By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruce Cassidy was hardly seated when the first question thrown his way after a 2-1 loss in Game 5 came in: “Did you get an explanation on the goaltender interference non-call?”
Cassidy said that the referees were going to make the call and drop the puck (meaning he would not get an explanation), before a follow-up asked him his opinion on the non-call that helped Auston Matthews and the Leafs break the scoreless affair and take a 3-2 series lead back to Toronto. (Spoiler: Cassidy thought Zach Hyman’s contact prevented Tuukka Rask from making the save.)
They were worthwhile questions, sure, but I quickly realized how much I hated the idea that it was anything but a footnote in what was yet another TD Garden no-show for Cassidy’s club.
Point blank: The Bruins were not good enough on Friday night.
This is now the fourth time we’ve said this about them in this series.
Focusing on the goaltender interference and how that screwed the B’s also conveniently forgets the fact that the Bruins were gifted three power-play opportunities, the first two coming off borderline-at-best penalties, and then the third when Mitch Marner flung a puck into the stands just 2:11 after the Leafs killed off Boston’s second power-play opportunity.
The Bruins did a grand total of squat on those three gifts, throwing their gifts in the fireplace, and hammering just five pucks on Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen over that six-minute stretch of five-on-four play. If you can recall a single legitimate scoring chance among those five attempts, I’ll be legitimately impressed.
“We have to find ways to put those in,” B’s center Patrice Bergeron said of his team’s power-play looks.
And to make matters worse, the Bruins entered this game with a 45.5 percent mark on the man advantage, which was the second-best among the (dwindling) field of 16 and had become this team’s go-to given their five-on-five woes.
But it’s those even-strength issues that are actually killing the Bruins, really.
Boston had just six shots through 20 minutes of play. And with chances and solid looks at an obvious premium, the Bruins continued to try and hunt the perfect look that was never there, with extra passes and hell-of-it chances going anywhere but on net. And after Andersen had an absolutely garbage Game 5 in Toronto, no less. (Can you taste blood yet?)
It wasn’t until the Bruins were down a pair of goals that it felt like the Bruins had legs, energy, and attitude to make plays happen in the attacking zone, and it wasn’t until they had just 43 seconds left in their Game 5 that they beat Andersen.
It wasn’t enough. Across the board.
“That was probably my biggest beef: Less about the play of the individual player but the group not generating enough offense with shots or shot-recovery situations where we could take advantage of coverage,” said Cassidy. “We just turned down too many shots in my estimation.”
“Put more pucks on their goalie,” Bruins winger David Pastrnak said of a fix in Game 6. “We scored five last game, so we’ve got to make sure we shoot everything to the net and recover pucks and just a little bit more offense.
“Just going to regroup, and big game next game, so [we] want to bring it back home.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 2-1 loss at TD Garden…
Cassidy less than pleased with bottom-half of roster
Back in Boston for the first time since their Game 2 steamrolling of the Leafs, Cassidy’s club seemingly reverted back to their Game 1 ways, with almost no energy from his forward group off the jump.
It led to some seriously disjointed ice-time (and rightfully so) for the bottom of his roster by the night’s end; David Backes logged just 4:34, and remained parked on the bench for the entire third period. Chris Wagner’s skates touched the ice for just a pair of third-period shifts, and Noel Acciari barely eclipsed the two-minute mark of third-period time on ice with three shifts, and likely would not have been on the ice for the third period had it not been for the Black and Gold’s successful kill of a too-many-men minor.
“I didn’t think that we had energy in the bottom of our lineup,” Cassidy said. “[The Maple Leafs] don’t generally play their fourth line a lot, so if our fourth line and the guys we use in that roll aren’t going together in sync then it works against us. That’s the way I saw it. We had a couple of shifts that I thought they got outplayed to a certain extent. When I used them individually, in pieces, with different lines I thought we had a better result so we kind of went three lines and then added a player here or there. I thought that might work out better for us. Obviously, in the end we lost the game so who knows.”
Leafs’ Babcock praises Auston Matthews
After a bunch of hyperbolic takes out of Toronto following power-play goals and a few individual matchup victories, Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was actually the best player on the ice in Game 5.
Matthews outworked the Bergeron line when Cassidy tried to vanquish him like it was ’18, and he left Zdeno Chara hopelessly spinning on the goal that made it a 1-0 contest and got the Leafs going against Rask and Co.
“I thought tonight in particular was his best two-hundred footer of the playoffs,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of his star center. “He was outstanding, he was involved in so many breakouts, he was there available for the defense on that goal that Kapanen scores. He’s right there for the defense, he makes the play coming on the defensive zone.
“People just think because you’re a good player you know how to do that, you don’t know how to do that because you don’t have to do that when you’re a kid and so you got to learn how to do it and then you got to learn how to do it tonight. Between John [Tavares] and him, well everybody, Patrice Bergeron’s a real player with Brad Marchand and whose ever with them . I thought he played great I was impressed with him and I’m proud for him, he should feel good about himself.”
B’s now in must-win territory
A must-win Game 6 isn’t exactly uncharted waters for the Bruins.
In fact, the Bruins have skated in six do-or-die Game 6 contests since the start of the Bergeron-Chara Era, and have captured a win in four of them, and are 2-0 on the road. But it’s been a long time since the Black and Gold were asked to do it on the road. They actually haven’t been in this spot since 2012, when they forced a Game 7 in their first-round series against the Capitals by way of Tyler Seguin’s overtime goal in Game 6.
The Bruins are 0-1 in do-or-die Game 6s under Cassidy, though, having dropped Game 6 against the Senators on Garden ice in 2017.