(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Backchecks: 9 Big Takeaways From Bruins' Game 2 Win Over The Leafs

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Another night, another dominating effort for the Bruins in their 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Especially by the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. This time, Pastrnak took center stage with arguably the greatest effort ever seen by a 21-year-old in a playoff game.

The Leafs simply have nothing for the Bruins' No. 1 trio, and it's gotten to the point where they'll need Frederik Andersen to steal one for them in either Game 3 or 4. They actually got the opposite from their goaltenders on Saturday night. But at the same time, it's hard to blame the goalies when the defensemen in front of them are constantly letting the B's get behind them and/or park themselves right in front.

We'll see how Mike Babcock matches things up in Game 3, now that he has the advantage of last change at home. But the way the Bruins are playing right now, the matchups may not matter.

Anyway, here's a smattering of leftover tidbits and observations from Game 2...

1. Good on Tim Schaller and Torey Krug to stick up for Tuukka Rask. Kasperi Kapanen violated one of hockey's unwritten rules when he sprayed Rask in the face with some snow. Krug and Schaller rightfully took exception to it. Great sign for the Bruins' intensity and togetherness, and a bad sign for the Nazem Kadri-less Leafs that they can still resort to such tactics.

2. Speaking of Krug, he was on point with his passing. The Bruins' passes felt extra-aggressive on Saturday, almost as if they wanted to answer the Leafs' early energy with even more energy of their own. It led to some turnovers at times, but Krug was firing bullets all over the place to the tune of three assists. In the explosive first period, especially, he was arguably the Bruins' best player.

The power of Krug's passes showed up on Pastrnak's first goal of the night, when the defenseman ripped it toward the middle. James van Riemsdyk got a stick on it, but it didn't matter. The puck rainbowed over his stick and right to Pastrnak, who deftly settled it out of the air to backhand it around Andersen. Turns out that this goal was just the first sign that things were going to go the Bruins' way this night.

3. Pastrnak admitted after the game that he feels much more comfortable now than he did last season. You think? "Pasta" suddenly looks like a playoff stalwart, jumping to an early playoff scoring lead with a whopping nine points (four goals, five assists) in two games. It's not like he was terrible in last year's series against the Senators, but Pastrnak did look tentative at times in that 2017 series.

Now, he looks supremely confident. It led to a series of eye-popping offensive efforts to exploit the Leafs' sieve of a defense. He opened up on that confidence and how much it's grown in the past year, and also credited his veteran linemates with making him more comfortable.

"Especially after last year, I felt a little bit of pressure to be honest but I liked it," said Pastrnak. "I played with great players in a great team and we’re playing well now. It’s very easy for me to follow up the team. I think our leaders do a great job with us young guys. You guys know we have a lot of them. So, they prepare us well so do the coaches and I think that’s huge. We have a lot of guys who want it and they know what it takes."

4. The game's biggest swing came halfway through the first period. Kapanen got a breakway chance on Rask and rang it off the post. Then, a little over a minute later, DeBrusk tipped it in to make it 2-0. Who knows where the game would've gone had the Kapanen chance went in.

5. Speaking of DeBrusk ... he really has his celebration form down. Just look at this thing. 12 of of 10. The kid's got some serious skill. And he's pretty good at hockey too.

6. Auston Matthews got shut out once again. Zero points in two games for the budding Leafs superstar. The 20-year-old may not be ready to lead Toronto through a playoff series just yet. But he did lead the Leafs with six shots on goal in this one. He had some legit chances on Rask, but the goalie was simply there to stop them every time.

7. Mitch Marner has been the Leafs' best player. The Leafs' vaunted speed and skill has shown up most often in the form of the 20-year-old Marner, who has generated a fair amount of opportunities purely with his legs. He's second on the team with eight shots in the two games (behind, surprisingly enough, Matthews with nine) and made by far the best play of the game for the Leafs last night when he undercut a David Krejci pass attempt to spark the 2-on-1 rush that led to his goal.

If Toronto was also getting that kind of effort out of Matthews, William Nylander, Patrick Marleau, and the like, maybe this would be a different series right now. But they certainly can't expect Marner to carry them offensively, not with the way the Bruins are playing up front and the way the Leafs are playing on the back end.

8. Ryan Donato didn't quite look ready for this stage. Maybe Cassidy can put the rookie back in the lineup when the Bruins need scoring, but they certainly don't need much beyond the top line in this particular series. Especially in the bottom-six, they're probably better off with someone who can play a heavier, more defensively responsible game. The 21-year-old Donato, who has 13 games of NHL experience under his belt, just can't play that kind of role. If he can't play up on the Krejci line, there might not be a good spot for him.

Donato particularly got caught sleeping on Tyler Bozak's goal. He let the Leafs center slip right by him on the way to the slot, where he easily buried a one-timer to make it 5-2. Besides a few decent shots on goal, Donato didn't really make his presence felt like you were hoping if you had visions of Tyler Seguin dancing in your head.

That doesn't mean the kid needs to be buried. He'll have his opportunities, even this year. But if and when Riley Nash gets back in the lineup, Noel Acciari is likely slotted back on the fourth line, with Danton Heinen moving back up and Donato sitting.

9. Big picture: Defense and goaltending have made the difference. That's kind of a Captain Obvious statement, right? But even the harshest critics of the Maple Leafs' defensive corps can't say they saw this kind of effort (or lack thereof) coming from them. Not enough was said about how in the world the Leafs were going to match up with the Bruins' offensive firepower, and it's coming to fruition so far in the series.

Others may have been worried about the Bruins' defense and their ability to slow down Toronto up front. But it's now hysterical to think that Boston wasn't going to get a better defensive effort out of the likes of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and others than the Leafs were going to get out of offensive-minded guys like Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and even veterans like Ron Hainsey. They simply don't have the personnel on the blue line to keep up.

You'd think that Babcock would change things up system-wise and try to tighten up defensively, especially around their own net. They have to, because if they keep trotting out the "Zero Humans" defense they have no chance.

But ultimately, the players might just not have the acumen to do what it takes to keep the games close. The way they look in Game 3, especially with the matchup advantages they can create on home ice, will say a lot about where the rest of this series is going.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].


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