The next time the Bruins play hockey, they will be dealing with an entirely different dynamic than the one they were able to exploit in Saturday’s Game 2 performance in this best-of-seven playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
When they step into Scotiabank Arena tonight for Game 3, they will not have 17,565 fans at their back. Instead, there will be 19,589 Torontonians rooting against them. Many of them — judging from their Twitter accounts — will be feeling aggrieved that their beloved Nazem Kadri will most likely be suspended for his crosscheck to Jake DeBrusk’s head. He’ll have a hearing today.
Now it’s the Bruins’ turn to face the storm’s fury. Coach Bruce Cassidy planned on reminding his charges that as critical as the hard-checking approach was in Game 2, it wasn’t the only aspect of their game that yielded victory.
“Every game takes on a life of its own,” Cassidy said Sunday before the team took off for Toronto with the series tied 1-1. “We knew we weren’t very good in Game 1. We wanted to rectify that and respond. We did. So now, typically what happens is the team that loses goes home, they lick their wounds and they get ready for the next game.
“I suspect Toronto will be in the position we were in going into Game 2, so we have to be ready for their best. We’ll talk about the things we did well. You may not get the exact same physical response out of every player. But managing the puck, we should be able to repeat that and understand that ‘Hey, look at the goals we scored.’ Now, (William) Nylander gifted us one but it still started with the mindset of getting pucks deep. That’s how (Charlie) Coyle got his first one...We forced them to defend in their own end. That’s the mindset we have to take along with the physicality. It’s how we played when we had the puck that I thought was just as important as how physical we were without it.”
“That was a fun game to be a part of, for sure, but we’re definitely going to talk about our game plan again,” said Boston’s David Krejci.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs. There’s lots of video, lots of scouting happening. We’ve got to make some adjustments, after a win or a loss. We’ll see what the coaches are going to come up with, but we just have to be focused and respect the game plan.
“Obviously, it will be different. When you make a hit, the crowd’s not going to go crazy. You just have to keep your head down and focus on your next shift when you come back to the bench.”
The toughest task for Cassidy, who no longer has the last change, is to get the right matchup. His adjustment to matching the Noel Acciari line onto the John Tavares line in Game 2 — and consequently moving the Patrice Bergeron line onto the Auston Matthews line — helped turn the game in the B’s favor.
And the unknown third line of Danton Heinen, Coyle and David Backes was the pleasant surprise; they produced two of their four goals.
“Clearly the Acciari line had a matchup with Tavares and part of that was that we wanted to be physical and make them work to get all the way through to our net,” said Cassidy. “I think Charlie (McAvoy) did a real good job. (Zdeno Chara) is always going to be back there taking care of business, but I thought Charlie understood that his primary role was to be hard against their top line. The offense will come when you play 25 minutes.
“He’s naturally good at it, but not force it. I thought that was a matchup on the back end that worked out well. We’ll certainly play Bergeron at times against Tavares, but we wanted to make it hard on Matthews as well to skate and with Bergeron out there it forces him to do that.”
While the Bruins produced a feel-good win in Game 2, the fact of the matter is that the Leafs still stole home ice advantage from the B’s in Game 1.
Now, if the B’s want to advance, they’ll have to return the favor.