Bruins

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

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Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

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EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

EA Sports trolls Bruins' Brad Marchand for bad shootout attempt vs. Flyers

Will anyone ever forget Brad Marchand's horrible shootout attempt against the Philadelphia Flyers from January? Probably not.

EA Sports is the latest to get in on the fun of trolling the Boston Bruins winger, and they couldn't have done it in a better way. In their NHL 20 update version 1.6.0 patch notes, EA Sports fixed an issue for every player in the game besides Marchand. 

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"Fixed a case where players other than Marchand would lose the puck at the start of a penalty shot," the patch notes said, according to gamerevolution.com.

That's pretty comical, and it seems that just about everyone is getting their jabs in at Marchand amid the coronavirus outbreak. In their last game before the NHL hit pause on the season even Gritty, the Flyers mascot, took the opportunity to bash Marchand. 

If the B's pesky winger gets word of EA Sport's latest update, it'll be interesting to see if he chirps back via Twitter.

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

Hagg Bag mailbag: How to restore hockey when it's safe to come out again

We are now entering our second month of social distancing and self-quarantining and there isn’t a hockey game to be seen on the horizon. 

Maybe the NHL will start up again in June or July if things go exceedingly well. Maybe they will gather all healthy and tested players, officials and essential personnel in one location for a controlled playoff tournament that would be pretty amazing? 

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

At this point, there is no way of knowing what the NHL is going to do and when we will next see hockey, but the Hagg Bag mailbag is still here to entertain and answer any questions.

As always these are real questions from real readers on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email address. Now, on to the bag:  

Bruins opening night roster for next season? Stay safe Haggs!

--edmarshall723 (@edmarshall723)

JH: We’re already moving on to next season, eh? I kid. I kid. I suspect it won’t be all that demonstrably different from what we saw when the season was put on pause. I’m going to run under the assumption that Torey Krug isn’t going to be back based on the salary cap numbers likely dropping instead of rising next season with a chunk of this regular season canceled. It’s not a done deal by any means, but I just don’t think the Bruins are going to have a lot of cap space to deal with. And they still have to sign their own restricted free agent in Jake DeBrusk. So, here’s my stab at opening night lineup for next year:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase

Bjork-Coyle-Ritchie

Blidh-Kuraly-Wagner

 
Chara-McAvoy

Grzelcyk-Carlo

Moore-Lauzon

 
Rask

Vladar

I don’t think Joakim Nordstrom will be back, and Kevan Miller, in the last year of his contract, may not ever return to play after being out for about a year. I suspect the Bruins are going to want a younger option in Vladar, 22, backing up Tuukka Rask to gauge whether he might be the future No. 1 guy for the B’s should Rask decide to ride off into the sunset after the 2020-21 season.


Just curious but if they don't finish the season how would they determine draft standings? Would they still have a lottery? Would they just go by the last days standings? Will they even have a draft? What's gonna happen to teams that give up draft picks for rentals who would be RFAs?

--Al Volante (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: They would have to hold a draft. I’d imagine they would go by winning percentage on the last-day standings before the season was paused, so the Bruins would have the final pick in the first round. 

It’s not really perfect by any means, but it’s probably the fairest way to do it while still holding a lottery for the bottom 10 teams. All of the little details would need to be ironed out with the draft and free agency most likely pushed back into the summer, but it’s all a fluid situation right now. 

The most optimistic plan for the NHL would be holding a playoff in July and August, pushing the offseason to September and October and then kick-starting the 2020-21 regular season sometime in November with a fairly normal regular-season afterward. That would be the absolutely best scenario if everything falls into place across our country. I’m not even sure that’s going to be possible at this point, though.

Here's my take - we are in an unprecedented time and in an effort to primarily avoid having a 1-month offseason and then a full 2020-21 schedule, I feel that there should be a 12-team format (eliminate the wild cards). 

We have to get past this "fairness" crap, because again, having a two-month playoff in August and September is simply too long. Nothing anyone can do about the times we live in, but it's too much to have the final 5 teams having a month offseason. In addition, you can also realistically re-schedule the draft, FA, awards, etc. without the season starting a month later. How this would work is all series are 7 games. You would have the 4 division winners on a bye, the other 2 teams in each division play each other for the right to go to the Conference Final.

This would mean Boston, Washington & St. Louis (more on that in a bit) and Vegas would have the byes. The first series would be (again, more on this) TB-TOR, PHI-PIT, COL-DAL, EDM-CAL. Those winners face each other in the Conference Final and then the Stanley Cup. Having 3 rounds could be done in 6 weeks. If you started a camp on July 1, playoffs start July 15 and end around the end of August. Awards & draft happen the 1st week of Sept. FA begins on Sept 15. 2020-21 season begins Nov 15. Playoffs for next season starts April 30 Now, in terms of the matchups, Boston and Vegas have a large enough lead that 1 game wouldn't change the winner.

However, Washington and St. Louis are only 1-2 points ahead of Philly & Colorado, respectively. In addition, Winnipeg is only 1 point away from Dallas. PIT, TOR, and CAL are locked into 3rd place in their divisions. So, for playoff seeding, you have ONE game prior to the playoffs starting for WASH-PHI, STL-COL, and WPG-DAL. If PHI, COL and/or WPG wins they get the division lead and bye or in WPG's case, the 3rd place spot over DAL. I leave out the other teams because, for instance, if one game were to be played, CAR couldn't catch PIT, because PIT is 5 pts up and CAR has only played 1 less game.

I understand that this would have blowback, but let's face it, any potential playoff scenario would face criticism from fans because an equal number of games have not been played. And as mentioned, the likelihood of regular-season games being played is becoming less likely each day. You have to draw the line somewhere.

--Anders Johnson (Message via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: I respect the thought you put into it, Anders. But there’s no way you can have any teams on “byes” at the start of the playoffs. Do you realize how much of a disadvantage a team such as the Bruins would have headed into a second-round playoff series while facing a team that had just capped off a five- or seven-game playoff series?

 It would take them two or three games just to ramp up to that level after sitting around and it would almost certainly end with them losing the playoff series while being punished as the higher seed. There would be no benefit to a bye of any kind for any teams in this playoff format. 

The best thing they could do is two rounds of five-game playoff series, then do seven games for the conference final and Stanley Cup Final. They could do that in roughly six weeks after starting in mid-July and wrap up right around Sept. 1. They could then take all of September and October off and then ramp up for a Nov. 15-ish start to the 2020-21 regular season.

Don’t forget in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the last day of the Cup Final between the Bruins and Blackhawks was June 24. The league essentially just took two months off in July and August and then came right back to work in September the following season. And it would only be two teams that would come up a little short on their rest between seasons. 

All of this may not even be possible, but it’s the best-case scenario to get in the rest of this season and then look ahead to “a normal season” next year.

Strikes [me] that the Bruins two new additions haven't really gelled with the team. If hockey comes back, do you think it will be a problem for them in playoffs? (and lets hope Ritchie is using the time off to do Chara's workout regime)

--David Sheedy (@Devilish21ca)

JH: Ondrej Kase hadn’t played in almost a month due to a concussion injury prior to getting traded to the Bruins, so he was just getting back into midseason form when things were put on pause. Nick Ritchie seemed to just be finding his legs and his style of play while getting moved around the B’s lineup.

They definitely hadn’t jelled, but now everybody is going to be in the same boat when hockey gets going again. So, I don’t think it will be a problem specific to new guys such as Kase and Ritchie as much as it will be an issue for every player. 

Right now most NHL guys have a stationary bike, dumbbells and maybe a swimming pool to train while in quarantine. Almost nobody is skating, so you will have a mass of hockey players that haven’t skated in months by the time things get going again. 

That is going to turn into some very rusty, sloppy hockey when things do get going again…whenever that is going to be. That will be as much of a challenge as whatever the ice conditions might be if the NHL tries to hold the Stanley Cup playoffs in July and August.

Thoughts on Clone Wars Season 7 on Disney+ so far? #HaggBag

--Alissa (@CurvyMermaid617)

JH: I have not seen it yet as I hadn’t really watched all of the Clone Wars in the past. But I do now have a ton of free time. So I will be watching after I bought “The Rise of Skywalker” on the first day it was available on-demand. We are desperate for entertainment in the Haggerty house. Stay safe everybody and we’ll talk again soon!