Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-1 Game 5 loss to the Maple Leafs

Talking Points from the Bruins' 2-1 Game 5 loss to the Maple Leafs

GOLD STAR: Auston Matthews has really grown up in this series and it was the Leafs franchise center that broke open the game in the third period with a one-timer bullet from the face-off circle on a broken play. That was the go-ahead goal that snapped a defensive battle and gave the Leafs the operating room to eventually win. Matthews finished with a goal, five shots on net, six shot attempts, two takeaways, a blocked shot and a plus-2 in 17:44 of ice time. Matthews has four goals in five games in the series and has been the difference-maker this time around that he wasn’t last spring vs. Boston.

BLACK EYE: It’s the Bruins for failing to capitalize on three power-play chances they had after routinely winning games with their special teams in the regular season. The first two power plays actually featured some pretty good scoring chances and decent pressure on the Leafs penalty kill that they’ve solved the past few seasons. But on Friday night, they couldn’t push a puck past Freddie Andersen on the first two PP chances, and then they had one final, dreadful power-play chance in the second period after Mitch Marner had tossed a puck over the benches and into the stands for a delay of game. Given their struggles to score 5-on-5 this season everybody knew Boston’s PP was going to have to be huge for them in the playoffs, and it let them down in a big way in Game 5.

TURNING POINT: Clearly, the Matthews goal. It was a one-timer bullet from the weak side, but it was also a possible case for goalie interference as Zach Hyman backed into Tuukka Rask after cross-checking Charlie McAvoy in front of the net. Hyman definitely nudged Rask before the Matthews shot arrived and by the letter of the law, it could have been interference. But it seemed as if the league officials thought that Rask wasn’t going to make that save anyway and truth be told he probably wasn’t based on the play and who was shooting the puck. Still, that won’t, - and shouldn’t - stop Bruins fans from being pissed about it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kasperi Kapanen was another Leafs forward who came to play and finished with a goal and two points while also ending up what proved to be the winning goal. Kapanen finished with the two points, a plus-2, six shot attempts, three hits and some of the few offensive plays made in a defensive showdown. The fact that Matthews and Kapanen come away as two of the Leafs offensive stars in a grimy defensive grudge match tells you plenty about the Maple Leafs' as playoff performers from one year ago. If Toronto is going to advance. then it’s largely on the backs of these young guys finally growing into their own.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3-20 – The Bruins record in a best-of-seven series when they trail 3-2. The last time they won Games 6 and 7 of a series? Their Stanley Cup Final victory in 2011.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s either interference or it’s not. He backs into Tuukka. From my viewpoint, it certainly looked like interference, but it didn’t go our way.” –Bruce Cassidy on the third-period Matthews goal that invited controversy when Hyman bumped into Rask prior to the puck arriving. But a goalie interference challenge was waved off by the NHL. 

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Rask blowing up his reputation as a slow starter with dominant October for B's

Rask blowing up his reputation as a slow starter with dominant October for B's

BRIGHTON, Mass – While so much of this first encouraging couple of weeks has been familiar for the Boston Bruins, one thing is a little different when it comes to the start of the season.

For the first time in a while, goalie Tuukka Rask is getting off to a strong start in the month of October. Last season Rask, of course, battled through a rough first month that ended with a personal leave of absence at the start of November. The numbers over the last five seasons of Octobers for Rask have been pretty brutal.

Whether it was last season’s 3.15 goals and against and .902 save percentage, or a 1-3-2 start with a 2.93 goals against average and .896 save percentage in 2017-18, or a 3.29 goals against average and .889 save percentage in 2015-16, it’s pretty clearly the worst month of the season for him. Over the course of his career, October features his highest career goals against average (2.49) and his lowest career save percentage (.915) of any month in the NHL regular season.

Even Rask has admitted in the past that it takes a while to get the engine going, particularly as a 32-year-old goalie preparing for the rigors of an entire regular season.

But that is not the case this time around.

Rask has been excellent in the first two weeks of the regular season and sits fourth in the entire NHL in both goals against average (1.33) and save percentage (.957) at this early juncture of the year. It’s something that has not gone unnoticed by the Bruins with Boston up at the top of all the defensive and goaltending categories along with the Anaheim Ducks team they will face on Monday afternoon.

“We’re still working on our game like every other team, and I thought that’s where Tuukka [Rask] really stepped up,” said Bruce Cassidy of Rask, who stopped all 31 of the shots he faced for his first shutout of the season Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Devils. “That’s when he should get the credit. In a game like this, I thought that’s when he earned his paycheck tonight. We broke down a lot there, trying to break pucks out and had some loose play. He was really good.

“Our goaltending has been solid. We knew that coming in [with] two veteran, professional guys.”

Is there anything that Rask himself attributes it to after traditionally struggling so much to get going early in the season?

“I don’t know. We’re playing good,” said Rask. “When you finish your season in June it helps everybody to give you that feeling in the back of your head that you want to play this game. System-wise I think we’ve been pretty solid, so I’m just tagging along there.”

Certainly there is more there than Rask casually saying that he’s “tagging along” with the rest of the Bruins off to a 4-1-0 start. The real question now is just how good can Rask be this season if he doesn’t have that traditional subpar month of October to drag him down as he’s well on his way to blowing up that well-worn narrative about him during his time in Boston. 

Now he just needs to keep going for a few more weeks until the calendar turns to November and December, which have always been among his months as an NHL goaltender. 

HAGGS: Bruins will need every bit of their great start>>>

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Brad Marchand has 'found his stride' amid first-line success

Brad Marchand has 'found his stride' amid first-line success

The Boston Bruins' top line didn't get off to a good start in the Boston Bruins' season opener against the Dallas Stars. But since that time, the line has been excellent. And a lot of that has to do with Brad Marchand's performance.

Marchand, the long-time Bruin, has been one of the team's best offensive players this season. He is on a four-game point streak and has generated seven total points on the season. And according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, Marchand has "found his stride" to start the season.

"Well, he’s on right now," Cassidy said to reporters after the Bruins' win over the Devils. "The Dallas game, there was nowhere to go but up after that one. And he’d be the first to admit it, he didn’t play a lot of preseason. That was by design, he wanted to, he’s a competitor. But he’s found his stride now, that line seems to be clicking like we’ve seen them typically."

For context on how well Marchand is playing, he has scored four of the team's last 10 goals. Meanwhile, his linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have generated another three goals. Suffice to say, the Perfection Line is living up to its standards.

In addition to the line's strong offensive performance, Marchand and Bergeron have been pesky penalty killers and they were all over the ice during the team's win over the Devils. Cassidy took time to praise them for their effort in that facet of the game as well.

"I think what it does more is deflates the other team," Cassidy said of Marchand and Bergeron's skills on the penalty kill. "If that’s our power play, and I see a team doing that, frustration sets in from the coaching staff; the players on the ice are frustrated and so I think it more demoralizes the opposition than it does to lift us up. We’ve seen them go to work, so that’s the benefit of when you’re able to kill with puck possession a penalty and do it so dominantly."

The Bruins are going to need the first line to continue playing well in all facets of the game, as they are still a top-heavy team. But at least they are off to a good start this season. They are 4-1-0 and rank second in the Atlantic Division behind only the 4-0-1 Buffalo Sabres.

HAGGS: Bruins will need every bit of their great start>>>

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