Bruins have been outplayed, but they're still better than Maple Leafs


Three-game series. Winner-take-all. This is why you want home ice. Blah blah blah

Here's the rub: The Bruins are better than the Leafs, but they haven't been the better team this series. Were it not for spurts of scoring in between Toronto's lengthy sessions of peppering Tuukka Rask, the Bruins would be on the brink of elimination. Hockey's a funny game, though; the better team can be outplayed and still win. 

Despite the Bruins jumping out to a two-goal lead in Game 4 and eventually having a three-goal lead in the third period, they had little business winning that game. They had one good line (the top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Danton Heinen) and one good defensive pair (the top pair of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy). The power play came through, as did David Pastrnak when Bruce Cassidy took advantage of a Toronto icing by throwing No. 88 out there with Bergeron and Marchand. 

But where the aforementioned players held their own, others merely held on. According to, Toronto had 47 scoring chances — second-most by any team this postseason — in Game 4. Boston had 26. Here's the breakdown for the series in all situations, with even-strength chances in parentheses: 

Tuukka Rask gave up a terrible goal to the very much not-back Auston Matthews Wednesday, but look at that figure. If Rask were actually playing substandard, this wouldn't be much of a series at all. It would be 3-1 and Toronto fans would be fainting at the realization that their team was actually accomplishing something. 

That's not what's happening, however, and Rask has played to a .921 save percentage. That isn't the .928 it would be if he made a routine save off Matthews in Game 4, but it's solid. It ranks sixth among the 16 starters this postseason. 

So the goalie hasn't been bad. The original iteration of the Bergeron line was more dormant than bad before being broken up (the only game of the first three in which it didn't carry possession was Game 2, which the Bruins won) and David Krejci has at points been the Bruins' best player. Charlie Coyle has served his purpose in actually giving the Bruins a third line. The fourth line couldn't get Sean Kuraly (game-time decision for Game 5) back soon enough. 

So now the series heads back to Boston, where Bruce Cassidy can see to it that Pastrnak is freed from Jake Muzzin, as he was in Game 4 with the top-six jumbled. Game 5 is where the loss of Nazem Kadri should theoretically hurt the Leafs the most it has so far, as Boston can control the matchups and pick on what it deems to be weaker lines. Then again, it would be hard to call any of Toronto's lines "weak" given the team's offensive domination in Game 4. 

As such, Cassidy should keep Pastrnak and Krejci together. On one hand, it will leave either Marchand or Pastrnak to play unencumbered by Toronto's top D pair. On the other, it provides more balance against a team that on paper shouldn't have depth in its favor. The swing of the series going back to Boston, plus Boston potentially having a fourth line could move the needle back in the Bruins' favor. 

If the Bruins are to beat Columbus in the next round, they'll need long trips to the offensive zone with sustained pressure. Hanging on for dear life around No. 40 is a much harder path.

Now would be a nice time to correct the course. 

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