It wasn’t realistic to expect the Bruins to hold Toronto to 20 shots and one goal every game. It was realistic to expect the Bruins to play better defense than they did in Saturday’s 4-2 loss, though.
Unlike Game 1, the Bruins gave up a bunch of odd-man rushes and had trouble clearing their own zone in Game 2. All four Toronto goals involved a defensive breakdown of some kind. The Maple Leafs certainly played much better than Game 1, and the Bruins were without one of their top defenders in Andrew Ference, but that doesn’t excuse those breakdowns.
Toronto’s first goal came with Zdeno Chara in the box for tripping. Jake Gardiner put a shot on net from the point, and Adam McQuaid lost track of Joffrey Lupul just long enough for Lupul to get open and bury the rebound.
Lupul struck again later in the second. Matt Frattin led what appeared to be a harmless 2-on-2 rush, but Johnny Boychuk got caught drifting toward Frattin — who was already being covered by Dennis Seidenberg — allowing Lupul to get wide open for Frattin’s centering pass.
The Bruins were only down by one heading into the third, but more defensive mistakes killed any chance of a comeback. Just 53 seconds into the period, Seidenberg (who finished a minus-3) got caught pinching in the offensive zone, and Phil Kessel snuck behind him for a breakaway goal.
The Bruins cut the lead to 3-2 midway through the third, but then another Seidenberg miscue led to another Toronto goal. Mikhail Grabovski cut across the offensive zone, and Seidenberg tried to step up and throw a hit. Unfortunately, Seidenberg whiffed on the hit and took himself out of position, giving eventual goal-scorer James van Riemsdyk an open lane to the net.
It’s not as if Toronto’s four goals were the Bruins’ only breakdowns either. In the first period, Chara and Dougie Hamilton both got caught up ice, leading to a 2-on-1 where the one was forward Rich Peverley. Peverley forced Lupul to make an aerial pass that wouldn’t settle for Kessel. The same thing happened to Seidenberg and Boychuk in the third, but Milan Lucic was able to get back and bail them out.
“The breakdowns that we had defensively were poor breakdowns on our part, and we gave them a lot of outnumbered situations,” coach Claude Julien said. “We have to be better defensively, in order to be better offensively. I said that last time. Our team, when it’s good defensively, it creates chances offensively. We turn pucks over and we go on the attack. But tonight, not quite as good as we were in Game 1.”
In Game 1, the Bruins defense looked like the one that had been very good for most of the first two and a half months of the season. In Game 2, it looked like the one that was a big part of the team’s struggles over the final month and a half. Needless to say, the Bruins will need to find a way to leave that latter defense behind in Monday’s Game 3.
Getting Ference back should be a big help. His struggles for most of the season were well documented, but he actually played well in April, something that couldn’t be said for most of the Bruins.
Ference’s return will allow Claude Julien to go back to his Game 1 pairings of Chara-Seidenberg and Ference-Boychuk. Seidenberg and Boychuk didn’t look good together in Game 2, and Chara had to alternate between playing with McQuaid and Hamilton for most of the game.
Going back to more familiar pairings should be a plus, but familiarity alone doesn’t prevent mental mistakes like puck watching, getting caught up ice and missing checks. The Bruins know they can’t get away with those gaffes in the playoffs, and if they needed a reminder of that, they got it on Saturday. Now let’s see how they respond.