TORONTO — In the playoffs, every little detail matters. A lost faceoff, a missed pass, a failed clearing attempt can become a turning point in a game and in a series.
And in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Game 3 on Monday night, the B’s were glaringly in the red in those critical situations, with Leafs finding a way to be on the right side of the puck more often than not.
Much like the the Game 1 loss in Boston, the B’s best players were not their best players. Facing a tough matchup against the Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch Marner line, the Patrice Bergeron line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak did not give up anything to the Leafs offensively at even strength, but the B’s top trio was continually frustrated in the offensive zone. It was essentially a wash at 5-on-5. But while secondary scoring is always needed — and the B’s got it again from David Krejci and Charlie Coyle on Monday — this team needs its top line to produce.
“We can be better,” said Bergeron. “That’s what playoffs are all about. It’s about bringing your best and we’ve got to do that.”
The trio has scored some of the prettiest goals in the National Hockey League this year. They scored one in Game 2, when Pastrnak made a beautiful backhand pass to Marchand and Marchand threw a full body changeup at Frederik Andersen for what was ultimately the winning goal.
But in the playoffs, greasy gets it done, like the top-of-the-crease goal Krejci scored to tie the game at 1-1 less than a minute after Trevor Moore put the Leafs on the board.
The top line can’t always score the pretty ones.
“They’ve having a tougher time getting to the net and as a result I think they’re trying real hard one-on-one to get there. I think they’ve got to use each other a little better. And get an old-fashioned goal, when there’s a center lane, drive the puck to the net, get a second chance,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “They’re pretty determined guys. They’ll find their way. They’re against a very committed five-some (including defensemen Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev) right now to keep them off the scoresheet. I do believe a second-chance goal is in their future if they start funneling pucks a little more, getting pucks to the net off the rush.
“Now it’s a bit of D-zone coverage sort-outs for them and they’re pretty good at finding each other if they’re not on time. I think we need a little bit of that from them where the other team has to make a decision. They’re very good at finding the soft spots.”
Cassidy didn’t rule out breaking up the line, but he sounded more inclined to let the group play through it. “If we feel that it’s really an impediment from us having success, then we’re going to get away from it and break up the line. We did it at times, we move Pasta around,” said Cassidy. “But at the end of the day, if that’s the matchup (Leafs coach Mike Babcock) wants, he’s going to get it, even on the road. We tried to get away from it on some icings to see if it would work our way, but tonight it wasn’t able to go.
“We’ll see how it plays out on Wednesday. But honestly, I don’t mind it. It’s two good lines going head-to-head every night. It’s going to tilt our way at some point. Our players are too good.”