So Much for the New, Improved Boston Bruins

Remember at the end of the regular season when the Boston Bruins promised things would be different in the playoffs? They then attempted to prove themselves by stitching together a pretty great first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But were they able to keep up the good work for the second game of this series? Absolutely not! They lost 4-2 and now the series shifts north all knotted up instead of with a totally doable 2-0 Bruins lead.

Here’s the biggest issue: the Maple Leafs figured out how to play Boston’s game, especially in terms of physicality, and the Bruins couldn’t seem to recognize that for some reason. (In all seriousness, though, did the Bruins not expect this to happen? How did they not make the proper adjustments themselves?) Toronto outhit the home team and, at one point, Tyler Seguin was leading Boston in hits. Again, Seguin was leading Boston in hits. The snakebitten Seguin, who led the team with eight hits and yet couldn’t find the twine on any of them!

Another big issue tonight was that the Bruins couldn’t manage rebounds. James Reimer is a generous guy and gives up huge juicy rebounds on the constant, but the Bruins never seemed to have someone trailing the play, ready to try to clean up the garbage and get a nice dirty goal from it. There were too many fancy attempts–Seguin, I’m looking at you–and not enough willingness to just take advantage of Reimer’s big gaping weakness.

There were also some foolish miscues on defense, including leaving Joffrey Lupul gleefully open and willing when he was in the zone, and if that was all based on Andrew Ference being out, then he apparently needs to be on his absolute tiptop best behavior when he returns. Interestingly, late in the game Dion Phaneuf did the exact same thing to Daniel Paille that got Ference suspended. Just like in Ference’s case, there were no penalties called at the time. If there’s any justice, Phaneuf should get the same punishment, but since he did it to a Bruin, I somehow doubt that it will happen.

The other biggest issue was that it seemed like the Bruins didn’t really care for a while there, Toronto surged to a 3-1 lead, and then midway through the third, they decided to care again. Of course, it was all too little too late, especially in the case of Shawn Thornton‘s fight with half a second remaining in the game.

Both of the Bruins goals tonight, from Nathan Horton and Johnny Boychuk, went to review again. It’s getting kind of old, Toronto war room. But at the same time, there are some guys on the Boston roster who could stand to score as well, guys who haven’t scored in a few games. Gregory Campbell quite nearly cashed in early on in the game, too, and there was a closeup shot of him yelling a naughty word when he was thwarted. At least he tried–you gotta love the Merlot line!

Basically, the Bruins who were there for game one decided to disappear for game two and be replaced with the frustration-inducing inconsistent bunch that they swore they left behind when the regular season ended. Could the good guys come back for game three? It’s going to be in Toronto, where they haven’t seen their team in the postseason for the better part of a decade, so to say the Air Canada Centre will be rocking is an understatement. So, it’s up to the Bruins to figure out if they want to do better, fix their many mistakes and retake the series lead.

Yes, it is just one game, but playoff games are much weightier than regular season games. There is precious little time to make mistakes–pile the flubs up too high and your summer begins a lot sooner than you wanted. Saying there’s not much to worry about because it’s the Leafs is the wrong tack to take as well. If they weren’t a threat, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

This series shifts to Toronto on May 6 and moves from CNBC to NBC Sports Network for fans outside New England.

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