By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins could have won Tuesday night’s Game 2 against the Lightning. They could have.
But should they have?
The scoreboard may have shown a close game, but this was a game controlled by Tampa, as evidenced by the 86 Lightning shot attempts compared to Boston’s 54.
Yet even despite that discrepancy in puck possession, the Bruins still could have won this game if they had just capitalized on one of their numerous opportunities and played the defensive game that they’re capable of playing.
On the former point, the Bruins had three Grade-A opportunities in the opening minutes of the second period, with the game tied at 1-1. Patrice Bergeron was denied by Andrei Vasilevskiy on a quick shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle just 1:34 into the second:
A quality look from the Bergeron line: pic.twitter.com/sGM5tBj4at
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 26, 2020
David Krejci opted to shoot on a 3-on-2 moments later, missing the net. Then the best chance came when the top corner of the net was inviting a shot from Chris Wagner, who fired high and missed the net entirely.
The Bruins obviously can’t be expected to finish all of their chances, but in a series this tight, one of those has to find its way past Andrei Vasilevksiy.
Those chances came after an opportunity for Pastrnak in the first period, when he had a half-open net to shoot at but instead fired a shot back toward Vasilevskiy’s body, hitting the netminder in the head late in the first period.
Perhaps in a game where they scored three goals, those missed opportunities wouldn’t stand out so much if not for the defensive breakdowns that led to two Tampa goals.
Certainly, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were not at all prepared for Zach Bogosian to bust out this kind of stickwork to set up Tampa’s first goal:
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) August 25, 2020
And Zdeno Chara and Connor Clifton lost track of Blake Coleman, who made his break for a touchdown pass by Victor Hedman:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 26, 2020
Bruins fans may have yearned for a stop by Jaroslav Halak on that one, but adjusting to a shot with an altered trajectory on a breakaway is not always an achievable task. Halak also made a number of stops off redirects that more or less make up for this one, if it could even be considered a slip.
Of course, some critically clutch play by Brad Marchand, Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly allowed the Bruins to tie the game late, but once the overtime period began, it was all Tampa.
Outside of a 185-foot Pastrnak shot and a Charlie Coyle rush with Nick Ritchie trying to join him, the Bruins had no offensive chances to speak of. The Lightning went into full-on Lightning mode, a problem for the Bruins that was compounded by Boston’s inability to clear the puck out of their own zone.
“Breakout execution,” Bruce Cassidy said when asked how the overtime goal came to be. “You know, second period and overtime line changes you’ve got to be careful. So we got through that, but we had a puck alone behind the net, you know we just rimmed it to nobody, so that needs to be better, and then we recovered on the wall and tried to make a play through the middle and that got picked off, we didn’t get it out. So I just think we need to manage the puck better in those situations. We didn’t, it has cost us at times in the playoffs, but you know it started with the decision to rim the puck when there wasn’t a lot of pressure. It’d be a nice time to put out a fire and make a clean play.”
To be clear (and obvious), beating Tampa isn’t easy — even on a team’s best night. In a seven-game series, the Lightning are going to have their moments.
But for this specific night, the Bruins took a difficult task and made it even more challenging. And a 1-1 series tie instead of a 2-0 lead makes for a pretty significant difference with an unknown goaltending situation for a Game 3 that is set to start not even 24 hours later.