Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 1: Lack of execution leads to embarrassing night for Bruins

Ty Anderson
November 11, 2017 - 11:48 pm

Thanks to what felt like thousands of Maple Leaf fans that made the trek down for a weekend in Boston, the Bruins were sing-songed out of their own building on Saturday.

With the Leafs up by three goals late in the third period (late enough and one Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton ago to keep the Bruins from mounting yet another comeback), the Toronto diehards sang "Goodbye" to the hapless Bruins and the Black and Gold faithful that regretfully hung around for what finished as a 4-1 loss for the Bruins. 

I’d say that this was a highly embarrassing moment for the team, too, but that would ignoring what the Bruins did on the ice en route to their third straight defeat. 

On home ice for the second leg of a back-to-back that started with a late-game collapse-inspired overtime loss in Toronto on Friday, the Bruins came out roaring with five of the game’s first seven shots. Naturally, the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner scored on the game’s eighth shot, with a giveaway gift wrapped from Brandon Carlo.

The Bruins brushed it off and carried play for the next little bit, though, with the game’s next six shots coming off Boston sticks before Carlo was whistled for a hook.

The Leafs, of course, scored 15 seconds into their power play, as James van Riemsdyk continued his weekend decimation of the B’s with yet another net-front goal.

The puck-dominating period did not come without something for the Bruins, though, as Frank Vatrano brought the Bruins back within one with an impressive tip just 1:02 later. The goal was good for Vatrano’s second of the season, and came with Danton Heinen doing all the legwork (and without a point to show for it), and again, also essentially salvaged what would have been a massively wasted opening period for the Bruins.

But Carlo’s rough night and team’s strugglesome night bled over into the third period, as Carlo provided a moving screen on Tuukka Rask on a Morgan Rielly goal.

“I had a bad night,” the second-year pro offered up after the loss. “I don’t know really what to say about that. I just tried to make plays and they didn’t really work out. Ended up in the back of the net. Those things can’t really happen all the time.

“I was kinda the Achilles’ Heel tonight with my mistakes. If I didn’t make those we probably would be ahead in those areas. It’s unfortunate, but maybe next time we’ll get a good balance and my mistakes will be covered.”

Carlo was undoubtedly hard on himself. Perhaps too harsh, even, given what the Bruins didn’t do just minutes before Rielly by all means put this game away with the third goal.

Down by one goal earlier in the third period, the Bruins were gifted a power-play opportunity when Andreas Borgman tripped Tim Schaller, and Dominic Moore tripped Patrice Bergeron 53 seconds later. The Bruins immediately called a timeout, and strategized how they were going to play their 1:07 of a 5-on-3 advantage.

But with all that talking and planning, the Bruins put one shot on net during that stretch. They only attempted one, too, and it was a Torey Krug snapper from 50-feet out.

“That group that starts most power plays are a big part of this team and we want to be difference makers,” Krug said. “So when we’re not breaking through we’re not scoring that big goal for the team, we take a lot of the blame and put it on our shoulders.”

“I really think our execution was off,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of the 5-on-3 opportunity. “I don't think there was a lack of wanting to shoot. Pasta’s [David Pastrnak] going to crank it if it’s in his wheelhouse, [Torey] Krug got a shot and a rebound that was just off…so, you know, the plays that we typically run, we just haven’t executed them as well as we needed to obviously, or we would’ve gotten the results.”

Cassidy’s right that the Bruins had significant movement once they were able to gain the zone and dish the puck around. But if that was the plan, and if all that passing and movement was to generate a single shot, and from that far out, why even take the ice and exhaust more energy out of your top players? Just hang out behind Rask and let the clock run down until you’re back even. And given where this power play has trended (they’ve converted on just two of their last 20 opportunities), that may be for the best.

This was a game that felt like a near must-win for the Bruins, even in November.

Words really can’t express how much of a gift this Bruins team had received with the two-game absence of Auston Matthews due to an upper-body injury, or the gift of seeing Curtis McElhinney over the Frederik “Will Never Ever Lose to the Bruins” Andersen on Saturday. The Leafs are a borderline great team, yes, but so much of that comes back to the production of Andersen and Matthews, especially when it comes to head-to-head with the Bruins. And with the scene shifted back to Boston, this was a game that the B's really had no business losing. That's without factoring in the heavy 39-to-25 shot advantage that favored the Bruins, too. 

So this instead became another opportunity that the B's failed to make good on, which has become an alarming trend against some familiar opponents, with an 0-3-3 record against teams residing in the East. These two Toronto victories loom especially large now, too, with eight points now separating the Bruins from the Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division, meaning that the Bruins would still find themselves behind the Leafs even if they were to win their three games in hand. 

This is not where the Black and Gold, just four points from the basement of the Eastern Conference, really want to find themselves this early in the season. 

“Obviously they mean more,” Cassidy acknowledged when asked about in-conference games. “It’s early to say the ‘what-if’ game, but you make a good point, you want to win against the teams you’re going to be fighting for down the road for playoff position, and that’s our goal, so I’m not going to hide from that. Any points are good for us, and the division games mean more, no doubt, and we let some get away tonight, and actually last night. If we close [Friday] out, it’s a .500 weekend, so that’s a tough one.”

And if Friday was a tough one, Saturday should be viewed as the toughest one to date.

Bad news: It somehow gets tougher, with a California road swing through Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose up next. 

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