By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Forget about the score. This is about the matchup that the Lightning roster presents for the Bruins. It’s a nightmare, and it’s starting to haunt the B’s yet again.
And Boston’s roster mix, just like the past two postseasons, is in danger of falling short for the same reasons.
Their fastest players aren’t skilled enough. Their most skilled players aren’t big enough. Their heaviest players aren’t physical enough. Outside of Brad Marchand, their most reliable producers aren’t producing enough.
David Krejci’s wingers can’t finish. And now Charlie Coyle needs some linemates, too. Their defensemen are all either undersized or don’t use their size to their advantage. Their puck movers aren’t managing the puck well. Brayden Point is skating circles around them. Pat Maroon is laughing in their faces. And throw a real goaltending concern on top of all that.
How can you watch this begin to unfold for a third straight playoff run and not think something’s terribly wrong?
Game 1 looked beyond promising. The Bruins dominated on special teams, finishing on the power play and getting quick, clean, consistent breakouts on the penalty kill. That has evaporated. The Lightning have spent the last two games, and especially Wednesday night, winning those same puck battles and it’s bombs away on Jaroslav Halak. It got so bad in Game 3, they peppered poor Daniel Vladar, too.
This was not fair to the young goaltender making his NHL debut. The players in front of the goalies have looked overmatched (again) by a team with a better, deeper mix of size, speed, skill, defense, goaltending, and grit. At this point, their only real option is to out-work them, to want this series more.
Marchand looks like he wants the series more. And even if the other forwards do, the execution isn’t there to match it. If the defense is motivated to force the issue on breakouts and rushes, they’ve gone a poor way about it in these last two games. And the way they continually collapsed as the game went on was what disappointed head coach Bruce Cassidy the most.
“The response, obviously the first period we were fine,” Cassidy said. “I think if you look at all the numbers pretty even. Obviously, couple of breaks didn’t go our way, couple of questionable calls in my estimation obviously didn’t help, and then you chase the game. That’s tough, three in four, no excuses, but it’s tough you get behind in this League against a good team it’s hard enough to catch up.”
“We’re going to have to move on from this game,” said Zdeno Chara. “Obviously, not our best game. We realize that was one of those games that nobody wants to look at. Definitely something that we have to move forward from and get ready for the next one.”
Move on, they will. And it’s fair to expect a much closer game and more competitive performance out of them in Game 4. They most certainly want to avoid that kind of embarrassment again.
But do they have the horses to pull it off in three out of a possible four? Do they have the right mix? Because it’s hard to look at how the Bruins have looked against Tampa in the last two games – and six of the last eight in the playoffs – and believe that they truly have what it takes to outlast perhaps the league’s most complete team. It’s hard not to feel like the scientist in the disaster movie. Uhh, guys, the San Andreas Fault is about to crack. Is anybody listening to me?
One has to wonder if the trade deadline brought enough in to combat them. Nick Ritchie is their best hope for a winger with size and physicality, and he hasn’t used nearly enough of either quality to his advantage. Ondrej Kase was an active player who showed his speed and created opportunities, but couldn’t finish any of them, and now he’s not even getting those opportunities anymore.
Meanwhile, the Lightning already had a better roster and added Maroon, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow. Tell me how that’s working out so far.
It’s too early to bury the Bruins entirely, but things need to improve immediately because they won’t win three games in a row against Tampa. Definitely not if the same problems we’ve seen in recent letdowns are starting to materialize again.
Listen to Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson’s postgame thoughts on Game 3 in the newest episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast:
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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at firstname.lastname@example.org.