BOSTON — Quality scoring chances often are hard to produce in the Stanley Cup playoffs, so if you don’t capitalize on them, it’s going to be difficult to advance very far.
The Boston Bruins are living proof of that after being shut out 1-0 in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Soon after the Senators broke a scoreless tie at 5:49 of the third period with a Bobby Ryan goal, the Bruins went 12:58 without a shot on net. Ottawa closed up the neutral zone, sat back, and made it very difficult for the B’s to gain a clean entry to the attacking zone.
Even with the Bruins staring at a 3-1 series deficit, they couldn’t find one goal to extend the game and potentially even the series. Five shots on net in the final 20 minutes wasn’t enough.
“They’re a good shot-blocking team.” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “They like to get in lanes, they like to come up to the point and make it hard for you to get a direct shot, and their (defensemen) like to step in front of pucks. It’s not going to be easy to get pucks to the net, but you try, and we did there on one and it gets called back (for offsides). But we’ve got to do a lot more of that to find some success and find the back of the net against this team.”
The Bruins had good scoring chances early. Brad Marchand, in particular, had two breakaway opportunities in the first period but Senators goalie Craig Anderson denied him each time.
The Bruins also had a 3-on-1 rush late in the first period that Ryan Spooner couldn’t finish on a shot from the slot. These missed chances came back to bite the Bruins.
“In the first period when we did have our ice and we did have opportunities, we weren’t able to bury them,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Sometimes with a team like Ottawa, or any team, if you get a lead the game opens up a bit and some of those opportunities are a little easier to get through there.”
The Bruins’ first line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes combined for 12 shots on goal. No other Boston forward had more than one SOG. The top line also was the only trio that drove puck possession above 50 percent at 5-on-5.
It’s hard to beat a well-structured team that traps in the neutral zone like the Senators when only one line is a threat offensively.
Here’s a look at the shot production from the second, third and fourth lines. The lack of attempts that hit the target is worrisome.
The first line should continue to produce scoring chances for Boston. In the regular season, Marchand scored 39 goals and finished top five in the NHL in scoring, while Bergeron scored 21 of his own. Backes added 17 goals.
The concern is the rest of the group.
Krejci still doesn’t look 100 percent after missing the first two games of the series with an upper body injury and is scoreless in two games. Spooner just has a pair of power-play assists. That’s zero even-strength points from two of the Bruins’ top three centers.
Stafford, Vatrano, Schaller and Acciari all have one goal and are averaging less than two SOG per game. Nash and Moore each have zero goals.
The Bruins need a much more balanced effort offensively from their forwards in Game 5 or their season likely will end Friday night. Relying on one line to provide the majority of the offense isn’t a recipe for playoff success.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images