The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 in game seven to move on for the second straight year. However, this year the Bruins will be facing the Columbus Blue Jackets. A big part of this series win was due to Brad Marchand and his line. They were a key part in Boston climbing back into the series and winning it.
Brad Marchand and Line
After game three, the biggest storyline was how John Tavares and his line of Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman had shut down the Boston top line. Between Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, they had just three goals and six total points. Only one of those goals coming at 5 on 5. Since that time, the three have combined for six goals and 14 points in the following four games.
The difference was one of the bigger things that helped the Bruins win games 4, 6, and 7. Brad Marchand was held pointless in game 7, but he and his line helped to play to even in the game. This line was one that dominated last year and with the suspension of Nazem Kadri affecting the Leafs depth, they still stepped up in a big way. Along with some help from said depth scoring, the Bruins ended up being too much too handle for the Leafs.
The goaltending battle was a pretty good one in this series. Tuukka Rask finished with a .928 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. He also finished with a 2.44GSAA which ranks him in the top half of playoff goalies for advanced metrics. He didn’t have to steal a series for Boston to win, but he did have to play well. This is exactly what he did. Early on there were a few slip-ups but the team didn’t help out much either.
In game 7 when he needed to be big, however, he was just that. Rask finished with 32 stops on 33 shots to get the win. The Leafs came after him with everything they had in the third when down by just a goal. Overall, Rask stayed steady as he had been for most of the series.
On the other side of things was Frederik Andersen. Andersen had a very solid series with a .925 save percentage and 2.70GAA through six games. He also faced lots of high-quality shots in those first six games which led to some huge saves. His GSAA was a 2.43 which ranked 4th best at the time.
Even when the Leafs lost Andersen did what he could to keep them in it. However, game 7 is one he will be wishing he forgot. While he only let in 3 goals on 30 shots, the way the goals went in was tough. He let one in that snuck right through him and another that was a shot from the top of the circle he should have had. It was a nice shot, however, Andersen has made that save many times before. While Andersen wasn’t the reason the Leafs lost there is no doubt his great series could be forgotten from a rough game 7.
Nordstrom finds some space between the glove and the leg. Bruins get the first goal. 1-0. pic.twitter.com/e44LOQMFVn
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 23, 2019
Many Leaf fans have come out disappointed in their coach. Bruins fans on the other hand likely won’t be complaining too much about Bruce Cassidy. As mentioned before, Cassidy decided to stick with the Brad Marchand line and it worked. He also managed to get guys like Marcus Johansson and Sean Kuraly going to score some big goals. Boston seemed tactically ready for Toronto again.
While this wasn’t the same Toronto team that couldn’t make a breakout pass to save their lives on the right side last year, they had some consistent flaws. Toronto loved the stretch pass and Boston did a solid job of taking that option away a lot of the time. As well, they figured out what Toronto liked to do in their own end. The second Bruins goal came from reading a pass Jake Gardiner was making. A pass that wasn’t the first of the game, let alone of the series, of that kind.
The Bruins by no means dominated this series coaching, however, their play was not affected by it. One of the biggest differences in coaching was usage. Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie McAvoy were used heavily. So were the big guns of Boston. Those three defencemen played over 23 minutes each for the biggest games. The top line of Boston played over 18 minutes each. Riding their top guys was the way they went and it worked out. In game 7 the line of Jake Debrusk, David Krejci, and Danton Heinen also took on large minutes. The top six was going all out for Boston.
Mike Babcock on the other hand, took a bit more spread out approach. Many Leaf fans were mad at the usage of the bottom six and lack of usage in other players. Babcock mentioned the Kadri suspension hurt the depth because they were not allowed to move around William Nylander. While this may have some truth to it, there was a frightening lack of change in games six and seven when the Leafs were down.
Patrick Marleau played 17:06 and 14:35 in games 6 and 7. In both games, he was also out there when the Leafs were desperately trying to chase a goal. Both these cases, fans pointed out that maybe he wasn’t the best option. In game 7 Frederik Gauthier played a playoff-high 8:23, while Auston Matthews got a tad over 18 minutes. Many thought Matthews or Tavares could have benefited from some of Gauthier’s minutes.
At the end of the day, the Kadri suspension should not be overlooked. However, Babcock also probably could have played his hand a bit different. It is always interesting to think how much different the series would have ended up if the Leafs could have used Nylander on the wings. Babcock decided to mostly stick with his lines and outside of Morgan Rielly who was a workhorse in game 7, decided to try and spread the ice time out a bit.
Overall, this was a very close series. Game 7 was fitting as this could have gone either way. At the end of the day, it was some coaching adjustments, a suspension and big games from the Brad Marchand line that swung it. The Leafs will be disappointed, however, need to remember this Boston team is a very strong one.
The Leafs will now look ahead to a very big offseason with lots of decisions and moves to make. While the Boston Bruins look to focus on the very well rested Columbus Blue Jackets in what should be another very good series.