Borges: Failure to finish puts Marchand, Bruins on the brink
Brad Marchand looked stunned when he first heard the number before finally looking up and conceding the obvious.
“Yeah I didn’t know that so, yeah, it’s a good stat,” he said, even though it was anything but a good stat for the Bruins.
The number in question was 12. Actually 12 minutes and 58 seconds to be precise because that’s how long the Bruins went without putting a shot on goal in the final period of last night’s crushing 1-0 playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Garden.
For 12 minutes and 58 seconds of that period they put nary a shot on Craig Anderson. None. Zilch. Zippo. You don’t have to be Lord Stanley to understand if you can’t put the puck on net, you can’t win a hockey game.
Yet Marchand did put the puck on net both early and late last night and came away empty every time, being left frustrated by Anderson at the start on a breakaway and late when the seemingly always rolling and bouncing puck in the final 90 seconds wouldn’t quite go through the small openings Marchand saw because, well, sometimes that’s how it goes in hockey.
“I thought we did a pretty good job down there (in the offensive zone),” Marchand said after the Bruins had lost for the third straight time and second straight on home ice to fall behind 3-1 in the series as it returns to Ottawa tomorrow night with elimination staring the Bs in the face.
“We had a lot of really good opportunities and their goalie made some big saves, so you’ve got to give him credit. We had a good start. It’s frustrating when I had two Grade A chances and should have capitalized on at least one of them. That’s tough, yes.”
Perhaps the toughest to swallow was when Anderson came clamoring out of the net, diving toward Marchand as he broke in alone and diverting the puck with his arms rather than his stick. Had Marchand chipped it over him, there was nothing behind Anderson but air but he didn’t as Anderson channeled his inner Johnny Bower, the old Maple Leafs’ Hall of Fame goaltender.
“You know, when I was a junior I had Johnny Bower for a day and that was the story,” Anderson said of his sprawling save. “The first time he ever came out sliding into a guy he was nervous. And I was nervous. I’m just glad it worked out.’’
Everything seems to have lately. Frustration is the goal of the Senators’ smothering defensive style and frustrated the Bruins have become. Ottawa comes to the arena each night with a singular notion — score once and go home. It’s taken a bit more than that to go up 3-1 but all of their wins have been of that razor-thin margin and last night’s was the stingiest of all.
The Bruins pressed them hard early and Marchand pressed them all night, getting off six shots which was more than 25 percent of the team’s total of 22. Several of them were indeed “Grade A” chances and several more were B+. But all, in the end, got an F for they failed to light the lamp.
“He got a lot of chances,” centerman Patrice Bergeron said of Marchand. “I’m not too worried about that. He’s getting the chances and they’re going to go in for sure. He’s got one (goal) already in the series. He was on the puck tonight, finding a lot of plays. We just have to keep fighting. Keep pushing.
“We have to find ways to fight a little bit more in front of the net and around the area, make it a little harder for their goalie. I think we’re having a lot of one-and-done. We got to find a way to get to the inside a little bit more.”
Marchand was in that position several times and came away empty. For a finisher, which has become his role, one cannot accept that yet the truth is Anderson had more than a little to do with that last night.
Certainly there were long stretches where the Bruins achieved little on offense, taking only five shots in each of the last two periods compared to 12 in the first when they seemed to get the jump on Ottawa. But they could not sustain that early pressure and because they didn’t convert those chances the Senators continued playing the suffocating, patient defensive style that has put them on the brink of sending the Bruins home for the summer long before summer arrives.
“That’s a bit of their identity,” Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They’re always five back. We knew it would be difficult (to score). First period we did have our ice. We did have our opportunities and we didn’t bury them. When you have opportunities you have to bury them. That didn’t happen. We need a little bit more from our offensive guys but their goalie earned his keep tonight.’’
He did and nobody knew that better than Brad Marchand.