By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins’ Game 6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs shows why the vaunted “Corsi” stat doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Boston finished Monday’s game with a whopping 62 shot attempts to the Leafs’ 33, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s an outrageous 65.3 percent advantage in that department. But in terms of “high-danger” scoring chances – essentially, scoring chances from closer to the net – Toronto actually held a 9-6 advantage. So while the Bruins have peppered Frederik Andersen with shot attempts to the tune of a 162-82 edge in the past two games, that doesn’t mean those attempts inspired confidence in the Bruins’ ability to finish.
And speaking of the F-word … the B’s have found themselves bitten by the proverbial playoff snake in three out of the last four games. Their offense, which blazed its way to 12 goals in the first two games of the series, has dwindled to a smoldering ember of desperation.
That’s why it’s time for Bruce Cassidy to give serious consideration to sliding rookie Ryan Donato into the lineup for Wednesday’s Game 7.
And it’s not even that Donato would rescue the Bruins, or make up for a top line that has gone colder than Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining in their three losses. It’s that the dynamic winger with a rifle of a shot should be a better option for the top-six than Tommy Wingels.
With struggling rookie Danton Heinen sitting for Game 6, Wingels jumped in. But in a much-needed attempt to “tinker” with his lineup, the Bruins head coach moved Rick Nash into Heinen’s spot on the third line and parked Wingels on Krejci’s right wing.
Wingels finished with four shot attempts. Only one of them hit the net.
The veteran grinder can do a lot of things that Donato can’t do at this stage in the rookie’s career, but firing high-danger pucks on the goalie isn’t really one of them. Donato can do the one thing that the Bruins desperately need. He has a far better chance than Wingels of corralling a saucer pass from Krejci and ripping a laser from the slot to straight-up beat the nigh-unbeatable Andersen.
Despite inconsistent efforts throughout the series and an inability to put together a complete game, the Bruins have had plenty of jam. They’ve had plenty of energy. It’s time that they add more of a scoring touch wherever they can get it.
It’s not ideal for a 21-year-old rookie with 13 games of experience to be the player to turn to. But this is the spot that the Bruins have put themselves in. And in Game 7, Cassidy absolutely cannot roll the same lineup out that he did on Monday.
Shoehorning Donato into a bottom-six role was never going to work. That’s where you can understand Wingels getting the nod. But sticking a career bottom-six forward into a role where he needs to score is where lines can be drawn. It’s where you can say that yes, Donato deserves another shot. If only to spark the Bruins’ power play, which was positively putrid in its two opportunities in Game 6.
If Donato doesn’t get one more chance to make an early impact on the Bruins’ playoff chances, then it’ll e on Wingels, or Heinen, or Brian Gionta, or whomever takes his place to give the Bruins the finish they so clearly need. But truthfully, at the end of the day it’s on the top line to stop overthinking things and overcome their scoring woes since Game 2.
Still, in a do-or-die situation – a spot where the Bruins’ core has been inconsistent at best – the B’s are going to need all the firepower they can get. Donato is Cassidy’s best chance to make an upgrade.
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@example.com.