May 5, 2013

Bruins now the team seeking bounce-back performance

By Jesse Connolly

Bruins d-man Adam McQuaid skates away as Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul celebrate the Leafs' second goal duing the first period of Game 2 at TD Garden. (Getty Images)

Following their 4-1 loss in Game 1, the Toronto Maple Leafs pledged that they had to be better, and with good reason. 

Marred by woeful defense and a lack of execution down the other end of the rink, the Leafs essentially had nowhere to go but up in Game 2. With a performance leaps-and-bounds better than in the series opener, Toronto rebounded with a 4-2 victory, tying their conference quarterfinal matchup up at one game apiece.

Now, it's the Black and Gold looking to make a similar recovery. 

"Certainly weren’t as good," coach Claude Julien said of his team's performance in comparison to Game 1. "They were better, there’s no doubt there, and they played a much better game than they did in Game 1 and we didn’t play quite as well as we did in the first game. Certainly, they made some adjustments; we were prepared for those kinds of adjustments, but I think our execution wasn’t as good tonight. "

Much like the Leafs were in Game 1, the Bruins were plagued by defensive meltdowns, from botched assignments to an abundance of odd-man rushes against.

"The breakdowns that we had defensively were poor breakdowns on our part and we gave them a lot of outnumbered situations," said Julien. "We have to be better defensively, in order to be better offensively. I said that last time. Our team, when it’s good defensively, it creates chances offensively. We turn pucks over and we go on the attack. But tonight, not quite as good as we were in Game 1."

The B's were without veteran defenseman Andrew Ference, who elbowed Mikhail Grabovski early on in Game 1 and was subsequently suspended for Saturday's tilt. His fellow blueliners didn't use his absence and the adjustments they had to make without him as a crutch.

"Not really, because we’ve played with each other throughout the whole year," said Johnny Boychuk, who has a goal in each of the first two games in this series. "We had different partners as the year went on. We do have chemistry with each other no matter who you’re playing with. You just got to talk a lot and talk loud and be the eyes for your partner when he’s going back for the puck."

The fact remains, however, that breaking up the top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg had a noticeable trickle-down effect on the back-end. Couple that with the fact that Leafs coach Randy Carlyle did a better job of getting Phil Kessel on the ice when Chara wasn't, and you've got a pretty good idea of why Toronto was far more potent in the second showdown.

Boston will have that dynamic duo back together for Game 3, but with Monday's clash taking place in Toronto, the Black and Gold will no longer have the pivotal advantage of making the last change, making it easier for Carlyle to keep Kessel's line away from the B's 6-foot-9 captain.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Chara said, following his team missing an opportunity to take a commanding, 2-0 series lead. "We know that we can be a lot better so we’ve just got to get ready for the next game." 

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ