The Bruins should have something to hang their heads about, and get a little angry over now.
After dropping Game 5 on the TD Garden ice by a 2-1 score in a performance the Bruins seemed barely into until 30 minutes of the game had gone by, it becomes a pretty simple proposition: Boston has nobody but themselves to blame for allowing things to get away from them. The Black and Gold weren’t ready to roll out of the starting gate in an elimination playoff game that could have given them multiple days of rest had they been victorious, and never really toiled hard enough to deserve a win against a Toronto hockey club playing for their postseason lives.
The defeat dropped the Bruins to 3-7 in non-Game 7 elimination games under the tutelage of head coach Claude Julien, and once more gives the Maple Leafs life as the teams head back to Toronto for Game 6 on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre. It would be nice if just once the Bruins opted for the road more easily traveled by in these situations, but that’s clearly not the Boston modus operandi.
“If you have the killer instinct going in then you always say it shouldn’t be, but we just didn’t have that tonight. That’s why we performed the way we did in the first half of the game,” said Dennis Seidenberg. “It seems like we don't ever like things the easy way. We always need things tight, and we always have to work for it.”
The Bruins were clearly bailed out by Tuukka Rask in the first period as he made 19 saves to keep it a scoreless game, but all it took was two mistakes to doom Boston in a textbook road game from the Leafs. Andrew Ference was subbing for Wade Redden at the point on Boston’s power play in the first period, and he fumbled away a puck at the blue line that Tyler Bozak turned into a shorthanded breakaway goal.
Another turnover in the third period on a poorly executed Johnny Boychuk breakout pass off the boards turned into a Clarke MacArthur goal when Nathan Horton showed little urgency to receive the original pass, or put a stop to MacArthur coming into the offensive zone once the turnover was made.
So the Maple Leafs had two unassisted goals solely off the backs of Bruins turnovers, and the Bruins had nobody to blame but themselves while preparing for the trip back to Ontario this weekend. It’s pretty clear that a favored team like the Bruins might have some difficulty generating desperation if it’s the other team scrambling with their season on the brink.
But that’s no reason to be tardy showing up for a Stanley Cup playoff game, and similarly there’s no excuse for the no shows authored by Brad Marchand (zero shots in 16 plus minutes) and Nathan Horton (one hit and one shot in 20:43 of ice time) and it once again calls into question the Black and Gold’s willingness to step on their opponent’s throat.
“The killer instinct for me would be to play three periods like we did in the third period. We’re very capable of doing that. This morning’s skate we had good legs, and we had lots of energy,” said Claude Julien. “So there’s no reason for our team not to have that to start the game, which we didn’t.
“This is something that we have to take the blame for, it’s of our own doing. They were a desperate team, it showed at the beginning of the game and we were down 2-0 and, all of a sudden, we became the desperate team. Hopefully it doesn’t take the score to make a team desperate, and that’s what we have to understand.”
Forget about experience, forget about what happened with the Bruins two years ago in the playoffs, and forget about the epic overtime tilt between the two Original Six rivals on Wednesday night.
None of it will matter until the Bruins decide once and for all to put their foot down, and squash an opponent that’s been beginning to gather confidence and hope that they might have a chance.