Game 3 takeaways: Bruins' blue line depth a major concern despite win


The Boston Bruins took a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders with a 2-1 overtime win Thursday night in Game 3 at Nassau Coliseum. 

The B's were the better team for the third consecutive game and held the advantage in shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances at 5-on-5. The only reason why the score was 1-0 B's for most of regulation was the impressive play of Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made a game-high 39 saves.

The Islanders forced overtime with Mathew Barzal's third-period goal -- his first tally of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Brad Marchand secured the victory for Boston with a goal just 3:36 into the overtime period. It was his second overtime goal of the postseason.

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Here are three takeaways from Game 3. 

1) Blue line depth a huge concern for B's

The Bruins' badly needed an early overtime goal Thursday because their depth on the blue line is once again a major concern.

It was already an issue entering Game 3, and the situation became even worse for Boston in the third period when Brandon Carlo took a hard (but clean) hit from Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck along the end boards.

Carlo looked a bit dazed after the hit and took a knee on the ice for a short while before eventually getting to the bench. He has suffered multiple concussions in his five-year career, including one in February on a high hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson.  

Carlo didn't return to Game 3, which left the B's with just five defensemen for most of the third period and all of overtime. Charlie McAvoy shouldered a lot of the burden with some lengthy shifts, including one in overtime when he assisted on Marchand's game-winner.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win that Carlo told him he was "feeling pretty good." Cassidy didn't have a further update beyond that and wouldn't give a definitive answer on the veteran defenseman's status for Game 4 on Saturday night.

If Carlo misses any further time in this series, it would be a very bad development for the Bruins. Carlo is one of the team's best shutdown defenseman and plays a key role on the penalty kill. Mike Reilly and Carlo have formed an excellent second pairing for Boston since the April 12 NHL trade deadline.

The Bruins already are without veteran defenseman Kevan Miller, who hasn't played since taking a high hit from Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov in Game 4 of the first round. Miller is skating again but didn't travel to New York and won't play in Game 4 against the Islanders. 

If Carlo can't play Saturday night, the next man up for the Bruins probably would be Jarred Tinordi. Jakub Zboril is battling an upper body injury and rookie Urho Vaakanainen is not yet ready for a playoff environment. Tinordi played in Game 5 of the first round after Miller's injury, and then he came out of the lineup when Lauzon returned for Round 2.

It goes without saying that having Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon and Tinordi as half of your blue line would be far from ideal at this stage of the season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, it might be a reality depending on Carlo's status over the next few days.

2) Bruins' second line shines

The Bruins' second line of Taylor Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith was whole again in Game 3, and it didn't take long for this trio to make an impact offensively.

Smith left Game 1 of the series with a lower body injury and missed Game 2 as a result. He returned to the lineup Thursday and opened the scoring with a goal 5:52 into the first period.

The chances of Jake DeBrusk capitalizing on that scoring chance in the first period would have been much lower. Smith is a better scorer and puts a lot more pucks on net. The second line is more aggressive offensively and wins more puck battles when Smith is in that right wing spot as opposed to DeBrusk or Karson Kuhlman.

Hall also did a tremendous job in the buildup to Smith's goal by stealing the puck from Islanders center Mathew Barzal with a brilliant backcheck. Hall got the puck back on the ensuing rush up the ice and picked up the primary assist on Smith's tally with a pretty pass.

Overall, the ice was tilted pretty heavily in Boston's favor when its No. 2 line was on the ice. The Bruins held a 13-5 advantage in shot attempts, a 10-0 lead in shots and a 6-4 edge in scoring chances (3-0 in high danger chances) during the second line's 12:15 of 5-on-5 ice time.

On a night where the Bruins' red-hot first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak was pretty quiet offensively in regulation, it was Boston's second line that picked up the slack and provided enough offense to help secure a pivotal Game 3 win.

3) Both goalies played great

Tuukka Rask gave one of his best performances of the playoffs in Game 3, and it came at the perfect time because Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov was just as good until the overtime period.

Rask made 28 saves on 29 shots, including two fantastic stops in a manner of seconds early in OT that kept the B's in the game.

The only goal Rask gave up came with 5:26 left in the third period when Barzal took three whacks at the puck before finally pushing it over the goal line. Bruins defensemen were nowhere to be found.

Semyon Varlamov made some tremendous saves, too, including excellent stops on both David Krejci and Nick Ritchie late in the second period with the Islanders trailing 1-0. 

The goal Varlamov gave up in overtime to Brad Marchand was pretty weak, though. He has to make a save on this shot attempt: 

The Bruins had 33 scoring chances and nine high-danger chances during 5-on-5 action and Varlamov thwarted all but two of them. Varlamov has played pretty well since getting his job back from Ilya Sorokin after Game 1, and he proved in Game 3 that New York's net should be his alone unless an injury prevents him from playing. He gives the Islanders the best chance to win this series.

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