Game two of the opening round playoff series between the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators became a tale of two periods. Boston looked to grab control of the series with a strong second period, taking a 3-1 lead. With Canadian Tire Center doing its best impression of a mausoleum, Ottawa gut-checked themselves staging an impressive comeback in the third period. What looked like a snoozer going back to Boston became a series again, after a Dion Phaneuf slap shot propelled the Senators to an overtime victory. Now, with momentum back in Ottawa’s locker room, Bruins fans are asking what went wrong. First, let’s take a look at the positives for the Bruins in game two. Most importantly, Boston found ways to penetrate the Senators 1-3-1, sustain pressure in their offensive zone and draw more penalties in a series that’s becoming increasingly chippy. The third and fourth lines continued to contribute and were arguably more effective than the Bruins first two units. Charlie McAvoy continued to impress, and Tuukka Rask played well but found himself a repeated victim of screens and lack of positional discipline by the Bruins defense. The Good 1. The Bruins' forwards effectively navigated the Senators' 1-3-1 trap. The Bruins did see their skill players carry the puck through the neutral zone and maintain control to start the offense more often. Boston’s first goal is a perfect example of the effect of this strategy. Ryan Spooner received a breakout pass near the red line and quickly shoveled the puck to a streaking Joe Morrow. Morrow carried the puck through the neutral zone, making a short pass to Drew Stafford and then taking a heavy hit from an Ottawa defender. Stafford carried the puck deep into the Ottawa zone and generated multiple chances on goal. This deep zone presence and quick passing forced the Senators out of position, and they began running around until the puck eventually deflected to Stafford, who wired the puck to the near side corner for the go-ahead goal. (1:05)
Though the video didn't show it, the Bruins did not simply dump the puck into the Senators zone, allowing Ottawa time to break the puck out without pressure on their defense. In addition, Stafford and Spooner are role-players. The fact the Bruins received secondary scoring is a good sign especially when Boston’s top players are struggling. 2. Capitalizing on mistakes (and powerplays). With a team like the Senators, who rely on a stingy defensive scheme to win games, opportunism plays a big role in defeating them. The Bruins’ second goal, a shorthanded strike, was capitalized on an embarrassing error and may help defeating the 1-3-1 going forward. With less than thirty seconds remaining in a Senators' second-period power play, the Bruins cleared the puck down the ice. Ottawa goalie Chris Anderson came out to play the puck, but with Dominic Moore bearing down on him, Anderson misplayed it. The puck bounced conveniently to the front of the empty net. As Moore, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson scrambled to the front of the net, Tim Schaller beat them all and scored his first career playoff goal. (2:03)
Shorthanded goals are always devastating to an opposing team. Two, fourth line players (albeit on the penalty kill) chipped in to score the goal, another example of secondary scoring. Perhaps the best and least obvious side-effect of this goal is the dent it may put in Craig Anderson’s confidence. With the Senators' trapping strategy, having a goalie than can stop long dump-ins and effectively distribute the puck to his defensemen to start a quick breakout is vital. Anderson’s puckhandling miscue may diminish his confidence and negatively impact the Senators' 1-3-1. Finally, the Bruins scored a power play goal and continued to draw penalties. This trend needs to continue for the Bruins to stand a chance. The Bad Undisciplined penalties are lethal. The Bruins fell victim to a lack of discipline that resulted in two goals. The first, occurring after the Bruins scored the opening goal in the second period, saw Frank Vatrano trip Ryan Dzingel. The young Bruin lunged to try to hit Dzingel, clipping his leg. Even though the penalty call was questionable, Vatrano’s penalty, coming after the Bruins opened the scoring, was poorly timed. Only thirty-seconds into the Vatrano penalty, Clarke MacArthur benefited from some slick Ottawa passing to score is his first goal in over two years. (1:31)
Following that goal, Matt Beleskey continued his poor season committing an undisciplined roughing penalty in addition to the matching roughing penalty Beleskey received from his altercation with Mark Stone. On the Senators second goal, Charlie McAvoy made his first rookie mistake and it cost the Bruins. Just over five minutes into the third period, McAvoy found himself battling for position in front of the net with Zack Smith. Chris Wideman used McAvoy as a screen; just before McAvoy realized that Tuukka Rask couldn’t see around him. Tuukka didn’t stand a chance and the Bruins found their lead cut in half. (2:58)
McAvoy’s contributions have been much bigger than his mistakes, and a rookie is bound to make an error at some point, but the larger issue is the playing time he has been forced into due to the rash of injuries on the Bruins' defense. Until Boston can get healthy on the back end, they risk rookie mistakes from McAvoy. The Senators tying goal stemmed from another young player’s mistake. With twelve minutes remaining, Erik Karlsson put on a skating clinic in the Senators offensive zone and caught a number of Bruins puck-watching, specifically Frank Vatrano. As Karlsson skated past Riley Nash, Vatrano drifted away from his man, Derick Brassard, standing just to Tuukka Rask’s left. Karlsson looked up and found Brassard wide open with the whole net to shoot at, and he did not miss, tying the game at three. (5:10)
Perhaps Vatrano’s inexperience in the playoffs led to this lapse in concentration, but with a skilled player like Erik Karlsson, even the smallest mistake can be deadly.
The Senator’s game-winning goal in overtime resulted from perhaps the most uncharacteristic lapse in judgment from a Bruins player. With 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Zdeno Chara looked to clear his defensive zone with the puck on his stick and no pressure from the Senators' forecheck. Rather than skate the puck or clear it along the ice, Chara launched the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Though the Senators did not score on the ensuing power-play, they did win the game just after the penalty expired with a goal by Dion Phaneuf. (4:18)
Many including Bruins writer Joe Haggerty cited fatigue for Chara’s mistake, and I would tend to agree. Chara should not have to play so many minutes, but due to the aforementioned injuries on defense, he spent nearly half of the game on the ice and his mental error cost Boston the game. For those of you who want to blame Tuukka Rask for the loss, please point out a single goal where he even stood a chance. The first goal was perfectly placed and shot hard. The second goal resulted from a screen in front, and the third goal found a Senators player standing wide open with the whole net to shoot at. Finally, the game winning goal resulted from another screen. As was the case during the regular season, Tuukka fell victim to a weak and undisciplined defense. Going forward, the Bruins top players need to have a bigger impact. Though Pasternak and Marchand have notched goals and assists in the series, they’re passing has been off, and it seems their chemistry with Patrice Bergeron has suffered. Both Marchand and Pasternak have squandered a number of scoring opportunities. David Backes has been a ghost as well. Only Patrice Bergeron has played up to his usual potential. The Bruins have a stronger offense than Ottawa but their best players have to be more effective. Game three is Monday at 7 pm Eastern.