Toronto Maple Leafs

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.  



Morning Skate: Talking B's, Bergeron and the Hamburglar

Morning Skate: Talking B's, Bergeron and the Hamburglar

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while in disbelief that the Hamburglar is getting a second go-round in NHL infamy. Good for him.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s Saturday’s 98.5 The Sports Hub's Hockey Show with yours truly joining Ryan Johnston, Bob Beers, Judd Sirott and Bill Jaffe to talk all things Black and Gold leading up to Saturday night’s Game 5 with the B’s having a chance to close out the series.

*Auston Matthews led the rest of the NHL as the top-selling NHL jersey for 2018, edging out Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid for top honors. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

*Speaking of the Hamburglar, the mics picked up some of his Avalanche teammates colorfully excited about the way that Andrew Hammond played in goal last night.

*Speaking of the Maple Leafs, Damien Cox is coming with an elbow off the top turnbuckle for Frederik Andersen and the way he’s played in the series vs. the Bruins 

*Interesting piece on hockey development for NHL players, and how Torey Krug taking his time turned out to be key for the late-blooming, small-statured D-man.

*Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters is flying the coop there and using his option to explore other NHL coaching opportunities while leaving with “no regrets.”

*For something completely different: Apparently way more men than women quit amid the harsh Boston Marathon conditions this past week, so here’s a story about why men are quitters and women are not. Okay then.


Cassidy expects Bergeron to play tonight

Cassidy expects Bergeron to play tonight

BRIGHTON, Mass – With a chance to close out their first-round series on home ice, it looks like the Bruins will get their best player back into the fold.

After a surprise, last-minute scratch ahead of Game 4 in Toronto, Patrice Bergeron (upper body injury) skated on Saturday morning with the rest of his team at Warrior Ice Arena and coach Bruce Cassidy said he's “looking good” to suit up for the Black and Gold against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at TD Garden.

Bergeron went through a brief practice with the rest of his teammates and took his usual bumper role on the top power-play unit as they went through some drills, a couple of signs that No. 37 should be ready to go. There are no guarantees until he makes it through pregame warm-ups and the puck drops for Game 5, but it sure sounded a lot more promising for Bergeron than it did just a couple of days ago in Toronto.

“He looked good this morning,” said Cassidy. “If he’s fine in pregame skate, then I anticipate he’ll play, but we’ll make that decision after warm-ups. But it’s looking good.”

Bergeron wouldn’t elaborate on the injury other than to say it wasn’t something he’d been managing all along, meaning it was something caused by a hit he took in Boston’s Game 3 loss in Toronto. The fact that Bergeron skated Wednesday, Friday and Saturday would strongly indicate that it wasn’t a concussion as some might have blindly speculated, but probably some kind of shoulder/arm injury suffered absorbing one of a couple of hard hits he took in Toronto.

Bergeron said the medical staff would have final say on whether or not he played, but he felt pretty good after going through the morning skate.

“I feel good. Hopefully, it stays like that. We’ll see what happens when I talk to the training staff when I get to the rink,” said Bergeron. “The doctors and training staff thought it was better [to not play] for that game. I was definitely confident [in the team], but you’re also a lot more nervous when you’re watching the game rather than playing in it.

“In the playoffs, it’s definitely a lot more painful [to miss] and that was a big discussion we had with the training staff. It’s always tough, for sure. I’m optimistic, and now it’s about selling it to the other side.”

Clearly, the Bruins could use him after his line piled up 20 points in the first two games in the series prior to Bergeron taking the injurious hit in Game 3, but the other good news is that the Black and Gold were 12-5-2 in 19 games missed by their top center this season.  

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Game 5 based on the morning skate: