Come on, guys. You’re going to have to do better than that.
One would have expected Lightning coach Jon Cooper to say something like that the day after a 6-2 loss at home in the playoffs, and he did. After a second look at Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Bruins in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals, Cooper expressed disappointment in his players’ lack of intensity, and called on them to savor and attack the challenge they’ve helped create for themselves.
Surprisingly, Bruce Cassidy says the Bruins must improve in Game 2, as well. While the Bruins’ coach stopped short of saying his team got away with something by winning Saturday’s opener, he wasn’t sure the Bruins could win again on Monday night at Amalie Arena (7:05, NBCSN, WBZ-FM 98.5) if they don’t make improvements.
“You look at a 6-2 game and you think it’s one-sided,” Cassidy said after practice on Sunday in Brandon, Florida.
“Clearly it wasn’t. I thought we finished well, got some timely saves, some timely goals. In between, they had the puck a lot.”
The Lightning, in fact, got nearly as many shots through to Tuukka Rask — 36 — as the Bruins attempted (37). The Lightning finished with a whopping 76 attempts, but missed the net 21 times, and had another 21 blocked.
The B’s took a 1-0 lead in the series because, as was the case in Game 1 of their seven-game first-round series against the Maple Leafs, the top line of Brad Marchand (one goal, three assists), Patrice Bergeron (two goals, one assist) and David Pastrnak (four assists) was unstoppable, Tuukka Rask (34 saves) played an excellent game, and the team survived or thrived in crucial moments.
After gradually finding their legs against the better-rested Lightning, who hadn’t played in a week after a five-game first-round win over the Devils, the Bruins lost a Marchand goal that would have made it 3-1 halfway through the second period because of a marginal cross-checking penalty called on Pastrnak. Not only did the B’s kill the penalty, but Pastrnak stepped out of the box to participate in a rush that led to Rick Nash’s second goal of the game just six seconds after the penalty expired.
The Bruins were tested again, immediately. Rookie Jake DeBrusk was penalized for swatting Anton Stralman’s stick out of his hands seconds after the faceoff following Nash’s goal, and the Lightning converted that power play: With Rask frantically, futilely screaming for officials to stop play because the blade had popped out of his left skate, and then hurling the blade in frustration when told Mikhail Sergachev’s goal would stand, the Bruins’ lead was trimmed to 3-2.
But Rask, and the B’s, quickly found their composure. They managed to carry that one-goal lead into the third period, then built on it when Marchand scored at 3:32.
The Bruins couldn’t claim to have carried the play all that much, though. Their ability to convert such a high percentage of their chances (Nash had two goals on two shots; Marchand was 1-for-1, etc.) made the possession numbers moot in terms of the result, but they still had to spend more time defending and trying to get the puck back than they wanted.
“We’ve got to execute when we do have the puck — force them to play defense, get it out and line change,” Cassidy said. “That’s what happened to us a lot. We were tired, and by the time we got the puck back, we were just punting it out and line-changing. And that catches up to you after a while: You’re always defending and chasing.
“At least with the lead, it’s tolerable. When you don’t have it, it’s a tough way to play.”
It’s even tougher to play from behind, though. The Lightning were forced to do so for 43 minutes on Saturday because their defensive play was weak (match-up center Brayden Point was minus-5, the match-up defense pair of Stralman and Ryan McDonagh was minus-4 and minus-3, respectively) and their intensity level low.
“With every round, you have to elevate your game, your intensity, everything,” Cooper said. “We didn’t. We took a step back, and a really good team showed us what happens when you do that.
“We’ll make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”
Published at Mon, 30 Apr 2018 01:16:01 +0000