Once again the Toronto Maple Leafs are the poster children for postseason futility.
They blew a 3-1 series lead and lost Game 7 Monday to a Montreal team that would’ve been lottery-bound in most regular NHL seasons. After earning three opportunities to dispose of the Canadiens, the Leafs instead showed their lack of killer instinct and lost in their first playoff series for the fifth straight year, proving it takes more than talent to win the postseason.
The Bruins have shown no such proclivity over the past decade or so, including just two years ago when they reached their third Stanley Cup final in nine years. Boston’s been prolific at digging out of series holes and finishing off opponents when they’re ahead.
But Boston had its Leafs moments Monday, and now the Bruins’ second-round series with the New York Islanders is tied 1-1 heading to Long Island for Game 3 on Thursday.
It started with another dominant first period that featured a 15-6 shots edge but just a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard. Similarly, the Bruins outshot the Islanders 18-8 on Saturday and led just 1-0. Boston kept pouring it on though on its way to a 5-2 win.
In Game 2, one errant bounce seemed to push the Bruins back on their heels.
Josh Bailey tied the score with a power-play goal off defenseman Jeremy Lauzon’s skate and the Bruins let the Islanders take control of the second period, building a 3-1 lead.
The Bruins, as they’re wont to do, came back to force overtime. Lauzon’s youth, though, came back to bite the Bruins in the extra session.
You may remember Lauzon earning himself a healthy scratch in early April against Pittsburgh after coach Bruce Cassidy called him out for repeatedly getting his shot blocked and taking a penalty to stop a breakaway rather than getting his shot through or making a safe pass to his D partner. Well, this time around Lauzon tried to go D to D from the left point, except he didn’t look.
The pass hit forward Charlie Coyle’s skate out near the blue line, but it didn’t matter because the right point was vacant even if the puck had gotten then. Casey Cizikas picked up the loose puck and scored on a breakaway to render the Bruins’ third-period comeback a wasted footnote.
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) June 1, 2021
Cassidy called the play “ill-advised,” and just like in April he mentioned “the learning curve for younger guys.” Clearly, that curve is longer than two months.
Now it’s up to the Bruins to bounce back. First, they have to get Lauzon’s head back on straight, which shouldn’t be too hard for the leadership group.
“I mean shit happens,” Bruins alternate captain Brad Marchand said. “You know he’s a great player for this [team], he competes very hard. He’s out there every night working his butt off and competing for the group. We all make mistakes, we’ve all been there. It’s tough when it happens to you, but we’re going to bounce back, it’s not the end of the world.”
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That’s typically the way the Bruins roll. Down 3-2 to Toronto and St. Louis on the road in 2019 they forced Game 7. Down 2-1 to Columbus that year, they won three straight. They closed out the Carolina Hurricanes each of the past two years without letting their foes get much of a sniff at a series comeback.
The Bruins are built for the ups and downs of the postseason.
However, this downward turn was self-inflicted. They’re clearly the better team talent-wise and should have enough grit to match the Islanders, who would maybe rather meet the Bruins in a back alley than between the boards. Either way, the Islanders now have some life and some confidence without really earning it.
The Leafs are going to be answering for their mistakes all summer again. The Bruins don’t want to be fielding the same type of inquiries. Like Lauzon, they all have to learn from Monday’s missteps and make sure they don’t let New York go on a Montreal-like run.