bergeron line (with Riley Nash skating in place of the injured Bergeron) scored twice against Plekanec and Co. while allowing one goal in Game 4. Now that the series is headed back to Boston, Marchand and Pastrnak likely won't face Plekanec in Game 5.  

The fact that the Bruins came back from Toronto up 3-1 means that they can put away the series when Babcock won't have last change, even though he'll have Nazem Kadri back. Kadri will be returning from a three-game suspension for being an idiot to Tommy Wingels' face. 

If Bergeron's injury is something he might play through later in the playoffs, the B's should roll the dice and put him in Saturday. Doing so could end the series and give Bergeron plenty of time to rest while teams wait for the second round to begin. 

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Should Bergeron be unable to go, Bruce Cassidy should still be able to play matchups to his favor. Pastrnak and Marchand with Nash should still be capable of quieting Matthews' line while continuing to generate offense for Boston. Matthews does not defend nearly as well as Plekanec. 

The Leafs have a lot to figure out as they try to get Matthews and Nylander going. JVR's only contributions have come on the power play. It would be one hell of a switch to flip if those guys finally became their game-breaking selves. 

Game 4 was Toronto's chance. Saturday might bring its final chance. I wouldn't be too confident if I were a Leafs fan. 

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