Auston Matthews

Morning Skate: More points, less pout from Matthews

Morning Skate: More points, less pout from Matthews

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while really hoping that the Solo movie doesn’t suck. We shall see.

*The take in Toronto right now is that the Maple Leafs need to start treating Auston Matthews like a superstar. Oh, he gets treated like a superstar. It’s time for him to step up and play like a superstar when the Leafs really need him to be that rather than a typical 20-year-old pouting about ice time or who he’s playing with.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has it all happening for the Washington Capitals as they’ve finally moved past the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will be advancing to the conference finals for the first time.

*Peter Chiarelli says that the Edmonton Oilers will have their first-round pick in play to make deals to help next year’s Oil Crew.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Pierre McGuire was on the radio in Ottawa talking a number of subjects including the job that Barry Trotz did with the Capitals this season.  

*Ray Ferraro has plenty of World Championships talk including Elias Pettersson answering some questions.

*Pekka Rinne is silencing the doubters as he’s led the Predators to a Game 7 against the Winnipeg Jets. I’d say the only “doubters” out there when it comes to a perennial Vezina candidate like Rinne have been created by some of his lesser performances in these playoffs.

*Rod Brind’Amour to be named coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. This should make for an interesting season in Carolina.

*For something completely different: Interesting piece on how to sell a Spider-Man movie when it hinges so much on an Avengers movie being released just a couple of months prior to it.

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Morning Skate: B's have two of the best 'Old Guys without a Cup'

Morning Skate: B's have two of the best 'Old Guys without a Cup'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while springtime is finally arriving in New England. This place is much greener than I left it last week en route to Florida.

*Love the "Old Guy without a Cup" rankings by Down Goes Brown and he did include Rick Nash on that list, but how can you put a guy like Matt Hendricks on there and skip over a player in David Backes that was the longtime St. Louis Blues captain and an Olympian as well? Backes is the prototypical “Old Guy without a Cup” at this point in his career, and clearly both Backes and Nash have as good of a chance as anybody with the Bruins this season.  

*Nick Kypreos now says that there’s no controversy between Mike Babcock and Auston Matthews not being best buddies, but that’s not really what it sounded like at all according to his reporting just after the playoff loss.

*Is this a make-or-break playoff run for the Washington Capitals this season as they battle the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round?

*Malcolm Subban has a pretty tough spot to watch the games as the backup Vegas Golden Knights goaltender in San Jose.

*It’s a tough end for Ron Francis in Carolina as his contract is completely terminated under new Hurricanes ownership.

*For something completely different: This Little Leaguers slow-motion run to score at home plate was pretty fun.

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

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File photo

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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