Three areas the Bruins must improve to eliminate the Leafs in Game 6

Three areas the Bruins must improve to eliminate the Leafs in Game 6 Originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins still dominate their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but their margin for error is getting smaller.

The Bruins take a 3-1 series lead with a chance to eliminate the Leafs in Game 5 on Tuesday at TD Garden. Instead of punching their ticket to the second round, The B team lost 2-1 in overtime in an ugly performance.

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery was visibly frustrated in his postgame news conference, and those feelings didn't go away when he met with the media after Wednesday's practice.

“To be honest, I'm still angry from last night,” Montgomery said He said after the Bruins' optional practice. “I don't understand or accept our game last night. I'm going to be angry until the puck drops (in Game 6).”

The series returns back to Toronto for Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night. The Bruins should be very confident entering this building. they Played really well in Games 3 and 4 last week, and achieved a pair of impressive victories. The Leafs have also lost six straight playoff games at home dating back to the first round last season.

But yet Blowing a 3-1 lead and losing to the Florida Panthers In the first round last year, the pressure on the Bruins will continue to mount if they fall short in Game 6 and have to Back home for Game 7 on Saturday night.

Here are three areas the Bruins must improve to beat the Leafs in Game 6 and avoid another Game 7 on home ice.

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David Pastrnak needs to move offensively

Pastrnak is the Bruins' best player and the engine that drives their offense. He did not play well in Game 5, as he recorded four pointless shots despite leading the B's with 20:06 of ice time. He also did not register a single high-danger scoring opportunity in 18:30 of 5-on-5 ice time.

Pastrnak has four points in five games, which is not bad by any means. We've seen possession plays by Auston Matthews (Game 2(And Brad Marchand)Games 3 and 4) in this series, but Pastrnak has yet to dominate a game in this series. There hasn't been a signature moment or signature play from him yet. This is unusual for him against the Leafs in the playoffs.

Returning to the 2019 first-round series, Pastrnak scored twice in the Bruins' 6-4 series-tying Game 4 win. He scored once with two assists in Game 1 of the 2018 first-round series, then followed it up with a six-point performance (including a hat-trick) in Game 2.

Pastrnak averaged 2.91 shots per game at 5-on-5 during the regular season. He's only at 1.4 per game in this series so far. The Leafs hold a 43-23 advantage in scoring chances over Pastrnak's 73:46 of 5-on-5 ice time over five games, Every trick has natural statistics. It's not all Pastrnak's fault, of course, but tilting the ice this far in Toronto's favor is not an encouraging trend for the Bruins.

Pastrnak is an elite offensive player who just finished his third straight season with 40-plus goals and his second straight 100-point campaign. The Bruins need more offensive production from him at 5-on-5 to increase their chances of closing out the series on Thursday.

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Better start

You never want to give a team that was in a good position — which was the Leafs entering Game 5 — any reason for optimism or belief in the first period. You need to send a message immediately. The Bruins failed miserably in that regard to start Tuesday's loss by playing extremely poorly in all three zones and allowing the Leafs to open the scoring just 5:56 into the game.

Multiple shots, giving up 16 of 20 face-offs, and producing almost nothing offensively (just two shots and two scoring chances) were among Boston's main problems in the first period of Game 5. Shot attempts were 30-7 in favor of the Leafs during the period. . The Bruins were able to go into the first intermission tied at one goal apiece, but it was clear to the Leafs that the game was very winnable for them.

There was no excuse for the Bruins not to rush and execute very poorly from the opening matchup. They knew the Leafs were going to play desperate hockey and they still do It didn't come close to matching that intensity.

The first goal is always important, but it may be even more important for the Leafs in Game 6 given the fact that the season is on the line and they are the home team. An early Bruins goal could take the crowd out of the game and plant a seed of doubt in the Leafs' minds. That's why a strong start is so important for the Bruins. They can't give the Leafs and their fans any reason to believe a franchise comeback is largely achievable.

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Confrontations

The Bruins need to have more possession of the puck in Game 6, and one way to do that is to win faceoffs consistently.

The Leafs have dominated the faceoff circle in this series. They have won 55.1% of all duels, the third-best win rate among the 16 teams that reached the playoffs. The Bruins rank third-worst at 44.9 percent. It was 49.5 percent in the regular season.

Game 5 was particularly bad for the Bruins in the faceoff circle. The Leafs won 16 of 20 ties in the first period (including 10 of 14 in Boston territory) and finished with a winning rate of 33 of 53 (62.3 percent). The Leafs' first goal was a faceoff winner after the Bruins iced the puck.

The Bruins won just 41.8 percent of their defensive zone draws through five games in the first round. They won 52.5 percent of those matchups in the regular season.

Montgomery made John Bettcher a healthy scratch in Game 5 despite the rookie center leading the Bruins with a 54.8 head-to-head winning percentage in the series. Getting Beecher back into the lineup would help the B's with matchups in Game 6, but that can't be his responsibility alone. Charlie Coyle (46.4 percent) and Pavel Zacha (42.7 percent) should be much better in this area as well.

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