BOSTON — The Bruins may have outshot the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their first round series, 38-33, but Boston failed to muster much together in terms of 5-on-5 scoring chances.
Boston failed to keep Toronto’s forwards chasing and defending, and in turn, mistakes with the puck resulted in opportunities at the other end, which Toronto cashed in a 4-1 win at TD Garden on Thursday night.
The Bruins gave up a number of odd-man rushes, including three breakaways — two of which directly led to Leafs goals in the second period.
Quite simply, mistakes like that cannot happen in the playoffs, and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was quick to point out Boston’s puck management as the key contribution in Game 1’s lackluster performance.
“I think, honestly, if we just manage the puck better it would allow us to play more to our strength and be heavier and win the battles along the walls and that doesn’t come into play as much,” Cassidy said.
“Force them to skate and defend and they get fatigued. Everyone gets fatigued while defending,” he added. “They lose some of their energy to attack, and then forecheck physicality, so our puck management issues cost us in a lot of different areas of the game. Whether it was us or them or a combination of both, you can dissect it anyway you want. It really had an effect on giving them a lot of energy both with their legs and their physicality.”
Toronto did match Boston’s physical play blow for blow, landing 33 hits to the Bruins’ 31. And it’s pretty evident that if the Bruins don’t take care of the puck, that opens up the door for Toronto’s potent attack to do its best work.
Patrice Bergeron also was critical of the Bruins’ play with the puck, and noted two key places on the ice where the B’s have to improve to get back in the series.
“We talked a lot about taking care of the blue lines and you know, playing playoff hockey,” Bergeron said. ” And a lot of that wasn’t done tonight, and too many turnovers. When that happens, you don’t really establish your forecheck or get any rhythm out of it.”
There were a lot of things the Bruins have to improve on as they gear up for Game 2 on Saturday, but it all starts with puck management.