The Bruins took part in a losing battle on Thursday, coming up short in a track meet against a skilled Leafs forward corps in Game 1, but Bruce Cassidy was not about to make the same mistake twice two days later at TD Garden.
Heavy checks and a suffocating forecheck were the prescriptions for the B’s in Game 2, with Cassidy opting to roll his top defensive pairing up of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy with his checking line against the Leafs’ top trio of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman.
While Noel Acciari, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom limited the Tavares line to just one shot attempt and zero shots on goal during over six minutes of 5v5 TOI on Saturday, Boston’s Bergeron line kept Auston Matthews in check, with the Leafs’ franchise pivot now scoreless through a pair of playoff matchups — and limited to just one goal in nine career playoff matchups against the B’s.
Add in Charlie Coyle’s line generating a pair of goals en route to the 4-1 win, and it appears as though Cassidy out-matched Mike Babcock on the bench after a series of blunders in the opening matchup.
“The Acciari line had a matchup with Tavares,” Cassidy said Sunday. “Part of that was wanting to be physical in the game, want them to work to get all the way to our net. They’re pretty reliable in terms of not getting out of position, you hope that there’s no odd-man rush situations. I thought Charlie (McAvoy) did a real good job. Zee is always going to be back there to take care of business, but I thought Charlie understood that his primary role (on Saturday) was to be hard against the top line.
“We’ll certainly play Bergeron at times against Tavares. We wanted to make it harder on Matthews too as well — to skate, defend — and Bergeron out there against him forced him to do that. … The matchups worked out well.”
Things will be a bit tougher for Cassidy and Co. now that the series has shifted up to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 — with Babcock now able to dictate matchups by having last change. Add in the fact that Boston appeared to be shorthanded going into Monday’s contest following injuries to Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk, and it appeared as though Toronto was primed to land a few punches in against a weakened B’s roster.
Not so fast.