After gutting out a tough win in overtime on Wednesday night, one might have thought that those pesky questions about the Boston Bruins mental toughness would die down. With game five in the books, it appears as though those questions will now come bubbling back to the surface. In game five the Leaf’s brought the same kind of energy that they brought in game four, except this time, Boston wasn’t able to climb out of the two goal hole that they dug themselves in the second period.
Beating a team three games in a row is difficult, especially when their season is on the line, but for the Bruins to squander their second home game of the series as well as another terrific performance for goalie Tuukka Rask was frustrating to say the least. As the Bruins should know from their failure in 2010 and their success 2011, nothing is going to take care of itself in the NHL playoffs.
If game four was all about the goal scoring, then game five was highlighted by outstanding play from both goalies. So far in this series, Tuukka Rask has been everything you could have hoped for as a Bruins fan. He has played calm, focused, and above all else, he has made dozens of timely saves when Boston has needed it most.
In this game, the Bruins backstop faced thirty-three shots, and stopped thirty-one. What was really amazing was that Rask faced eighteen of those thirty-three shots in the first period. Watching the Leaf’s feed off of their crowd in game four was one thing, but seeing the Bruins plod about their home rink for at least two thirds of the game brought back memories of the team’s incredulous mishaps in the regular season.
Not to be outdone, Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer finally played the type of game that Toronto has needed in this series. Reimer has been very inconsistent up to this point, and has admittedly had trouble controlling his rebounds. The Bruins had done a good job of taking advantage of that fact, but until the third period, the lack of urgency on the part of Boston negated one of their biggest advantages.
For this game, Reimer deserves a lot of credit for stopping the Bruins when they woke up early in the third period. Stopping nineteen shots in a single period, many of which were quality is impressive, especially when the ice probably felt slanted in your general direction.
The problem for the Bruins is that Reimer has already shown he is not cut from the same cloth as goalies such goalies that have taken over in years past (Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick most recently). As this game proved, Reimer has the skills, but a team that was as offensively challenged as Boston was in the regular season, Reimer’s habit of letting in three or four soft goals has been a welcome relief.
Thus far the Bruins have found a multitude of ways to score, whether it be the powerplay, second chances off rebounds, or their own natural skill. Goalies in the NHL all have the ability to steal game’s, but there is no way the Bruins should allow Reimer to believe that he can steal an entire series from a more talented team.
In a way, the Bruins problems scoring on the Leafs goalie is a microcosm of what’s wrong with them as a team. Whether it is their lack physicality, their ability to bring offensive pressure, or their inability to clear the puck out of their own zone, the Bruins woes all stem from a contagious lack of focus. Even in a lockout shortened season the B’s played enough bad teams that losses like this one would be easy to overcome.
In the playoffs however, taking a win for granted won’t get you anywhere. Yes, the Bruins ran into a hot goalie, but teams that are legitimately vying for the Cup are, for the most part, all going to have strong goaltending.
Instead of meeting the challenge provided by Toronto, the Bruins thought they could rely on their superior talent and home ice advantage to serve as an equalizer to anything that the Leafs brought to the table. In short, the Bruins got lazy.
What’s even more exasperating than the game itself, is that Boston should know better. For a team that has an intimate knowledge how much hard work goes into winning a Stanley Cup, the majority of it’s players have spent two years forgetting what made them successful in the first place.
The two most essential elements for that team and this one are outstanding goaltending and hard work. In this series, they’ve gotten the goaltending, so where has that hard work been exactly? Maybe the players got caught looking ahead to a few days off, but if the Bruins can’t beat the Leafs the right way and channel some more mental toughness, then it won’t matter who they face in the second round.
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