The Bruins were not able to take two wins in the first two games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Ottawa Senators.
In Game 1, strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask (26 saves, one goal allowed) and timely offensive play late in the third period from wingers Frank Vatrano and Brad Marchand allowed Boston a reassuring come from behind victory. Rookie Charlie McAvoy looked strong in his NHL debut (24:11 TOI), keeping the defensive group calm without the presence of Brandon Carlo or Torey Krug, two defensemen the team really relies on.
Game 2 exposed some of Boston’s weaknesses while thinning the defense even further through injury. Rask was perhaps not as sharp as he could have been (25 saves on 29 shots), but only one of the Senator’s goals that game could realistically be blamed on him. Chris Wideman’s third-period goal that brought within one goal of tying the game was a floater that Rask simply missed. Two were well-executed passing plays and the overtime goal was the result of an unfortunate Charlie McAvoy screen on his own goalie.
Adam McQuaid left Game 2 with an injury after playing less than three minutes of ice time. Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Kevan Miller all found themselves on the ice for 25+ minutes on Saturday, a fact that poses a problem for all three players. Chara, while capable of playing big minutes still, needs to rest so he is not burnt out late in this series or further down the road in the playoffs. McAvoy, as highly touted as he is, is still a 19-year-old with now only two games of NHL experience. Kevan Miller is a capable defenseman when his time on ice is limited- force him to play more and eventually, mistakes will happen.
Losing Game 2 certainly was not the end of the world for the Bruins. Provided they play a strong Game 3, it’s still a very winnable series. Their problem at the moment is health. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo are key components of Boston’s defense- without Krug, specifically, Chara is forced to play higher minutes. Krug’s offensive ability on the blue line is an important counter to that of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who can impose his will on the game singlehandedly. Carlo would bring excellent depth on the right side for Boston once he returns, splitting time with Charlie McAvoy. If Adam McQuaid and Colin Miller are out too, then we might see Tommy Cross or Matt Grzelcyk join the team from Providence. It’s not ideal.
David Krejci, too, needs to return to the lineup as soon as possible. The man is a proven playoff hero, leading the Stanley Cup playoffs in points both in 2011 and 2013. Without him to center the second line, Boston’s forward group isn’t much to worry about beyond the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line. Ryan Spooner has been capable of filling a Krejci-lite role in the past, but the Bruins’ bottom two lines are much scarier with Spooner in that role rather than Dominic Moore and Sean Kuraly.
The Bruins are a better team than the Ottawa Senators on paper and when healthy. While Krug, Carlo, and Krejci may not be ready to go on Monday, fourth liner Noel Acciari may return to the lineup, adding some depth options over Kuraly or Beleskey. It’s not imperative that these players return by Game 3, but the Bruins certainly need at least one for Game 4, so as not to give Ottawa a chance to run away with this series.