Just some quick notes from this game before I head out for the night. I’m not sure if I’ll do a full column, as it’s Saturday night and I’ve gotta work tomorrow. We’ll see.
–Nothing from the best To put it quite bluntly, the Bruins’ best players haven’t been their best players, aside from Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, who have both been tremendous. Milan Lucic is invisible. Same for David Krejci. Tyler Seguin is getting intimidated physically. Brad Marchand is a non-factor. The B’s got by in Game 1, helped in no small way by Braden Holtby’s flubbing of that Chris Kelly slapper. The big guns aren’t connecting on passes, aren’t winning battles, and simply aren’t working hard enough. Lucic and Krejci have been particularly absent; when you can count on one hand the number of scoring chances your top center has created, it’s not surprising that goals have been hard to come by.
–Third line best again Just like in Game 1, the Hair Line of Benoit Pouliot, Brian Rolston, and Kelly was the B’s best trio. Pouliot was probably the best Bruin forward in this one, displaying a level of hustle and determination that I didn’t know Benny had in him. The goal he scored was on a broken play, but was a direct result of him wanting the puck more than anyone else on the ice. If the rest of the B’s take cues from the third line, the B’s fortunes will turn quickly.
–Holtby strong again I was one of the people expecting Braden Holtby to falter in Game 2, but he didn’t break. He bent, allowing the one goal, but didn’t break. Truth be told, Holtby DID look a bit shaky down the stretch, allowing a number of juicy rebounds in the overtimes. But the B’s couldn’t pounce on any of them, and Holtby got the first win of his playoff career. He’s looking like a tough out, not unlike Jaroslav Halak was for Montreal a few years ago. That’s bad news for the Bruins.
–Still NO-vechkin Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara did a terrific job shutting down Alex Ovechkin again, even if the Russian did get an assist on Troy Brouwer’s goal. (That play was more of a fluke than the fault of any defenseman.) The B’s have essentially made Ovechkin a non-factor and still lost one out of two on home ice. I say “non-factor” because he hasn’t been piling up the points, but he was a monster out there today. This isn’t good. With the games headed to DC, the B’s won’t have the last change, and won’t be able to match Chara/Seidenberg against Ovechkin as easily. If you had told me that through two games, Ovechkin would have just one assist, I’d have taken it as a great sign that things were going well for the B’s. And truthfully, things aren’t bad defensively. But a player like Ovechkin can only be contained for so long, and with the series shifting to Ovie’s home ice, things could get dicey for the B’s.
–Mistakes kill Playoff games, especially overtime games, come down to who makes the mistake. It Game 1, it was Holtby whiffing on Kelly’s shot. Today, it was a comedy of errors starring Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk. Patrice Bergeron won the final draw of the game cleanly, but neither Ference nor Boychuk got a stick on it. To make matters worse, neither took the body. Five seconds later, on what should have been a routine up-the-wall or around-the-boards clear, the puck was in the back of the net. Awful.
–Now what? I’m not really sure what’s next for the B’s. The offense simply isn’t there. I’d consider shuffling the lines a bit, perhaps switching Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin to try to give both lines a jump. Also, there’s no traffic in front of Holtby. He’s been great, but he hasn’t really been bothered at all either. No screens, no bumps, nothing. NHL goalies, no matter how young, are going to stop what they see. The B’s need more traffic, or they aren’t going to see many more goals. Defensively, I actually think the B’s have been great. If they keep it up and minimize the mistakes, they’ll be OK.