Bruins Finish Chances, Regain Control

For the first 13 minutes of Monday’s Game 3, it looked like the Bruins’ offensive frustration from Game 2 may have followed them to Toronto. The Bruins had generated 41 shots on goal in Saturday’s loss, but only two of them found their way past James Reimer.

The chances were there again early in Monday’s game. The third line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr created several on their first couple shifts, but they couldn’t finish. Midway through the first, a Brad Marchand shot led to a golden rebound chance for Tyler Seguin, but Reimer just got his blocker on Seguin’s backhander.

Game 3 didn’t play out like Game 2, though. In Monday’s 5-2 win, the Bruins eventually started to bury their chances. They opened the scoring with a bit of a fluky goal from the unlikeliest of sources, as Adam McQuaid scored off a faceoff on a point shot that Reimer either didn’t see or simply misread.

The Bruins’ next three goals all required a finishing touch, though. Early in the second, Jagr finally found someone to bury one of the many chances he’s created in this series. Jagr stole the puck from Ryan O’Byrne behind the net before feeding Peverley on the doorstep for a tap-in goal.

After the Maple Leafs cut the lead to 2-1, the Bruins’ top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton added another goal to their impressive series resume. Krejci made a nice breakout pass to Horton. Horton sent the puck cross-ice to Lucic, then drove hard to the net and eventually buried Lucic’s return pass. Adding Krejci’s empty-net goal later in the game, that line has now combined for five goals and 12 assists through the first three games of the series.

Two minutes after Horton’s goal, Daniel Paille picked Phil Kessel’s pocket and scored on a shorthanded breakaway. The only line that didn’t get in on the scoring Monday was the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin trio, which remains goalless in the series. They combined for 30 shots on goal over the first two games, but were held to six in Game 3.

It has become abundantly clear that the Bruins are going to get their chances against this Toronto defense. The Maple Leafs gave up the fourth most shots in the NHL this season, and they haven’t shown any signs of improving on that in the playoffs, as the Bruins have registered 38 or more in all three games.

Reimer has obviously made some big saves in the series, but there’s only so much he can do against that much pressure. If his defense keeps turning the puck over and keeps letting guys get open right in front, he’s going to crack. On top of that, he’s been giving up a lot of rebounds and he’s allowed three goals on shots from the point.

The combination of consistently suspect defense and occasionally suspect goaltending means the Bruins just need to capitalize on the chances they’re getting. In Games 1 and 3, they did. In Game 2, they didn’t.

Of course, the Bruins still have some work to do with their own defense. They didn’t give up nearly as many odd-man rushes on Monday as they did on Saturday, but they did give up a staggering 47 shots on goal. A lot of them came from the outside, and 18 of them came in the third period while they were up by multiple goals, but that’s still a number they’d like to see come way down. If Tuukka Rask didn’t have a great third period, Game 3 might’ve become more interesting than it should’ve been.

With Monday’s win, the Bruins are back in control of this series. They’re clearly the better team when they’re protecting the puck and finishing their chances. They just need to make sure they continue to do that and not have another setback like they did in Game 2.

 

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