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Beware of the Boston Bruins’ Other Guys

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Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
It’s easy to forget in the aftermath of the Boston Bruins’ 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday that the road team were controlling play through the first few minutes. Toronto registered the first four shots of Game 1, before Boston counterpunched its way to a dominant opening win.
Perhaps what’s most jarring about the loss 4o hours after the fact is how the Bruins won: it didn’t require a dominant performance from David Pastrnak, who paced the Bruins with 110 regular season points — Brad Marchand was next-best with 67 points. Marchand and Jake DeBrusk eventually ran wild on the power play, scorching a discombobulated Maple Leafs’ penalty kill, but it should be remembered that Boston’s Other Guys set the tone.
John Beecher opened the scoring on Boston’s first shot of the game. Maple Leafs defenseman Joel Edmundson pinched, Ryan Reaves crashed into him while Pat Maroon subtly poked the puck onto Jesper Boqvist’s stick, setting up a 2-on-1. Boqvist waited until Timothy Liljegren sprawled to the ice, then weighted a perfect pass to Beecher for 1-0 goal. It was a simple example of the Bruins’ fourth line executing on the little details and it changed the momentum of the game entirely.
Any team’s bottom-six forwards are merely there to augment the superstars, but the Bruins have shown early on that they will punish the Maple Leafs’ lesser players for mistakes. Boston operates from a counterattacking style, it is a sub-par possession team that relies on discipline, superior transition offense and goaltending to win. Maroon-Boqvist-Beecher combined for a 79 percent share of the expected goals at 5-on-5 in 4:36 via Natural Stat Trick and appear to poised to take control of the offensive zone when paired against their Maple Leafs’ counterparts. There are also the parts that don’t show up in the stat sheet: Maroon sent Timothy Liljegren flying into the bench, and Toronto’s defenders shied away from physicality as the game progressed.
Boston is a sound defensive team and these principles are showcased through its lineup. Boqvist finished 12th in the NHL in expected goals against per 60 among players with 400 minutes or greater at 5-on-5, while finishing first in goals against per 60. Jakub Lauko ranked 33rd in xGA/60, while Maroon and Beecher are in the league’s upper third. They make life difficult by erasing quality looks and will attack in transition. There isn’t a single, dull moment against the Bruins.
Let’s be clear: ultimately, this series will be decided by the stars and so far, Marchand, Swayman and Hampus Lindholm have tilted the balance, while William Nylander’s status remains in peril for Game 2. Pastrnak, in theory, should win a game by himself. There’s plenty for Toronto’s top line to correct as well, as Auston Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi all took penalties during Game 1. Through the opening contest, and throughout the regular season, a message has been sent: do not take Boston’s Other Guys for granted, or else they can steal a game, and perhaps a series.

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