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.
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.