Bruins

Talking Points from the B's 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs

Talking Points from the B's 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs

Here are Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday night in Toronto.

GOLD STAR: Mitch Marner once again played the role of Bruins killer setting up the overtime game-winner and a very strong game overall. Marner fired one past a tiring B’s trio on the final play of the game and finished with two assists, four shots on net, two hits and five takeaways while playing strong hockey at both ends of the ice. It was interesting to see the Leafs load up with Marner and Auston Matthews on one line to combat what the Bruins are doing with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak and it worked out in their favor on Saturday night. Marner now has five goals and 19 points in 13 games along with a plus-9 rating against the Black and Gold, and that doesn’t even count the damage he’s done in the playoffs.

BLACK EYE: Sean Kuraly had a rough night. He fumbled around with the puck in the Bruins zone in a play that ended up leading to Toronto’s second goal and he had to be bailed out in the second period when another D-zone turnover led to a quality scoring chance for Tyson Barrie. Kuraly finished with a minus-1 in 14:12 of ice time while landing just one shot on net, committing the two giveaways and generally fighting the puck all night when it was on his stick. He did finish with five hits so at least he came around with some physicality while realizing that other parts of his game were not good, but it wasn’t a banner night at all for Kuraly and the B’s fourth line.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a gassed unit on the ice toward the end of the 3-on-3 OT as Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle and Torey Krug were left out against Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner, and that’s really the kind of scenario where the Maple Leafs are going to enjoy a pretty big advantage. So predictably the Leafs waited out the Bruins trio and then scored with Mitch Marner’s shot getting deflected by Morgan Rielly into the back of the net for the OT game-winner. The 60-minute regulation game was very entertaining with back-and-forth from both teams as one has come to expect over the last few years, and felt more like a midseason game than something just a couple of weeks into a new year.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Bruins were riding David Pastrnak, who finished with a big game-tying goal toward the end of the third period to force things into overtime. The goal gave the Bruins a hard-fought point and gave Pastrnak his NHL-leading ninth goal of the season as he continues to be red-hot to start the season. Pastrnak finished with a goal, two points, five shot attempts and a couple of hits and a blocked shot while overcoming five giveaways in a game where the puck was on his stick quite a bit. It was the sizzling short side one-timer in the final five minutes of the third period, though, that registers as the biggest play of the game for the Bruins. The nine goals and 15 points in eight games is something else.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first goal of the season for Jake DeBrusk after scoring late in the first period, a development that the Bruins hope leads to a hot streak for the left winger. Truth be told DeBrusk could have had two or three goals based on the chances he was getting, but he’ll take busting out of his slump.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It was nice. You don’t want to rely on the top guys every night. Obviously they’ve been on fire but the rest of us also want to chip in.” –Danton Heinen, who also supplied some offense with his PP goal at the start of the third period.

HAGGERTY: Two low-cost options for B's scoring woes>>>

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It's time for Bruins to bench Nick Ritchie, go with somebody ready to battle

It's time for Bruins to bench Nick Ritchie, go with somebody ready to battle

As feel-good as any Stanley Cup Playoff game undoubtedly is, there is also time for evaluation and improvement.

It will be a quick turnaround time for the Boston Bruins after they took a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday afternoon in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena, and that won’t give the Bruins coaching staff much time to break things down. The biggest decision will be who they should go with between the pipes -- Tuukka Rask in a back-to-back situation or backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

There are good reasons to go with either one of them already up 1-0 over Carolina in the best-of-seven series.

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But there are other decisions to be made, and one that the Bruins should go with starting in Thursday’s Game 2 is the removal of Nick Ritchie from the lineup.

Ritchie came into this postseason as a real question mark after playing little more than a handful of games for the Bruins after arriving at the trade deadline from Anaheim in exchange for Danton Heinen.

In theory, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Ritchie would provide needed physical thump to the Boston lineup and play the power forward game on the wing along with big, strong third line center Charlie Coyle. But Ritchie simply played like a weak link in Boston’s overtime win against the Hurricanes in his first real playoff experience with the Black and Gold.

Krejci lines dominates & other takeaways from Game 1

The 24-year-old Ritchie finished without a shot on net in 12:50 of ice time with the Bruins on Wednesday and had four hits while sometimes taking the body against the Hurricanes. But he wasn’t nearly a big enough physical presence, and even worse played a key role in a pair of goals against for the Bruins while making both mental and physical mistakes at crucial moments.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t going to hammer anybody for it after a playoff win, but Ritchie’s subpar performance certainly didn’t go unnoticed either.

“I think [the young guys] were looking after their own game. I think just one line was on the ice for a couple goals and this is Bjork’s first playoffs with us, Ritchie,” said Cassidy, referencing the third line being on the ice for a pair of goals against as well as Charlie Coyle’s second period goal for Boston. “[The veteran guys] were like ‘hey, listen stuff happens.’ Let’s make sure we tighten up the next time. Keep playing your game. They got a big goal for us, too, so there is a little bit of that communication to the new guys.

“We talked to Lauzy [Jeremy Lauzon]. Charlie [McAvoy] had to go to the dressing room for a second so Lauzy got a few extra shifts. You just battle and play. I think you have to get the first couple [of playoff games] under your belt. No one is tearing anybody down here. It’s not the time of the year to do that. We’re trying to motivate and encourage guys for sure, but the players are good that way. That’s why they’re winners. [Ondrej] Kase is another guy, first game. I thought he was fantastic. He’s on pucks all night, played his game. Had some good looks. A nice play on [David] Krejci’s goal. That line arguably was – you always look at the tape, whatever the tape after and they’re probably our most dangerous line tonight. So that is something that we talked about. Secondary scoring. Get a goal out of Charlie Coyle, third line.”

In the first period, Ritchie gave up on a play along the boards and drifted away from Warren Foegele as the entire unit of Bruins defenders puck-watched rather than working to get the puck out of the zone. Eventually it turned into a Joel Edmundson scoring point shot from the high point that Ritchie wasn’t able to put a body in front of on its way to the net. But the bigger issue was Ritchie simply giving up on a play when he was the closest to be able to give defensive support on a play that ended up going bad.

It was Ritchie again in the third period losing a battle along the boards to the much smaller Martin Necas that extended Carolina possession, and eventually ended with Haydn Fleury scoring on a point blast with a screened Tuukka Rask in front.

In both instances board battles were lost that ended up with pucks in the back of the Boston net. And if Ritchie isn’t even going to win the board battles, what is the point of his size and strength that’s bringing to the table?

Wednesday’s game was physical to be sure as a playoff opener, but it wasn’t overly nasty to the point where you need Ritchie for intimidation purposes. The Bruins would be much better off going with the speedy, two-way play of Karson Kuhlman in Game 2 on the third line while also sliding Anders Bjork to his natural left wing spot on the third line. That would give the Bruins a much faster third line that could better combat the speed and pressure that the Hurricanes are bringing to the table against the Black and Gold.

Perhaps a healthy scratch would also send a message that there’s no room for him in the lineup if he isn’t decisively winning his physical battles and playing up to the size/strength combo he was blessed with as a hockey player. Either way, the Bruins should learn from some of the mistakes that didn’t end up costing them permanently in Game 1, and Ritchie made way too many of them to stick around in the Boston lineup.

Bruins can take positives from Game 1 win, but lineup questions remain

Bruins can take positives from Game 1 win, but lineup questions remain

There's a cliché about needing your best players to be your best players. With one exception, that's why the Bruins beat the Hurricanes in Game 1 of their first round series.

The exception was David Pastrnak's horrid turnover on the power play to give Carolina a shorthanded goal, but let's focus on the positives: The Bergeron line scored two goals — including the game-winner in double overtime — in a game they played mostly against perhaps the most dangerous line in the league right now. Their performance will make headlines, but David Krejci was the best player on the ice.

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If the Bruins get dominance out of their top six and the usual performances from their back end and goaltending, they'll be good enough to beat the Hurricanes in a series. Philly? Tampa? Different story, but if the Bergeron line outplays the Aho line and Krejci is able to carry Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase, we can at least quell our concerns about the B's being upset in the first round.

If DeBrusk or Kase bury the chances Krejci created for them, the Bruins will at least have a second line, which remains a major, major question for them. The third line needs some work (more on that below; guess who needs to sit?), but Bruins fans should be very encouraged by what they saw from Boston's top six.

If they build on what we saw Wednesday, the Bruins are in business. Then maybe we can ask for other things, like a power play that actually has a pulse. 

Beware, though, before we put our Paul Pierce hats on and declare the series over after a game: The Bergeron line smoked Tampa's Brayden Point line in Game 1 of the second round a couple years ago, then Point went off for the rest of the series as the B's fell in five games. That's to say this: This series isn't over.

BRUINS NEEDED THIS ONE

The Bruins obviously stunk up the joint during the round robin and were hardly apologetic afterwards. If they came out, carried the play in the first game of the playoffs, blew a lead in the third period then lost in overtime? Hoo boy.

Led by young stars, the Hurricanes are better served to physically bounce back from a long game like Game 1. Had Carolina found a way to win, they might have the Bruins already on their heels. Plus, both we — and the Bruins themselves, deep down — would be wondering if they'd be able to snap out of their post-return slump.

LOOKING AHEAD: 2 Us, 2 Ks, 2 PLAY OR NOT 2 PLAY?

The Hurricanes didn't have Sami Vatanen or Justin Williams for Game 1, as the players were given the blanket "unfit to participate" designation teams are using for everything. The big absence there was Vatanen, who'd been a top pairing defensemen for them until Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup Wednesday. Hamilton's return was supposed to put Carolina over the top on the back end, and if Vatanen can play Wednesday, Carolina will boast a stronger lineup than we saw in Game 1.

The Bruins have two lineup questions they should be asking themselves: Does Tuukka Rask play a back-to-back that included double overtime and should Nick Ritchie sit?

Let's answer the easy one first: Ritchie's got to sit. He was passive the entire game, which cost the Bruins twice. He certainly isn't there for his speed or skill, so if he's gonna be such an easy beat in puck battles, he does nothing but harm the team. Put Karson Kuhlman in the lineup and flip Anders Bjork to the other side if need be.

As for Rask, Bruce Cassidy said after Game 1 that he didn't feel Boston's goalie was overly taxed Wednesday, and that with not having to travel, it would be much easier to play a goalie on a back-to-back than in non-bubble times. I get that, but I'd still go with Jaroslav Halak considering there's another potential back-to-back in Games 5 and 6.

You'd definitely want to go Rask in both games there, so split this one up if you're really planning on making a deep run.