NHL playoffs: Bruins need to create more offense


Nick Ritchie, Craig Anderson, Brenden Dillo

Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie tumbles over Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson after a shove from defenseman Brenden Dillon during Game 1 of their East Division playoff series Saturday night in Washington. The Capitals won in overtime, 3-2. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

If the Boston Bruins don’t want to return to Boston on Wednesday in an 0-2 series hole against the Washington Capitals, they have to do more in the offensive zone than they did on Saturday in their 3-2 overtime loss.

That much is obvious, no matter who is in goal for the Capitals. They clearly did not do enough to keep the 39-year-old Craig Anderson from becoming a made-for-NBC feel-good story.

If they are to generate more, the Bruins not only have to show a little more will, they need to use their noggin to exploit what the Caps might give them, explained Coach Bruce Cassidy.

“It’s the spacing in the offensive zone as well,” said Cassidy on Sunday. “If you can pull them away from their net, they play man-to-man. That can work as well if the D get moving and they’re active and you’re making good decisions with the puck. Then you’ll get some slot chances, which we scored a lot on this year.

“It’s not all about bull-rushing toward the net. There’s a time and a place for that. You’ve got to get there. But if you also use your skill and speed and move pucks around, find their pockets of open space, then you’re going to get some better looks that way. We’ve just gotta find a better balance. See what’s available to us, make the right decision. And then when it is a matter of getting to the net, make sure you’re willing to get there and establish a good position, be in position to find the puck and then take away the goaltender’s eyes.

“I don’t know who’s going to play for them. But at the end of the day, if you make it tough on any goaltender to see the puck, they’re going to have trouble controlling the rebounds. Then things can happen for you offensively. So yes, we are going to encourage getting more inside, but we also want to make sure we don’t get away from stretching D away from the net, because now we’ve got forwards down low and that can work to our advantage.”

Craig Smith, whose dogged tenacity played a big part in the tying power-play goal in the second period, expressed little panic in dissecting what needs to be done. The Bruins need to be better, to be sure, but there’s no overhaul required.

“We definitely have to play off the shot a little more. That’s probably going to be an emphasis (Monday),” said Smith. “But I thought our game was good. Obviously there’s some things we want to do better, but we’ve seen quite a bit of playoff hockey and we know that just a tip or a funny shot through traffic can go in sometimes. So you try to play off the shot a little more.

“Our legs were there. I thought we forechecked well in some areas and in some areas we didn’t. So there’s going to be some things to work on. But the focus I think is going to be on playoff hockey, just one-on-one battles and shooting the puck.”

Identifying the right times to use speed through the neutral zone will also be key, said Cassidy.

“When we had time, we didn’t really challenge their D well enough,” said Cassidy. “Taylor Hall certainly did, drew a couple of penalties, got in behind them on a power-play entry. We need a little bit more of that with our guys who have pace to force their D to defend you.”

JEREMY LAUZON did not practice Sunday, and the defenseman is questionable for Game 2. Cassidy said it was because he got hit with a puck. The coach did not specify which body part was bothering Lauzon, but he did take a shot off the right hand that forced him to the locker room briefly.

If Lauzon can’t play, he’ll be replaced by Jarred Tinordi or Connor Clifton. Jakub Zboril suffered an upper body injury in the final regular-season game and is unavailable.

Cassidy had employed the Lauzon-Kevan Miller pairing against the line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Anthony Mantha line and it was a challenge, as it no doubt will be for any pairing. He didn’t rule out that assignment going to the top pair of Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk.

“At the end of the day, (the Capitals will) be able to dictate that. But it may have to be Grizz and Charlie, which with Mantha on the other side is not ideal for Grizz,” said Cassidy. “I think adding offense to the (Patrice) Bergeron line when they used (Lars) Eller, it did suit Grizz for his matchup in particular. But we have to do what’s best for the team. If he has to play against bigger bodies, he’s done it his whole career, then that’s what we’ll do. But we’ll make a determination on that (Monday) when we get a better read on who’s healthy. Whoever it is, they know. They’ve got their hands full.”

WASHINGTON COACH Peter Laviolette told reporters that starting goalie Vitek Vanecek is day-to-day. Ilya Samsonov, the No. 2 goalie who came off the COVID list on Saturday, will be evaluated over the next few days to see if he’s ready to play, said Laviolette.

Top-six forward Evgeny Kuznetsov remains on the COVID list but reached a point in his banishment where he was allowed to skate Sunday.

SUNDAY’S GAMES

ISLANDERS 4, PENGUINS 3: Kyle Palmieri’s second goal of the game 16:30 into overtime lifted New York to a win at Pittsburgh in Game 1 of their East Division series.

Palmieri collected a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau near the goal line and lifted it over Tristan Jarry and into the net as New York beat the Penguins for the first time in five tries this season at PPG Paints Arena.

Pageau and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders. Rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin made 39 saves in his playoff debut.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Sidney Crosby, Frederick Gaudreau and Kasperi Kapanen scored for the Penguins, but the East Division champions couldn’t capitalize despite controlling play for most of the first two periods.

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