The Bruins have hit that part of the postseason where almost everyone starts to have doubts about them. Whether it’s the goaltending, the inexperienced defensemen, or the slumping top line, the Bruins have hit a low point. A very dangerous point, down 2-1 in Montreal heading into Game 4. A loss on Thursday night would surely be devastating, but the Bruins could avoid a 3-1 hole.
The most important players on the ice for both teams in this series rest between the pipes. The goaltending from the Montreal side of the ice in this series has been phenomenal for the majority of the games, not counting the last ten minutes of Game 2. For Boston, Tuukka Rask has not been awful, but has seen better days. Rask is possibly the best man between the pipes on the planet, but has yet to show Boston that he can win them a Stanley Cup. By the numbers, Rask has been solid in net for the Bruins — .933 save percentage through 8 playoff games this postseason– but he must match the slightly better performances Carey Price has managed to bring to the table throughout the series.
Another glaring problem the Bruins have is defensively, specifically with the breakaways and penalty kill. While Rask probably should have stopped Dale Weiss — a Canadiens’ fourth line grinder — it was a breakdown on the part of Andrej Meszaros and Johnny Boychuk after the blocked shot. The Subban goal was clearly a mental lapse by Hamilton who stepped up on Lars Eller to allow Subban an un-obstructed lane to the net. The Bruins definitely need to prevent breakaways for the remainder of the series as they can be disastrous to any team trying to get back into a game or even a series.
On the penalty kill, the Bruins must eliminate P.K. Subban. That means not only place a player in the shooting lane, but disallow Subban any opportunities to make a play. The Bruins have the ability to play against the Canadiens’ sometimes suspect power play 4-on-3 without Subban. Vanek is their other problem, but without Subban’s threat, he can be contained.
Offensively, getting shots on net will certainly be emphasized. The Canadiens managed 31 blocks on the Bruins in Game 3, and the Bruins hit 2 posts as well. Carey Price is an unbelievable goaltender, and the Bruins are only making it harder to score when they fail to get shots to the net.
While the shots will be key, the Bruins more importantly need their forwards — mainly their top line (specifically Krejci) — to step up. Through 8 games in the playoffs so far, Krejci has 3 points, all assists, and 2 of them have come from assists on empty netters. Krejci’s line has 1 goal during the Montreal series, and it came 6-on-5 in the late seconds of Game 3. The Krejci-Iginla-Lucic line needs to produce for the Bruins to win the series. Two out of the last three years, Krejci has been the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and two out of the last three years the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
If Krejci starts the game the same way he ended on Tuesday night, the Bruins will need to make a change, and move Carl Soderberg to the first line for at least a period to give the Bruins a different look offensively. Maybe even Paille for Iginla or Lucic who have been nearly invisible lately.
Somehow, the Bruins must find a way to win a game in Montreal. If they play well defensively, offensively, and between the pipes, it should be the Bruins and Canadiens returning to Boston tied up in the series 2-2 on Saturday.