On the bright side, Bruins' Game 1 mistakes are fixable

Scott McLaughlin
April 12, 2019 - 1:04 am

The Bruins have been one of the best defensive teams in the NHL all season. They generally take care of the puck and don't give up many odd-man rushes.

You wouldn't know any of that watching Thursday night's Game 1 loss to the Maple Leafs. The Bruins gave up one breakaway or odd-man rush after another and dug themselves into far too deep of a hole to have a shot.

It would be tempting to say that they just couldn't keep up with the Maple Leafs' speed and overreact and think the B's are in big trouble. Let's take a deep breath, though.

This wasn't a case of the Bruins being completely overmatched by some superior opponent. This was a case of the Bruins making uncharacteristic mistakes that -- and this part's important -- can be fixed.

The Leafs' speed may have exacerbated the mistakes, but it didn't really cause them. As Brad Marchand put it, from the Bruins' perspective this was more about them beating themselves than Toronto taking it to them.

"I don’t think they took us off our game. I just don’t think we played our game," Marchand said. "We weren’t playing the right way the whole way through and weren’t taking care of pucks the way we normally do and the way we can."

Take a look at the two Toronto goals that came on breakaways (well, one came on the penalty shot that followed a breakaway). On the first, Jake DeBrusk got himself turned inside-out and turned the puck over at the offensive blue line, springing Mitch Marner. DeBrusk eventually took down Marner from behind, Marner was awarded a penalty shot, and he scored.

The second came when Marcus Johansson, who was covering as a defenseman after Matt Grzelcyk jumped into the rush, misread a terrific cross-ice pass from Nazem Kadri and got caught flat-footed as William Nylander blew by him and scored.

The Leafs' other breakaways and odd-man rushes were similar stories. Charlie McAvoy got caught out of position on a stretch pass up the boards to Andreas Johnsson. David Pastrnak turned the puck over at the blue line and sent John Tavares in alone. Zdeno Chara completely misplayed a puck and gave the Leafs a 3-on-1 the other way.

Carelessly turning pucks over at the blue line is not something the Bruins have made a habit of this season. Same goes for misplaying Toronto's stretch pass -- they know the Leafs like to do that and they've been able to deal with it in the past.

"I think honestly if we just managed the puck better, it would allow us to play to our strength and be heavier and win the battles on the walls, and that doesn’t come into play as much," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Force them to skate, defend, they get fatigued. Everyone gets fatigued defending. They lose some of their energy to attack and then forecheck physically.

"So, our puck management issues today cost us in a lot of different areas in the game, and they, like I said, whether it was us or them or a combination of both who dissected any line. It really had an effect on giving them a lot of energy both with their legs and physicality, so we just have to be better in that area."

It is obviously concerning to see this many breakdowns happen in one game, but if you're looking for a silver lining, it's that the Bruins are absolutely capable of correcting them for Game 2 and beyond. We know that because they've been a lot better than this all year.

Now it's up to them to go out and make sure it doesn't happen again.

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