BOSTON, MA - It was not the way the Bruins wanted to head into Toronto. But now the series is tied at one game apiece with Boston heading on the road, after falling to the Leafs, 4-2, at TD Garden on Saturday night.
In the Bruins' 4-1 win over Toronto in Game One last Wednesday, they dictated the pace of the game, carried a strong forecheck, showed their physicality. The Bruins were able to cause their own good fortune by creating turnovers and breaking the puck out quickly.
In Boston's Game Two loss, the Leafs' adjusted, came out harder, and created more space. After a strong first period by Tuukka Rask and a 1-0 lead in the second thanks to Nathan Horton's second postseason goal in as many games, the Bruins' mismanagement in their own ended up costing them.
"They were better, there’s no doubt there, and they played a much better game than they did in Game One and we didn’t play quite as well as we did in the first game," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, of his take on Game Two.
"Certainly, they made some adjustments; we were prepared for those kinds of adjustments, but I think our execution wasn’t as good tonight."
The Bruins' best offense comes when their back end is a solid, five-man unit playing hard defensively and quickly pushing the puck up ice.
"The breakdowns that we had defensively were poor breakdowns on our part and we gave them a lot of outnumbered situations. We have to be better defensively, in order to be better offensively. I said that last time. Our team, when it’s good defensively, it creates chances offensively, we turn pucks over and we go on the attack. But tonight, not quite as good as we were in Game One."
The Leafs came with a harder forecheck, but the Bruins were prepared for it. It still caused them some trouble creating outnumbered situations in on Leafs' netminder James Reimer.
"Yeah, we didn’t do a great job of that," said blueliner Wade Redden, who was paired with Dougie Hamilton in his NHL playoff debut for most of the night, though the pairings were often switched for match-ups throughout the game. "I think that’s a big part of getting on the offense, for sure, is getting up the ice. That first pass, we got to be better there."
"They adjusted a little bit," added defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "They put the pucks in areas where they could put pressure on us and we just didn’t. They got us clean. We weren’t as sharp back there and they can make the first pass and they kept turning it over and again we weren’t sharp enough to get a first pass to break up."
"Our gap wasn’t nearly as good as it was in the first game. We gave up way too many rushes, and they just used their chances and they scored goals."
After Horton put the Bruins on the board first, with a net-front goal that deflected in off a skate, Toronto answered with three straight goals, including two from Joffrey Lupul and a breakaway from Phil Kessel, his first ever five-on-five goal against the Bruins.
"No, I think it was more breakdowns, us not getting the puck deep as much, and playing as consistent as we have in the first game," said Seidenberg, when asked if the difference was Toronto doing something different with their attack. "So we have to look at our tape and go from there."
"You can’t give them as much room," added the blueliner, on the way the Leafs scored their goals. "They were flying starting from their zone and we just didn’t have anybody and when guys are pushing into one side where you have a better angle to defend. So they came right up to the middle and had great outside speed and all you can do is try to avoid them going around you or getting a shot off."
"But it’s a five-man unit. We have to be better and go up the ice together and come back to avoid those rushes with some speed."
Seidenberg went on to dissect what had made the Bruins a much stronger team in Game One.
"We were better at angling them off and giving them a side to attack; it's easier for us to cut them off or angle them towards the wall and today we just gave them too much room throughout the middle and too much speed."
"Tonight we, again, as a five man unit, didn't do a good job angling them off and making the room tighter for them. they're a pretty skilled team and they used it to their advantage."
But, as the Bruins have preached throughout much of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, win or loss, it's about staying even-keeled from game to game and not allowing themselves to get too high or too low.
"Well, they were a much hungrier team, and it showed. We know we’ve got to be better," said Captain Zdeno Chara.
"Nobody said it was going to be easy, and we know that we can be a lot better so we’ve just got to get ready for the next game."