Bruins

Bruce Cassidy on third period collapse: 'There were lessons learned for a few of our guys'

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Bruce Cassidy on third period collapse: 'There were lessons learned for a few of our guys'

TAMPA, Fla.  -- It appeared that things were well in hand for the Bruins entering the third period with a two-goal lead on Monday night, but it all came crashing down in them in a hurry against the NHL’s best team.

The Lightning scored three unanswered goals in the third period to take a 5-4 win over the Bruins at Amalie Arena on Monday, and dealt the Bruins their second loss in Tampa’s home barn this season where things unraveled in the final 20 minutes. This time around it was some of Boston’s young players perhaps getting a little overzealous trying to generate their own offense, and thereby taking unnecessary defensive risks in a game with a two-goal lead.

Certainly allowing odd-man rushes in the third period while holding a two-goal lead just wasn’t conducive to getting a win.

“The winning mentality is the thing that should come first, not putting pucks in the net,” said Brandon Carlo. “The good, strong defensive way [is the preference in the third period with a two goal lead] and you know the Bruins way is to be a good, strong defensive team. That’s the way I’d like to play as well, so [the Monday loss] was a really good learning experience.”

The first goal allowed was a Brandon Carlo missed shot on an odd-man rush and a misread by Charlie McAvoy on the ensuing Steve Stamkos breakaway going the other way. The second goal was McAvoy again playing too far off Nikita Kucherov on a bullet fired off the rush by the Russian sniper, and then the final goal was a total breakdown in the slot with McAvoy out of position, David Krejci not covering the slot and Anthony Cirelli left all alone to fire away.

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McAvoy was on ice for all three goals against in the third period implosion and certainly needed to be better for the Black and Gold.

The bottom line was that poor decisions, bad execution and a little bit of bad luck played into the Bruins stumbling and falling to three goals allowed to Tampa Bay. Maybe they could have gotten away with some of the mistakes against the New Jersey Devils of the world, but teams like the Lightning will make the Bruins pay like they did Monday night.

“It’s something you don’t want to see, but it happened. You learn every day in this league, young and old. There were lessons learned for a few of our guys tonight,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a chance to put the game away [in the third period]. We're off net with our chance. You've got to hustle back & our lone D back there made a poor decision. He's got to buy time for people to recover. That [Hedman goal] gave them life, unfortunately. There was a lot of hockey after that to put them away and we just didn’t get the job done.”

The good news for the Bruins is the mistakes made in the third period can certainly be corrected, and some of it could even be chalked up to fatigue with the B’s rolling five defensemen after John Moore’s injury early in the game. But it would have been better to get the good result against a Tampa Bay team that’s going to be lurking and waiting for the Bruins down the line in the postseason.

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Marc Savard 'fired up' to attend Bruins-Maple Leafs Game 5 at TD Garden

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Marc Savard 'fired up' to attend Bruins-Maple Leafs Game 5 at TD Garden

The Bruins will have a special guest in attendance for Friday night's Game 5 matchup against the Maple Leafs.

Ex-B's star Marc Savard will be at TD Garden to cheer on his former team, and he's pumped about the opportunity.

Could this mean Savard will be the Bruins' honorary fan banner captain? After all, Savard made his pitch last week to get the chance to wave the flag and fire up the crowd.

If so, it's a great choice. Before Savard's NHL career came to an abrupt end in 2011 due to head injuries, he was among the most productive offensive players in the game. To this day, he's one of the most beloved players to ever suit up in a Bruins uniform.

It's hard to imagine a better choice to get the TD Garden crowd rocking on Friday night.

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Bruins have been outplayed, but they're still better than Maple Leafs

Bruins have been outplayed, but they're still better than Maple Leafs

Three-game series. Winner-take-all. This is why you want home ice. Blah blah blah

Here's the rub: The Bruins are better than the Leafs, but they haven't been the better team this series. Were it not for spurts of scoring in between Toronto's lengthy sessions of peppering Tuukka Rask, the Bruins would be on the brink of elimination. Hockey's a funny game, though; the better team can be outplayed and still win. 

Despite the Bruins jumping out to a two-goal lead in Game 4 and eventually having a three-goal lead in the third period, they had little business winning that game. They had one good line (the top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Danton Heinen) and one good defensive pair (the top pair of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy). The power play came through, as did David Pastrnak when Bruce Cassidy took advantage of a Toronto icing by throwing No. 88 out there with Bergeron and Marchand. 

But where the aforementioned players held their own, others merely held on. According to naturalstattrick.com, Toronto had 47 scoring chances — second-most by any team this postseason — in Game 4. Boston had 26. Here's the breakdown for the series in all situations, with even-strength chances in parentheses: 

Tuukka Rask gave up a terrible goal to the very much not-back Auston Matthews Wednesday, but look at that figure. If Rask were actually playing substandard, this wouldn't be much of a series at all. It would be 3-1 and Toronto fans would be fainting at the realization that their team was actually accomplishing something. 

That's not what's happening, however, and Rask has played to a .921 save percentage. That isn't the .928 it would be if he made a routine save off Matthews in Game 4, but it's solid. It ranks sixth among the 16 starters this postseason. 

So the goalie hasn't been bad. The original iteration of the Bergeron line was more dormant than bad before being broken up (the only game of the first three in which it didn't carry possession was Game 2, which the Bruins won) and David Krejci has at points been the Bruins' best player. Charlie Coyle has served his purpose in actually giving the Bruins a third line. The fourth line couldn't get Sean Kuraly (game-time decision for Game 5) back soon enough. 

So now the series heads back to Boston, where Bruce Cassidy can see to it that Pastrnak is freed from Jake Muzzin, as he was in Game 4 with the top-six jumbled. Game 5 is where the loss of Nazem Kadri should theoretically hurt the Leafs the most it has so far, as Boston can control the matchups and pick on what it deems to be weaker lines. Then again, it would be hard to call any of Toronto's lines "weak" given the team's offensive domination in Game 4. 

As such, Cassidy should keep Pastrnak and Krejci together. On one hand, it will leave either Marchand or Pastrnak to play unencumbered by Toronto's top D pair. On the other, it provides more balance against a team that on paper shouldn't have depth in its favor. The swing of the series going back to Boston, plus Boston potentially having a fourth line could move the needle back in the Bruins' favor. 

If the Bruins are to beat Columbus in the next round, they'll need long trips to the offensive zone with sustained pressure. Hanging on for dear life around No. 40 is a much harder path.

Now would be a nice time to correct the course. 

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