Boston Bruins fans have felt the heartache of a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs before. Boston goes up two games, loses the third, wins Game 4 and just has to win one of three potential games. This is a timeline that mirrors the 2013 first round.
Boston Bruins Advance With Game 7 Win
Both in 2013 and 2018, the Bruins dropped both Games 5 and 6 to allow the Maple Leafs to force Game 7 in Boston.
In 2013, the Bruins miraculously came back from a 4-1 deficit in Game 7, but this time, the Leafs gave a much different fight.
In this year’s Game 7, the Bruins and Leafs traded goals. For a while, the Leafs had a 4-3 lead that looked like the end of the road for the Bruins. But again, the home team rallied and scored three to pull away with a 6-4 lead. The minutes ticked off and the final buzzer sounded with a 7-4 final score after Brad Marchand tacked on an empty-netter to win and advance to the second round.
Although the Bruins won, they have many aspects of their game that will need to be addressed.
It’s extremely easy to blame goaltender Tuukka Rask for even falling to a Game 7 – and yes, he absolutely should have made some saves that got past him. But the goaltender can’t do much on the score sheet. It is overlooked when it comes to goaltenders that sometimes, the players in front of them aren’t pulling their share of the weight.
Rask played lights-out in Game 4, but his play in the next two games was poor. He struggled a bit but managed to get by in the only elimination game the Bruins had this series. The Finnish goaltender allowed four goals on 24 shots in Game 7.
All series long, Frederik Andersen was the key to the success the Leafs had by making timely stops when the team needed him. The same really cannot be said about Rask in Games 5 and 6 – and parts of Game 7. Fortunately for the Bruins, their offence in Game 7 clicked and they lit the lamp more than Toronto.
All four goals Toronto had in the seventh game can be traced back to a blunder by a Bruins player, but in the playoffs, goaltenders are expected to make timely stops when needed. Going forward, Rask will need to be much better if the Bruins want to escape the second round.
The Bruins did not struggle to put the puck in the back of the net for the first two games. The only problem was, Toronto figured out how to stop the bleeding when it came to the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron for Games 3-6.
Toronto kept those three to just two points in those four games. Taking the top line away meant the other three Bruins lines had to score, but the inexperience caught up to them and the holes in the lines were exposed until Game 7.
By the end of the final game of the series, Pastrnak and Marchand each had two points and Bergeron had three. The very thing that gave Toronto a shot in this series was forgotten by them in the final game.
As the series aged, both started to play more of the role they were expected to. Matthews put up 2 points in Games 3-6, while Marner recorded 6.
The key to Game 7 was silencing those two again, which they did by only allowing Marner to get one point on an assist. Otherwise, the Boston defence shut down two of Toronto’s stars.
What’s Next for Boston
The Bruins escape the first round only to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts beat the New Jersey Devils in five games, so they have had plenty of rest while the watched the Bruins-Leafs series finish.
Fans can keep calling for Rask’s head, but he has been their guy all year. The goaltending will have to strengthen, however. Anton Khudobin will likely only come in if things go bad quickly.
A hidden gem that series was Jake DeBrusk, who treated every shift as his most important one ever and was rewarded with five goals that series, including the series-winner.
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