[Providence, RI] - After dropping Game 5 in Boston, the Bruins flew back to Toronto and dropped Game 6 due to many reasons. The Bruins were up 3-1 in the series, but will now play a winner-takes-all match in Boston on Wednesday night to determine who moves on to the second-round. If any of you are reading, you might be wondering 'What went wrong?' or 'How did this happen?' Well, there are many reasons and possible answers to these questions, which I will address below. Keep reading to see my thoughts on Game 5 & 6, along with my input on what the Bruins will need to win in Game 7.
- The defense has to be better from top-to-bottom. Both Matt Grzelcyk & Adam McQuaid were proven to be ineffective as they played under 12:00 TOI during Game 6. When it comes to Charlie McAvoy, his decision-making and defensive-awareness has failed him in the last two-games. Am I overreacting? Some would say "Yes, you are, so please just quit the internet and do us all the favor." In an attempt to support those claims, I assume the statistic pointing out that McAvoy logged a team-high 24:35 TOI during Game 6 would be brought into the debate. However, we've all seen that McAvoy is capable of much more and needs to be the dynamic, game-changing defender he's shown us before.
- The top-line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak needs to simplify their game and play with more conviction— own the attacking-zone. Too many times we saw Pastrnak & Marchand get too cute in Game 6. Instead of getting the shot off, they were looking to make the extra-move, curl-and-drag or toe-drag rather than shoot. Same goes for Bergeron, who I felt was looking for the extra-pass too much. On the bright-side, Bergeron was in the bumper-position frequently and contributed some quality, high-danger shots that were saved by Andersen or went wide. Bergeron also won 79 percent of his face-offs, and while it's unrealistic to ask him to replicate that performance in Game 7, the Bruins will need him to dominate face-offs again if they want to win. The same goes for Riley Nash, who won 64 percent of his face-offs, and David Krejci, who won 56 percent of his during Game 6.
- David Krejci needs to play with more urgency and make sure his passes are going to get through. When he is puck-carrying, he also needs to be more aware of his surroundings and the defensive-structure that the Leafs are establishing in the neutral-zone. In my opinion, Rick Nash was excellent in Game 6, but he needs to convert one of his several scoring-chances into a goal soon. Jake DeBrusk was electric as usual and did just about everything right. I think the Bruins should be looking at every opportunity to give DeBrusk more TOI in Game 7.
- Tommy Wingels played well and did what was asked of him. He also helped screen Andersen & the defense on the lone-goal of the game. However, Cassidy has a tough decision to make for Game 7. Does he bring Danton Heinen back into the lineup? Does he keep Tommy Wingels in the lineup? Or does he look to Ryan Donato for the spark this team needs? Although Donato isn’t strong enough defensively to keep up with this grueling-style of play, he isn’t afraid to shoot and is quite frankly an assassin in the offensive-zone. There are cases here for each player and it will be a tough-call, one I’m glad I don’t have to make.
- Despite just about every goal being scored by someone in-all-alone during Game 5, Tuukka Rask wasn’t great. I absolutely don’t fault him for that loss, but he wasn’t great. Game 6 was a different story. Many fans are on his case about the Marner goal, but that backhander was deceptive & hard. Rask came up huge in the third-period with some magic sprinkled on his shoulder to stop the shot resulting from a nasty, Auston Matthews cross-ice pass. He came up huge once again at the end of the third-period when Matthews founds himself in-all-alone on the partial-breakaway— Rask extended himself on the ice and made the save. Rask can’t be expected to make clutch-save after clutch-save all game, but he needs to be on his game. The defense needs to do their part as they’ve failed to do so in Game 5 & 6.
- The power-play. Where do I even begin. In Game 5, the Bruins went 1-for-6 on the PP and failed to convert the 5-on-3 PP into a goal. This just can’t happen if you’re trying to win games in the playoffs. In Game 6, it wasn’t any different— just that the PP-opportunities were more scarce. The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the man-advantage in Game 6, so they picked up exactly where they left off in Game 5. Looking ahead to Game 7, the Bruins need to bring different strategies to the power-play if an opportunity presents itself. Too often, the Bruins seem to be trying to run ‘overload’ on the man-advantage, resulting in too many passes and not enough quality-shots that reach the net. They work the puck down-low, then fight to get it back to the point— rinse, wash & repeat. I’m not a coach by any means, but something has to give. Do they try a textbook, umbrella-style PP so they can have more traffic and generate more shots? That is up to Cassidy & Co. to figure out. Regardless of their game-plan, something has to be switched up.