BOSTON — Secondary scoring is a must-have in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it has eluded the Boston Bruins in the last two games of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The B?s only scored once in Wednesday night?s 4-1 Game 3 loss to the Lightning at TD Garden, and that was a power-play goal by Patrice Bergeron in the first period.
Despite leading the Bruins for all but 1:47 of the game, the Lightning still managed to out-shoot the B?s in the first and second periods and tie them over the final period.
Boston?s first two lines were able to possess the puck and create enough scoring chances to threaten Tampa Bay?s lead. The issue for the Bruins was the bottom-six, and the third line of Danton Heinen, Riley Nash and David Backes, in particular.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked if the third line could get better without personnel changes, and he admitted there are players who sat in the press box for Game 3 who could provide a spark if a lineup change(s) is made entering Game 4.
“Well, that?s a good question. I am concerned, and we always, look ? we?ve got some guys that weren?t dressed (Wednesday night) that have played well for this team,” Cassidy said.
“So, we?ll have that conversation (Thursday). I think it?s easier to do the next morning than immediately after the game. Some guys have had a tough time that we need ? whether they stay in or not. If they stay in, obviously, they need to be better. A lot of discussion (Tuesday) ? the question centered around secondary scoring.
“That matters, but, if you?re not bringing that, we?ve talked about this. You don?t have your A-game, so to speak, bring your B-game. Well, you?ve got to defend better, and that?s where my issue lies. You need to bring something else to the table, and then eventually the scoring will come, or if you?re a guy that?s scored in this league. I believe that. I think that?s where, fundamentally, we?re missing out on some of the players we rely on.”
The third line hasn?t found the back of the net through the first three games of this series, and just putting pucks on net has been a challenge. Nash had two shots on goal in Game 3, while Backes and Heinen both had zero. Nash was held without a shot in the first two games. Backes has four shots in the series and Heinen?s only shot on net came in Game 1.
“I don?t think we have a goal in this series, so it?s been one of those things where it?s just kind of a battle right now,” Nash said.
“You have to keep trying to do the right things. I don?t think we?re getting the chances that we had late in the season. So I think it starts there, you start getting a little more chances, a little more zone time and you know, once one goes in for you and you start to feel a little bit better about yourself and your confidence grows, then maybe a couple more follow. But I think it starts with the work in their zone, behind their D, and just holding on to pucks and making them defend.”
The Bruins do have options if Cassidy elects to make a lineup change.
Rookie forward Ryan Donato is the most offensively skilled player who was a healthy scratch Wednesday. Donato hasn?t played since Game 2 of the first round ? his only playoff appearance ? but he did tally nine points in 12 regular-season games after joining the Bruins once his junior season at Harvard ended.
Donato has the speed, playmaking ability and shot to make a positive impact for a bottom-six forward group desperate for goals. The concerns are his lack of experience and if he can defend well enough against a highly skilled Lightning team ? not an easy task for a rookie.
Regardless if Donato enters the lineup for Game 4, something has to be done to generate more scoring chances. The Bruins can?t rely on their top two lines to eliminate a Lightning team that rolls four good lines and led the NHL in scoring this season.