Bruins hope to cut down their mistakes, improve their neutral zone play in Game 3

It’s natural to blame the goalie and praise the goal-scorer when a game-breaking tally takes place. That was the case when Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows foiled two Boston Bruins stalwarts (Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas) on his way to that thrilling overtime game-winner.

Thomas definitely deserved blame for being overly aggressive on that play while many complained that Chara simply wasn’t aggressive enough. While people tend to focus on the end results, the genesis of these moments keep coaches like Claude Julien up at night.

It’s easy to throw Chara and Thomas under the bus, and again, they do shoulder some of the blame as Boston’s normally effective last line of defense. Still, the Bruins spoke of the “little things” that allowed that play to happen in the first place when they discussed their areas of improvement going into Game 3. Simply put, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes, with neutral zone gaffes often being the culprits considering Vancouver’s lightning-fast transition game.

Had Mark Recchi been able to corral Andrew Ference’s errant pass along the right wall at the start of overtime in Game 2 — or at least chip it into the Vancouver end — Sami Salo wouldn’t have been able to open up the defense with a quick outlet to Alexandre Burrows at the Boston blue line.

“It was a turnover in the neutral zone,” Patrice Bergeron said Saturday night. “I’m not sure how he got alone, but obviously he made the good fake to fake that shot and come around [Tim Thomas], but we got caught. We won the draw but we have to make sure we do a better job in the neutral zone.”

Added Ference: “We’re going for a quick transition. I think it was Recchi on my side, and instead of getting the right angle on his stick, I think their D-man was playing it tight and kind of one-touched it right back up the ice.”

Feel free to pick apart that goal in the video below, if you feel like it.

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If you ask some Bruins players, Game 1 ended in much the same way as Game 2: a transitional blunder bit Boston hard in the game’s waning seconds. This time around, it was defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s failure to get the puck to the neutral zone that made bad things happen. Yet once again, Corey Masisak points out that the situation could have been avoided if a better play was made earlier in the final minute.

The last-minute winner in each of the games so far has come when Boston was unable to put the puck behind the Canucks’ defensemen.

Had the puck gone below the Vancouver goal line in the final 30 seconds of Game 1, the Vancouver defensemen would not have been able to send a long diagonal pass to Ryan Kesler at the far blue line that started the ensuing scramble that led to Raffi Torres’ goal with 18.5 seconds left.

Watch that last-minute Torres goal in the video below.

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Obviously, the Bruins want to make crisper and wiser decisions. Of course, we would venture to guess that every defensive group that ever lost a game feels the same way. Little mistakes (and unlucky bounces) tend to pile up; Boston just needs to limit them as much as possible. For two straight games, they made errors at the worst possible times. We’ll see if they can correct some of their problems in Game 3, whether the mistakes come in their zone, Vancouver’s end or the neutral zone.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.