Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 loss to Canadiens: Offside call the turning point

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Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 loss to Canadiens: Offside call the turning point

GOLD STAR: Victor Mete was a solid, solid player for the Habs in this one. He opened the scoring in the first period with a nice shot off a deflected puck in front of the Boston net, and then he closed out the second period with a goal that featured bodies flying all around Tuukka Rask in the crease. The goals were Mete’s second and third of the season, and acted as the cherry on top of the sundae on a night when he finished with five shots on net and seven shot attempts in 20:53 of ice time to go along with three blocked shots. Mete was strong at both ends of the ice for Montreal and is part of a Canadiens back end that’s helped the Habs step up their offensive attack this season.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask was not good in this one. It was his worst game of the year as he allowed all five goals on 31 shots and simply missed with his glove on the final Ben Chiarot shot from the face-off circle that he got a clear look at. He was similarly beaten in the first period for a pair of goals within 31 seconds of each other after David Pastrnak scored to tie up the game, and got sucked into some contact in front of the net at the end of the second period instead of battling to try and stop a Victor Mete goal as well. For a guy that’s been pretty much invincible this season between the pipes, Rask finally showed cracks and did it as the well-rested guy behind a team that battled their way to a comeback over Pittsburgh 24 hours earlier. Rask simply didn’t give the B’s a chance to win in Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The turning point was very clearly the third period when Zach Senyshyn fed Charlie Coyle for a goal that would have put the Bruins ahead 5-4 in the third period, and would have finally given them a foothold in a game they were chasing all night. Instead, Coyle was perhaps offside depending upon the interpretation of the rule and it took three minutes for the officials to decide whether or not to overturn the play. Once the goal was taken off the board, the Habs got one more soft goal past Tuukka Rask and that was all it took for the Canadiens to hold on in the third period at a raucous Bell Centre. Afterward, the Bruins were understandably miffed about a questionable challenge review costing them an important divisional game, but then again they also allowed five goals. So they didn’t exactly deserve to win either.

HONORABLE MENTION: Anders Bjork had a hell of a night for the Bruins. He scored his second goal of the season, was in the middle of the third period score that got overturned and led the Bruins with six shots on net in the game. He also a plus-3 in just 12:07 of ice time and was part of a third line with Charlie Coyle and Zach Senyshyn that Bruce Cassidy said was his best line all night in the Tuesday night showdown with the Habs. That is very good news for Bjork as he’d seemed to quiet down a little bit in the last couple of games, and it was natural to wonder if he was regressing a little after an adrenaline-filled start to his stint in Boston. Nope. He played with speed and aggressiveness and scored his goal by getting his nose dirty around the net for a rebound goal. That’s something he was not doing in the last two seasons when he was in Boston.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of goals in 15 games this season for David Pastrnak, the fastest a Bruins player has gotten to the 15-goal mark since Peter McNab did it for the B’s way back in 1976-77.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The rule was specifically put in place for egregious [examples]. They were over there for 3 minutes. You think 'What's the purpose of this rule?' Either you find something or you don't...3 minutes. So now you're looking for something to be offsides.” –Bruce Cassidy, not a fan of the coach’s challenge for being offside that overturned a Charlie Coyle goal in the third period that ended up being the difference in the game.

WATCH: Controversial offsides call erases Coyle goal>>>

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Bruins absolutely should play for Islanders matchup over Hurricanes

Bruins absolutely should play for Islanders matchup over Hurricanes

It comes down to a simple equation for Boston’s opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week, and it all depends on how the Bruins perform in their round-robin finale Sunday against the Washington Capitals.

If the Bruins win in any fashion against the Capitals then they will face the New York Islanders in the first round starting Tuesday or Wednesday, and if they lose Sunday then they will go up against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. Friday started with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a possible first-round opponent as well for Boston, but that went out the window once they were eliminated by the No. 12 seed Montreal Canadiens.

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As the Bruins players themselves had discussed, there is no preferred first-round adversary while knowing every team is going to be a quality opponent.

“We do sit and talk as a group every and whether it’s the first or the fourth seed, it does not matter who you are going to be playing…it’s going to be tough,” said Torey Krug in a zoom call with NBC Sports Boston earlier this week. “We went through all the teams yesterday and it just doesn’t matter. That being said we’re working our way into that playoff mode of hockey and trying to get our head wrapped around it.”

In all honestly, it’s clear the Bruins should want to win on Sunday vs. the Capitals, clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and face off against an admittedly solid Islanders team. The Islanders are well-coached as a Barry Trotz team, they have outstanding goaltending in Semyon Varlamov (.923 save percentage vs. Florida in the qualifying round) and they boast some very good players like Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle and Jean-Gabriel Pageau among others.

But the Islanders are a hustle-and-hard-work kind of team that maximizes its talent level during the regular season. That means they tend to have a more difficult time beating talented opponents in the playoffs working just as diligently as they are during the postseason. There is an absolute ceiling to how good the Isles can be while constantly scrapping for offense, and that means they would experience a difficult time matching the firepower of the Bruins.

The Islanders were 22nd in the NHL in offense averaging 2.78 goals per game and finished 24th in the league in power-play percentage. They relied heavily on defense, goaltending and hustle to offset the modest attack.

They will play physical and try to frustrate the Bruins, but they just can’t hang with the high-end talent of the B’s provided they show a little more urgency and competitiveness than they have during the round robin.

On the other hand, a B’s loss would put them against a Carolina team that absolutely dominated the New York Rangers in the qualifying round. The Hurricanes are a deep, young and very talented roster with young scorers like Sebastian Aho (3 goals and 8 points in 3 games vs. the Rangers), Andrei Svechnikov (3 goals and five points vs. the Rangers) and Teuvo Teravainen up front, and Jaccob Slavin and Sami Vatanen on the back end with the hope that ex-Bruins D-man Dougie Hamilton may return at some point in the first round as well.

The Hurricanes were a top-10 power play team during the regular season and had one of the best offensive groups in the NHL. They are a significantly improved team compared to the group that the Bruins ushered out of the Eastern Conference Finals with a sweep a year ago, and they added big pieces Vatanen and Vincent Trocheck at the trade deadline.

Clearly, the goaltending is still an area to exploit with the Hurricanes, but they are also coming off a playoff series where Petr Mrazek played the best hockey of his career while posting a .940 save percentage in two starts. Combined, James Reimer and Mrazek had an amazing .955 save percentage in the three wins over the Rangers in the qualifying round, but neither one is a clear-cut No. 1 guy for the Hurricanes in the postseason.

What does it all mean?

Carolina is to be avoided if you are the Boston Bruins based on the torrid way it has played in the Toronto bubble, and based on the way Rod Brind’Amour’s crew can match firepower with the B’s all over the ice.

It will be entirely up to the Bruins to control the fate of their first-round playoff matchup with a win or loss against the Capitals on Sunday, and that ultimately could make all the difference on how long the Bruins will manage to stay in the hunt for the Cup.

Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

The Boston Bruins' potential first-round playoff matchups are laid out for them as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Capitals.

The Montreal Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, thus eliminating the Pens from playoff contention. That means the B's will either begin their Stanley Cup run against the New York Islanders or the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the Bruins beat the Capitals on Sunday, they'll face the Islanders in the first round. If they lose, they'll face the Hurricanes.

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Carolina comes off three straight convincing wins over the New York Rangers in the Toronto bubble. As for the Isles, they took three out of four from the Florida Panthers.

Either way, the B's will have a tough test in Round 1, and their fate will be determined by their final round-robin matchup on Sunday.

Boston currently is 0-2 in Toronto, falling 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers and then 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In order to gain some momentum heading into the postseason, there's no doubt the Bruins will need to show more of a sense of urgency than they have in the bubble to this point.