Adam McQuaid

Bruins expect a difficult closeout challenge from Leafs

Bruins expect a difficult closeout challenge from Leafs

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins have their share of inexperience and youth on their roster as they head into tonight's potential closeout game against the Toronto Maple Leafs up 3-1 in their best-of-seven series.

Still, they also have a ton of top-heavy Stanley Cup playoff experience at the top of their roster, and those experienced veterans certainly should be at the forefront tonight. Grizzled vets Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask have closed out plenty of series. Plus, they’ve also seen the other side where closeout chances turn into epic collapses.

So they’re focused on the here and now with a chance to end things on home ice in five games against a Leafs team looking for answers after a gritty Game 4 defeat.

“We all know the fourth [win in a series] is the most difficult, so we’re going to have to give our best effort,” said Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, who blocked a shot with his wrist in the closing minutes of Game 4 while paying his personal price for a victory. “The other team’s life is on the line and they’re going to bring everything they’ve got, so we need to have the same kind of attitude going into it to match that.”

Clearly, it will be a tougher Toronto team to beat while getting Nazem Kadri back from suspension. He should certainly be motivated to try and make a difference after earning himself a three-game removal from the playoff series. It’s also a Leafs teams under the gun with William Nylander dropped to the fourth line while Connor Brown and Zach Hyman have been elevated to the top line to give Auston Matthews a little more room to operate out on the ice.

Expect Boston’s leadership to keep the team’s eyes on the prize with the singular focus you need to close out a team in the postseason and that means full-speed ahead no matter what is being thrown at you.

“Every year, every series, every team is different. You’ve got to be mentally and physically ready to play your best,” said Chara.

Chara has been a strong factor in the series. He's held Matthews to one goal in four games and it’s probably part of the reason Nylander was moved off the wing on a top line where Chara’s physicality was neutralizing him. With the series back in Boston and Bruce Cassidy controlling the matchups, Matthews will continue to see a heavy dose of the Bruins captain and Boston will hope to ignite an offense that scored 12 goals in the first two games at TD Garden.

”Obviously, the last one is always the hardest. If you look at other games around the league, Pittsburgh and Nashville, they had a chance [and couldn’t do it on Friday night]. So it isn’t going to be easy,” said Krejci. “But at the same time, you’ve done the job all season, so you’ve got to stay in the moment and just get it done shift by shift. That’s what we’re going to do tonight.

“Their season is on the line, but so is ours. Momentum shifts very quickly in the playoffs, so you just need to go out and focus on the next shift. Obviously, you want to have a good start, stay in the moment and use the crowd to your advantage. It’s going to be buzzing tonight, it’s going to be exciting, but at the same time stay focused and stay on the task that’s in front of you.”

It was Krejci that was the focal point of the 2010 collapse to the Flyers when he was knocked out of the series with a dislocated wrist in Game 4 when the Bruins were up 3-0, so nobody knows it first-hand more than No. 46. The fourth win against a team in the playoffs is always the most arduous and sometimes takes the best execution of the series, so expect to see the very best in Game 5 from a Bruins team that’s answered the bell at just about every turn this season.  

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Bruins lose to Panthers, will face Maple Leafs in playoffs

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AP Photo

Bruins lose to Panthers, will face Maple Leafs in playoffs

BOSTON – The Bruins had four games against the Florida Panthers over the final few months of the season, and one could guess they were going to factor into Boston’s final standing after 82 games. The getting-ready-to-golf Panthers beat the Bruins in three out of those four games with the last one coming into the final game of the season, 4-2, at TD Garden.

The loss pushed the Bruins down to second place in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay, so the Bruins will face Toronto in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with opening night taking place Thursday at TD Garden.  

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The Bruins didn’t play well in the first two periods. They didn’t take care of the puck in their own zone, they didn’t really do much to attack Florida and their goaltending wasn’t operating at a high level either.

So they trailed at each of the first two intermissions, first by a goal after the first and then by two goals after the second. A ghastly Matt Grzelcyk turnover at the defensive blue line to Frank Vatrano opened things up for Henrik Borgstrom to score his first NHL goal from the high slot where it looked like his wrist shot was fired through the legs of Adam McQuaid.

David Backes and the Bruins stormed back to tie it up with a blue collar goal with the B’s power forward camped in front, where he outmuscled Borgstrom for the rebound of a Kevan Miller shot and then flipped it past James Reimer. Vatrano was back at it again at the end of the period, however, as he fired off a quick release snapper from the high slot that beat Rask high to the glove hand.

Florida extended their lead in the second period when Maxim Mamin scored on another one-timer from the right face-off circle where it looked Rask had enough time to recover and potentially made save bid on the puck.

The Bruins closed it to one in the third period on David Pastrnak’s 35th goal of the season after Jonathan Huberdeau went off for four minutes with a bloody high stick of Zdeno Chara in front of the Panthers bench. That’s as close as the Bruins got, however, as Evgenii Dadonov scored a late rebound goal in the third period to ice it for the Panthers after a couple of close calls for a B’s team that was pushing it at the very end.

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McQuaid draws back in B's lineup as team looks for Krug partner

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File Photo

McQuaid draws back in B's lineup as team looks for Krug partner

SUNRISE, FL – After a one-game hiatus in the press box, Adam McQuaid will be dropping back into the lineup on Thursday night vs. the Panthers with an eye toward bringing some of the intensity that was missing in a shutout loss to Tampa. McQuaid will return to his customary spot paired with Adam McQuaid as the Bruins continue to look for the best long-term replacement for the injured Brandon Carlo in their everyday lineup.

It essentially may come down to a question of match-ups with the rugged, strong McQuaid giving the Bruins more of a presence in the D-zone and on the penalty kill, and Nick Holden giving the Bruins more of a puck-moving, offensive presence when he’s in the top-6.

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“Adam has played with Torey, and obviously we’re trying to find the right fit,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We like the [Grzelcyk/Miller] and we like [Chara/McAvoy], so that’s the one that we’re trying to sort out obviously with Carlo out. Adam played well against Florida the other day, so [he’s back in].”

As most will remember, McQuaid tuned up Michael Haley in a savage hockey fight when the Bruins and Panthers faced off last weekend in Boston. Holden will be the healthy scratch on Thursday night with McQuaid drawing back in, and it’s fair to say both players want to be in the lineup with just three games to go until the playoffs.

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“You’d rather be playing, so I get an opportunity and I’ll go out and do it,” said McQuaid, who will be playing in his 36th game of the season in a year that’s been beset by injury and bouts as a healthy scratch. “We’re preparing ourselves for the playoffs and we know we’re going to be in, so it’s going out, playing hard and not looking too far forward. You want to make sure you’re doing the right things and putting yourself in a good position going into the playoffs.”

Tommy Wingels will miss his second straight game with an injured hand after taking a slash in the loss to the Flyers last weekend, and both Sean Kuraly and Riley Nash still aren’t back on the ice as they recover from injuries back home in Boston. The good news is that Rick Nash skated again on Thursday and is expected to skate with the team on Saturday ahead of their game against the Ottawa Senators in the final weekend of the season.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-parings vs. the Panthers after an optional morning skate at the BB&T Center:

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Donato

Schaller-Acciari-Backes

Heinen-Cave-Gionta

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

Grzelcyk-Miller

 

Rask

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