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Bruins counting on five players to bounce back

by Corey Masisak /

CHICAGO -- Two years ago, the Boston Bruins returned to the road during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final after two thorough beatings of the Vancouver Canucks that evened the series at two games each.

The 2013 Final has reached the same point -- the Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are tied 2-2 as Game 5 at United Center approaches Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) -- but how the teams got here was different. There have been swings of domination, but they have happened in specific games rather than over the course of two full games like in 2011.

Boston is the team looking to be better in Game 5 this time around after dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to Chicago at TD Garden on Wednesday. There was an extra day to sift through the video and find answers to how the Blackhawks were able to solve the Bruins' typically tight defense.

Now that the series is best-of-3, here are five players the Bruins need to be better if they are going to claim the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons:

Zdeno Chara

The defenseman was consistently fantastic for the Bruins during the 2013 playoffs ... until he was on the ice for five goals against in Game 4. One was a power-play goal, and twice he was the 1 in a 2-on-1 goal for Chicago. It says something about the expectations placed on Chara that it was surprising to see the Blackhawks able to best him in those situations.

Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews was able to get inside position on Chara for the game-winner, preventing Chara from possibly blocking the shot and restricting goalie Tuukka Rask's ability to stretch to his right and make the save on Brent Seabrook's shot. It was the first time Chara ended up with a minus-three rating in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since May 3, 2009, in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He always has come out and has always responded the next game," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said of Chara. "He's our captain and he takes a lot of pride in what he does. Actually, of all the guys I've played with, I don't think there is a guy that takes more pride in himself and how he approaches the game on and off the ice and takes care of himself. I think he's going to be ready come [Saturday]."

David Krejci

Krejci is the leading scorer in the 2013 playoffs by five points -- the same gap between second and 12th. He has three points, all assists, in the Final.

Since the first two goals of the series, both by Lucic set up by Krejci (Nathan Horton helped on one), Boston's top line has been quiet. Krejci and Horton combined to set up Johnny Boychuk's goal to make it 5-5 in Game 4, but the trio hasn't been as consistently strong as it was earlier in the postseason.

Horton reportedly is playing through an injury, and Lucic does have three goals, so the Bruins could use more from Krejci. He was a favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy before this round, and still could be with a strong finish.

"It has been so-so," Krejci said of his line. "I think we had some issues in Chicago. I think we've had some good strong games. Obviously it is not easy to play against their top players. I think it has been so-so. Last game ... we know we can play better."

Brad Marchand

Marchand was one of the stars of the 2011 Final, both by scoring goals and agitating the Canucks with his antics. There hasn't really been much of either from him in this series.

He had a great chance to score late in Game 4, but Marchand remains without a point against the Blackhawks. Jaromir Jagr had a strong Game 3 and two assists in Game 4, so more from the other wing on Boston's second line would help. Marchand had four points in four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, and 11 points in his previous 10 dating to Game 7 of the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs before this mini-slump.

Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 14-6
GAA: 1.83 | SVP: 0.941
Speaking of Conn Smythe favorites, Rask also is on the list of Bruins looking to bounce back from the Game 4 loss. He made 41 saves, including a couple of spectacular ones, in defeat, and most of the six goals were hardly his fault.

The defense needs to better in front of him, but Rask will want to get back to where he was earlier in the series. If he does, he could be the second Boston goaltender to win playoff MVP in three seasons (Tim Thomas).

"Well, every goal is stoppable, but I don't think there was any weak ones, so to speak," Rask said. "Mistakes piled up and I wasn't able to bail our guys out. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. You don't say that 'I should have had it' or 'I shouldn't have had it.' It doesn't make any difference."

Patrice Bergeron

It was a weird Game 4 for Bergeron. He scored twice, helping lead the comeback from 4-2 down, and is tied with Krejci for the team lead with nine goals.

But Bergeron is an elite two-way forward who takes a significant amount of pride in his work in the defensive zone. His play in Game 3 was a masterstroke: winning faceoffs, playing great defense, creating offensive chances.

Game 4 did not work out that way. He still won faceoffs (19 of 34) and had a team-high six shots on net, but he was on the ice for four goals against, including the winner in overtime.

"We had too many breakdowns," Bergeron said. "Like I said, we've looked at it, looked at some things to change. But also, now it is time for Game 5 and we have to forget about it."


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