2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Moran’s Breakdown: Tampa rode old-school technique to even series, but Bruins can counter

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(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Ian Moran
Special to BostonSportsJournal.com

Ian Moran played in over 500 NHL games, including 66 in the postseason, in 15 years as a defenseman with the Penguins, Bruins, and Ducks before retiring in 2008. The Acton native attended Belmont Hill and Boston College before being a sixth-round pick of the Penguins in 1990. The Duxbury resident is currently the head New England scout for Neutral Zone, a first-of-its-kind hockey scouting and news site which identifies, ranks and profiles NCAA and Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects from across North America. Ian will be breaking down each Bruins playoff game for BostonSportsJournal.com. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @IMHockeySkills.


Old-school backchecking. The PP&J line (Bradyen Point, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson) dominated in transition. Sure, the Bruins' top line turned the puck over more in Game 2 than in the entire Toronto series, but a lot of that had to do with the way PP&J incorporated puck pursuit into their back-checking.

Toronto’s forwards would pursue the puck carrier, and this would allow their defense to back off and read the play. In Game 1, we saw Tampa pursuing in a similar way. Patrice Bergeron’s second goal in Game 1 was a beautiful tick-tac-toe play that had Bergeron pop out into the high slot, and the closest man to him was a flat-footed D trying to block the shot. This did not happen last night.

Tampa’s forwards would apply back pressure to approximately the red line and if they did not have contact with the Bruins' forwards, they would switch off. This would allow Tampa's D-men to play a more traditional gap and let them try to force the Bruins' forwards near the blue line.

We saw a ton of turnovers near the offensive gray area, but even when the Bruins gained the line and were able to look to the high slot Tampa's forwards were protecting that area. All night long, it looked like blind passes to the slot being picked off by backchecking forwards and, in reality, blind passes were being picked off because of a change in puck pursuit. This was a wonderfully simple change in the gameplan that paid massive dividends.

So how do the Bruins counter old-school backchecking?