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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Bean: This is what it will look like if teams can silence the Bergeron line

Bean: This is what it will look like if teams can silence the Bergeron line

This isn't a column about this series. It's about the second round, when the Bruins and Lightning will presumably meet in a series we've have all expected for months. 

It would be about this round, but Monday's Game 3 -- a night in which Boston's top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak was finally stymied -- was more of a sign of what to expect in future series than what to expect the rest of this one. The Leafs aren't good enough to stop the Bergeron line with any sort of regularity. The Lightning are. 

Still, what we saw Monday night is both a reminder that one line can't do everything for the Bruins and that the rest of its roster will need to pull its weight when the first line is taken out of the game.

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Through the first two games of the series, the Bergeron line was responsible for five of Boston's six goals in five-on-five play. The trio was so dominant that opponents were visibly quitting on the ice by the end of Game 2. 

The play of the Bergeron was a product of two things: its skill level and its home-ice advantage. Holding the ability to get last change, Bruce Cassidy put his best line against the defensively deficient Auston Matthews line, silencing Toronto's best player and getting several Boston goals in the process. 

When the series shifted back to Toronto, Mike Babcock finally got an opportunity to stop the bleeding. He moved the old but defensively stingy Tomas Plekanec -- who for years matched up with Bergeron and Marchand when he played for the Canadiens -- to his second line and matched the new trio of Plekanec between Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner against the Bergeron line. 

The results were immediate. The Bergeron line not only struggled to get chances early, but actually spent much of their early shifts in their own zone. It proved to be a sign of things to come. 

For the first time this series, the Bergeron line did not score at all. This came despite a flurry of chances in the third period. In fact, the line allowed a pair of goals, proving to be the difference in the game. 

The first goal allowed by the trio came in the second period when Marleau scored 43 seconds after Boston had tied the game at 1. Later in the period, after the Plekanec trio tired out the Bergeron line, Babcock noticed the Bergeron line's tired legs and threw Matthews' line on the ice one with Boston overdue for a change. It paid off, with Matthews scoring 1:31 into Pastrnak's shift. 

When a team is able to silence the Bergeron line the way the Leafs did Monday, the Bruins will need secondary scoring to make up for it. Boston's fourth line was superb, holding its own against the Matthews line and producing the team's only two goals of the night. 

Assuming Babcock liked what he saw Monday night, the Bruins should look to capitalize on the matchups given to their second and third lines. David Krejci's trio was given Toronto's third line and Riley Nash got Toronto's fourth line in his return from injury.

Count me skeptical that Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak will be quieted in a similar fashion in Game 4. They are still far superior to their opponent, even if the Plekanec line is more difficult on them than Matthews. 

Yet if and when the Bruins move past Toronto, the Lightning, who do not have the defensive issues of the Leafs, will be better equipped to hang with Boston's best players, home or away. When those nights come, the B's will need more than just the fourth line to pick up the slack.

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