BEDFORD, Mass. -- Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said after a Game 3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Second Round that he believed, at some point, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky would crack. He doubled down on the sentiment before Game 4.
Apparently, he was on to something.
Or, at least, the Bruins were able to figure out themselves and their opponent enough to up their production and put pucks past the sometimes-otherworldly goalie in the games since. After scoring a combined six goals in the first three games, Boston has scored four goals in each of the past two against Bobrovsky, both wins, to put it one victory from the Eastern Conference Final.
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That's where the Bruins stand heading to Columbus, leading the best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 at Nationwide Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
"We're scoring goals, I think, because we're taking more shots in certain areas at Bobrovsky where we feel there can be some second chances, or there's some holes," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "[Goaltending coach Bob Essensa] charts a lot of that stuff and even in a short sample supply, I think it's starting to go our way, in that regard. He's still making some outstanding saves. He's athletic, he gets across in a hurry, so we've got to make sure if you're going to take that shot, it's in a hurry or it's up."
But it's not only that.
"I just think our mindset has been a little better, in terms of getting there," Cassidy continued. "How we attack their D -- their D have sagged a lot -- so how can we get inside and get a shot with traffic and a guy going to the net? There's different tactics for that and I think the last two games we've identified a few that have helped us."
Forward Charlie Coyle pointed to the goal scored by Brad Marchand in Game 5 on Saturday, off a rebound, as an example of what the Bruins are doing better against the Blue Jackets. They've been able to get there for the rebound opportunity, to put that pressure on Bobrovsky and the defense, something that Carlo had also mentioned back when he made the initial comment.
"He's a great goalie," Coyle said. "He's come up huge on a number of occasions and with a good goalie like that, you want to take away his eyes and make sure you just, second, third, fourth effort, it's usually not that first one that goes in."
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It's an area where the Bruins have picked up their effort, with players like Jake DeBrusk's push into the net for their only goal in Game 3. DeBrusk's shot coming in on Bobrovsky was supported by two other teammates, all of them trying to clog the crease, to create havoc, to make good on a second chance, if Bobrovsky had given one up.
But Marchand's goal was an even better example. Bobrovsky made the first save, batting away a chance with his glove, only to see Marchand get the puck back and put it in almost the same spot he had the first time, up high on his glove side. By then, though, Bobrovsky was no longer able or in position to make the save.
The goal counted.
"He made a great save, pushed it back to him, then rebound and so it's going to be those type of goals, I think, just going to the net," Coyle said. "We had a couple pretty 3-on-2s, I think that winning goal, those are nice. But I think the more we get to the net, take that puck to the net, not stay outside on the perimeter and let him see shots, he's going to stop most of those."
Certainly, having some of those goals come from Boston's top line -- including three from David Pastrnak, two from Patrice Bergeron and one from Marchand in the past two games -- is always going to bolster their confidence, especially for a team that has relied on its top line as much as the Bruins have.
But so is simply scoring goals.
"When you play against a goalie of his caliber and how good he is, and he comes up huge and you can't seem to figure him out early on, whatever the case is, you keep at it," Coyle said. "You know it's going to come. We've seen it before against him. We've just got to push a little harder, that's all. You can't get too frustrated. You stay with it. You play good defensively on our end, and then we'll get more chances to crack him. We got that chance and we did it. We're capable of it, we know we are."
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The hope is that continues, that they continue to figure out Bobrovsky, that they continue to use the insights and knowledge they have gleaned from the first five games when they attempt to earn the hardest win of any series.
Because even though the Bruins heard Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella's prediction that they would be back in Boston for Game 7 on Wednesday, they'd be very happy to prove him wrong and close it out in Game 6. A victory will send the Bruins to their first Eastern Conference Final since 2013, when they lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks.
"It's a great opportunity," Coyle said. "They're going to have their best game. Their backs are against the wall. They're playing at home. They're going to have a lot of energy and come out hard, so we've got to do the same. We've just got to continue to play our game. I still don't think we've played our best game yet."
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