Torey Krug

Bruins capture Game 4 with 3-1 victory over the Leafs

Bruins capture Game 4 with 3-1 victory over the Leafs

TORONTO – It certainly didn’t look good for the Bruins in a pivotal Game 4 when it was announced during warm-ups that Patrice Bergeron would miss the game with an upper body injury.

But the Bruins managed to grind through some of the more difficult points of the game while keeping it a low-scoring affair, and then gashed the Leafs defense in the final 25 minutes of the game for a 3-1 win at Air Canada Centre.

The Bruins scored on the very first shift of the game with Torey Krug launching a long bomb shot from beyond the right face-off circle that managed to sneak by Frederik Andersen. That was the first in another long line of soft goals that have been surrendered by the Leafs netminder during the playoff series. Toronto took control for the rest of the first period while out-shooting the Bruins by a 12-7 margin and tied things up about seven minutes later on another effective shift from the newly configured Leafs second line.

Mitch Marner stripped a puck from Riley Nash by the side boards, and threw a cross-ice feed from his knees to Tomas Plekanec for the one-timer from the inside of the right circle. The score stayed that way for a long time thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Tuukka Rask, who stopped Leafs breakaway chances in both the first and second period while stopping 21 of the 22 shots that he faced.

It didn’t look particularly good for the Bruins when an icing was called toward the end of the second period at the end of a long shift for Boston’s top line, but they somehow turned it into offense. Nash won the D-zone draw to Adam McQuaid, who threw the puck up the boards to David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand breaking out for a 2-on-1 chance.

Pastrnak threw a slick, no-look pass to Marchand after drawing the defense to him, and Marchand buried his second goal of the playoffs for the go-ahead strike. The Bruins were at it again in the third period with David Krejci feeding Jake DeBrusk in another 2-on-1 for his second goal of the postseason as well.

At that point, the Bruins had their insurance goal and hunkered down to take the win and head back to Boston up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series with the hopes that Bergeron will return healthy for Game 5 on Saturday night.

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Bruins know they must counter the Leafs transition game

Bruins know they must counter the Leafs transition game

TORONTO – Bruce Cassidy has stressed the speed, and the long stretch passes despite to take advantage of the aforementioned speed, of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the days leading up to the first-round playoff series. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the long stretch passes, the team speed and the quick game-breaking ability for Toronto came to the fore in a 4-2 win in Game 3 over the Bruins at Air Canada Centre.

Patrick Marleau's two goals both came on odd-man rushes where the B’s defense was caught flat-footed while trying to be the offensive aggressor. On the first score, the puck got through Kevan Miller in the neutral zone with Marleau sneaking in behind Torey Krug. That’s something that shouldn’t be repeated regardless of which B’s defensive duo is on the ice.

“Away from the puck, we have to correct a few things to keep it out of our net. But effort-wise I don’t fault anything. They’re a good hockey club and they’re going to generate some offense. We just need to counter it with better checking and some adjustments to counter their transition game that we have discussed,” said Cassidy. “We had pockets of the game where they were beating us [in Game 3]. We’ve gotten some good offensive zone time by being active when they’re trying to get going the other way and caught them – I don’t want to say cheating – leaning the other way.

“That [first Marleau goal] worked against us where the play, if you look at it by the detail, goes right through Kevan Miller. The puck travels right through him, so it’s a tough break for him. But the other guy is behind Torey, gets inside position and that’s where the breakdown for the second part of it comes. We have to balance our O-zone play risk/reward versus their stretch, blow the zone-type of mentality. That’s what it comes down to.”

It was also the same defensemen pairing beaten over and over again by it as Miller was on the ice for all three 5-on-5 goals against and Krug was out there for all three of them as well as his defensive partner. A day later, Krug knew that his pair needs to do a better job if they’re going to take a road victory in Game 4 and send the series back to Boston with a chance to close things out.

Certainly, Mike Babcock is going to continue to try and exploit the duo until they do a better job of shutting down the Leafs’ speed game, and that means the entire five-man unit on the ice doing a better job. Many thought prior to the series it would Zdeno Chara/Charlie McAvoy that might fall victim to the Leafs speed, but instead, it was again Krug and Miller after Krug posted a minus-7 rating against Toronto over the past two regular seasons.

“It’s just making sure our neutral zone is tight and our forwards are guarding that red line pretty well then our defensemen can have a nice, tight gap. It doesn’t allow them to make many plays,” said Krug. “At times last night, specifically with myself, you pinch and then all of a sudden you don’t have a guy reloading and they’re off and running with a 2-on-1 going the other way. Sometimes it makes you second guess yourself, but you need to make sure we’re all doing it together.

“Better awareness. Things like that are going to happen, but you need to be aware of who is behind you. It is part of their game that they’re going to spring guys and get them going with the young talented guys doing the work. So we just have to have better awareness.”

Clearly, the Maple Leafs were looking for matchups where their top two scoring lines could get out on the ice against Krug/Miller to do some damage. Now, it’s on the Bruins to again adjust, cut down on a little bit on their own cheating into the offensive end and certainly be much more aware of Leafs players sneaking around behind them. McAvoy called it “a little bit of a cheat” in terms of Leafs players blowing the zone quickly, but it’s something Toronto has done well all season in signature fashion against teams unaware enough to stop it.

“It’s tough. We’ve seen it a couple of times in this series where the ‘D’ will jump up offensively and they’re off to the races going the other way,” said McAvoy. “They play that style where they want to counter so fast with their speed, and want to use their speed at all times. You really need to make sure you’re counting five guys all the time and keeping them in front of you.

“They’ll go for those stretches or breakaways where they almost...cheat the game a little. But that’s their style and they do it very well. They have a lot of fast players that you’ve got to respect, and keep a good gap on them.”

It was a focus headed into the series and it will be refocused with two days off between Game 3 and Game 4, so one would expect to see a lot less success for the Toronto transition attempts in the pivotal game Thursday night.

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Talking points: Torey Krug, Kevan Miller let Bruins down in Game 3

Talking points: Torey Krug, Kevan Miller let Bruins down in Game 3

GOLD STAR: The old man came through for the Maple Leafs on a night when somebody had to step up for Toronto. It was Patrick Marleau, who scored a couple of goals and had four hits in his 15:44 of ice time while matching up much better on a line combo with Mitch Marner and newly installed center Tomas Plekanec. It was Marleau that beat younger, faster Torey Krug to the spot for his first goal in the second period when the B’s and Leafs were going back and forth. Then it was Marleau snapping one off past Tuukka Rask to the top corner in the third period to cinch the game with just a couple of minutes left in regulation. Toronto certainly needed something like that from him as they still don’t have their young guns really firing on all cylinders quite yet. But the Leafs moved a step into that direction with the way they played at home on Monday night. 

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug and Kevan Miller weren’t very good. They got caught a number of times on the stretch passes that Toronto uses for their attack with speed, and then they got hemmed in with the Patrice Bergeron line on the ultimate game-winner for Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs in the second period. Miller had a couple of giveaways and really didn’t make a strong play on the up-quick from Morgan Rielly that turned into a 2-on-1 with Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau. Krug got beaten to the spot by one of the oldest guys on the ice. Both Miller and Krug finished the night with a minus-3 rating, and it looked like more of the same from a player in Krug that was a minus-7 over the last two regular seasons against the Leafs. 

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TURNING POINT: Clearly the big turning point for the Bruins arrived in the first period when the refs simply blew a penalty call, and basically handed a power play goal to the Toronto. Riley Nash flipped a puck off the glass and then over the glass, and it should have never been a delay of game penalty call. Instead the refs made no penalty call at first, huddled over it and then whistled Nash for delay of game despite the fact that all of them were clearly guessing about the wrong call. Amazingly it took until the third period for the makeup call that would give the Bruins their own power play when one might have assumed that would have come in the second period when they knew they screwed up. Either way, Toronto getting spotted a one-goal lead in the first period turned out to be a pretty substantial development in a close playoff game. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Frederik Andersen had the weirdest damn day, but you really have to give him credit where it’s due when Game 3 was all over. The Leafs goalie made 18 saves in the third period including at least three show-stopping saves on David Pastrnak alone when he was around the net, and made the best one on a power play chance with No. 88 looking at plenty of net to shoot at. Somehow Andersen got his stick on a puck that looked destined for the back of the net. That was after Andersen made a couple more saves on Pastrnak earlier in the third period when it was still just a one-goal game, and the Bruins top line was throwing everything they could at the net. Andersen ended up stopping 40-of-42 shots, but did allow two soft goals early on an Adam McQuaid long distance bomb and a Zdeno Chara odd-angle shot that he put under the bar. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of goals for Auston Matthews in the playoff series after he finally struck for the game-winner in the second period, and then celebrated like he might never score in the postseason again. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You see it happens in your life as well. One day you have a great day. The next day you wake up and it's an absolutely [expletive] day. It happens, you know?" –David Pastrnak, taking the Zen approach to a Game 3 loss after getting robbed by Frederik Andersen a couple of times in the third period.

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