BOSTON (CBS) — The buzzword ever since the Toronto Maple Leafs got the better of the Bruins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Sunday was “matchups.”
While pulling out a 4-2 series-evening win, the Maple Leafs changed four members of their lineup from Game 1 to Game 2, juggled their lines and spotted Phil Kessel on several different lines throughout the 60 minutes in an effort to win the chess match, and eventually the game.
With the series shifted to Toronto, everyone figured the Maple Leafs would continue to win the “matchup” duel. And they might’ve had exactly the personnel they wanted on the ice throughout Game 3, but it didn’t matter. The Bruins excelled in every area of the game and basically flipped over the chessboard and declared victory.
The Bruins prevailed 5-2 and now lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Just look at the ways the Bruins built up their lead. A David Krejci faceoff win led to an Adam McQuaid goal. The Bruins were the best faceoff team in the league during the regular season.
Rich Peverley hit Jake Gardiner on the forecheck and then went to the net, where he scored a goal after a Jaromir Jagr steal. The Bruins pride themselves on being a balanced attacked, and that goal was their first from their oft-criticized third line.
Daniel Paille was one of the leaders of Boston’s dominant penalty kill in the regular season. Although the Bruins’ PK surrendered two goals, Paille helped counteract that with a shorthanded goal.
Milan Lucic used his bulky body to set up a Nathan Horton goal. That type of play has been the cornerstone of the Bruins’ offense for a few years.
And, oh yeah, Tuukka Rask made 46 saves. Everything with the Bruins starts with lights-out goaltending, and they got it.
Phil Kessel scored another goal for Toronto. Who cares? The Bruins used their four-line attack – and you can’t overrate the work of the fourth line during a third-period shift that took the wind out of Toronto’s sails – to grind down the Maple Leafs’ inexperienced and under-talented defensemen. The Bruins’ defensemen limited their mistakes, and Rask was there to cover up.
Sure, the Bruins were able to get some of the matchups they wanted while changing on the fly. But it didn’t really matter. It didn’t matter who was on the ice in a blue sweater; the guys in the white ones with the ‘B’ on their chests played with the type of desperation that wins playoff games.
If the Leafs continue to try to play chess, the Bruins will be wise to continue to crush the pieces on the board and just keep playing “Bruins” hockey.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.