COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Bruins offense has been frustrated.
Some of those issues are fixable, or at least, within the Bruins control to act; the power play has struggled, and at practice on Wednesday, they switched it up by putting Jake DeBrusk back with the top unit. David Pastrnak also worked with his familiar first line teammates.
What isn’t so easy to change is how well the opposing goalie has played.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been lights out since the Blue Jackets sweep of the Lightning, going 6-1 to start the postseason with a .937 save percentage and 1.88 goals against.
That’s a far cry from going 5-14, with a .891 percent and 3.49 average in his first 19 playoff games.
The good timing for Columbus is the Bruins’ misfortune, and they find themselves trailing 2-1 on the road against the hottest goalie in hockey.
“Our game plan is to continue to get pucks there, traffic, second chances, be better on the power play,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Those tend to be better quality chances, where the goaltender has to really make good stops. If they’re always fighting traffic, second chances, the power play, that’s the hope, that’s how we try to get there, and I thought for pockets of the game we did last night.”
Each game has been decided by just one goal, with the first two going to overtime. The B’s took the first OT, but lost in two extra frames at home in Game 2, then narrowly fell in Game 3 on the road.
The B’s have had their own trouble scoring, but facing a tough goalie — par for the course in the postseason — has made life tougher.
“Their team is helping him out a lot as well,” said Jake DeBrusk after he scored in Game 3. “They’re blocking a lot of shots and blocking the lanes. Pretty shutdown. He was a Vezina nominee, and that’s what you’re going to get this time of year. You need to play against goalies like that, just have to try bear down on the chances we do get.”
The possibility of David Backes getting into Game 4 changes things up as far as personnel. It’s nearly the opposite of the type of matchup they had to endure with a fast Toronto club in the first round.
“If he’s seeing it he’s stopping it,” said Backes. “He’s been good on lateral plays and doing a heck of a job to keep them in games and give them chances to win. It’s been three one-goal games, so the margins are very small. But if we can take his eyes away and win a couple of loose pucks in front of the net, it’s what I’ve done my whole career, that would be great.”
Frustration on the ice is obvious. Brad Marchand is under scrutiny for a punch to the back of Scott Harrington’s head, and they’ve taken some penalties.
There are other things the Bruins can do better. Crashing the crease is the easy solution, especially since it has worked in the past.
Of course, a little bit of luck would go a long way, too.
“I thought we had some tough puck luck, this whole series,” said Cassidy. “First game we’re around the top of the crease, the power play went backdoor a few times, couldn’t find it. Last night there were some rebounds, if there was a right hand shot would be able to corral the puck and get it up, hopefully in and it goes to a left shot.... There’s a little bit of that going on.”
Game 4 on the road Thursday is nearly must-win territory for the Bruins, and with Bobrovsky manning the opposing net, it’s far from an easy road ahead.