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The Boston Bruins didn’t develop many quality scoring chances against a physical New York Islanders bunch in Game 4 Saturday night. Even when they did, Bruce Cassidy’s squad failed to convert on significant opportunities aside from David Krejci’s second-period power-play marker.
Tuukka Rask did all he could in net to keep Boston’s chances alive. The Bruins battled on without a pair of stout right-shot defensemen in Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. They witnessed two periods’ worth of head-scratching officiating on both sides. And, they hardly found any space to work with against the trap-happy Islanders.
With a hostile Nassau Coliseum crowd cheering them on, the Isles made their 60-minute effort worthwhile. They carried the momentum from a timely penalty kill — following a delay of game penalty after an interference review upheld Krejci’s tally — and never looked back.
Perennial Bruins killer Kyle Palmieri evened things up a mere 2:41 after Krejci’s first of the playoffs. The Isles took that momentum into a final 20 where Mat Barzal netted the go-ahead tally on a batted shot from his ankles with 6:57 left in regulation. Casey Cizikias and Jean-Gabriel Pageau promptly capped off New York’s 4-1 win with a pair of empty-net tallies.
“I thought we were in it until the end, but it just wasn’t our night tonight,” Krejci said afterward. “I don’t want to speak for the other guys, but I definitely didn’t have it today.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins look to find their mojo before a pivotal Game 5 on Monday night.
In a rare 5v5 scoring opportunity for Boston’s potent top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, the latter couldn’t have asked for a better chance to give the Bruins a 1-0 first period lead. With Semyon Varlamov having difficulties tracking the puck, Pastrnak found himself with the largest opening anyone could’ve asked for. His shot hit the post, however, keeping things knotted at 0-0.
“That’s where you know where it might be a tough night for us tonight in terms of getting things to go our way,” Cassidy said. “When your best player hits the post on the open net and he just kind of sits there…it’s probably one of those nights where you’re not getting breaks and you have to go earn them yourself.”
The Bruins eventually netted the game’s opening goal on Krejci’s first of the playoffs. That tally would’ve provided a two-goal cushion had Pastrnak lit the lamp in the first period.
Even with Pastrnak’s blunder, the Bruins failed to establish another building block on an ensuing power play following Krejci’s marker.
After the officials confirmed Krejci’s tally following Barry Trotz’s unsuccessful challenge for goaltender interference, Cassidy trotted out the top power-play unit hoping they’d add another tally. The top man-advantage unit consisting of Krejci, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy failed to establish any extended zone time. The secondary unit of Craig Smith, Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie, and Matt Grzelcyk established their setup in the attacking end but hardly fired any shots toward Varlamov in a rather passive sequence.
Jordan Eberle served the Isles’ bench-minor for delay of game. A minute after leaving the penalty box, he found himself in Boston’s defensive end hoping to set up a scoring sequence. Moments later, a stellar feed from Barzal — on a delayed penalty call — to Palmieri evened things up at 1-1 with Eberle notching the secondary assist.
“Certainly we want to score,” Cassidy said of the power play attempt following Krejci’s tally. “I think the second unit — I was disappointed. They don’t get a lot of time on the power play because of the first unit, but it was a chance for them to step up. No one wanted to shoot the puck. They still practice a lot and we still have certain people who we want to run it through, but every one of them refused to shoot the puck. I mean we had it in the slot, we turned down a shot in the elbow and up top. So it just kills your momentum.”
The Bruins didn’t have a power-play attempt for the final 34 minutes and change following the delay of game minor. At times, they felt like they could’ve had more on a night where the officiating crew failed to call obviously high-sticking violations, cross-checks and other clear infractions.
Cassidy’s bunch witnessed mixed results with the man advantage through the first four games. Yet, they feel they should’ve had more chances to strike on the power play at certain junctures of the series.
The missed opportunities from Pastrnak and Boston’s power-play highlighted the Game 4 loss. And quite frankly, the Bruins hardly matched the Isles’ urgency. No matter who Cassidy trotted out — including a head-scratching decision to play the fourth line of Sean Kuraly, Curtis Lazar and Chris Wagner late in a one-goal deficit — the Bruins looked a step off.
In the thick of things, the head-scratching calls from the officiating crew merely dented the final outcome. After all, Boston’s shorthanded unit killed off both penalties.
Yet, the Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of potential game-changing sequences. Krejci and McAvoy found themselves in the sin-bin following clear infractions for slashing and high-sticking. But those moments came under dubious circumstances.
The first sequence came with Krerjci after he slashed Barzal in the nether regions following a plethora of cross-checks from the talented Isles forward midway through the second period.
McAvoy came next with a clear high-stick to Anthony Beauviller moments after the officiating crew missed the same infraction on Travis Zajac to Jeremy Lauzon. They also ignored Brock Nelson hitting McAvoy from behind moments prior to the latter’s high-sticking minor.
Surely, the officiating crew has stepped aside through the first four games of the series. They’ve avoided the soft penalty calls aside from Carlo’s minor in Game 2 during a post-whistle sequence with Leo Komarov. But they’ve failed to assess the obvious infractions.
“I think the whole playoffs we haven’t gotten very many calls to go our way to put us on the power play,” Cassidy said. “They see what they see and you can’t do anything about it. You hope that comes around, keep playing hard and earn your calls. We’re not going to bitch about it. It is what it is. Hopefully, we start getting the ones that we deserve and take advantage of it.”
The Bruins witnessed a similar situation after Craig Berube’s officiating comments during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Now they hope that this ‘working the officials’ example nets them some favorable calls, especially the obvious ones.
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