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‘We just have to find ways to finish it’: How the Bruins plan to attack their late-game woes

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Boston has logged 32:20 time on ice – 7:30 more than the second-place Panthers – and allowed a league-most seven goals with the opponents’ net empty.

Linus Ullmark and the Bruins have had a lot of time dealing with an extra attacker this season. Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP

The Boston Bruins recently turned their three-game losing streak into a trio of consecutive wins. Yet, unlike the multi-goal setbacks the week prior against the Red Wings, Rangers, and Blue Jackets, Jim Montgomery’s club couldn’t escape one of their troubling trends in the middle of their recent run.

Amid their chaotic overtime win in Toronto last Saturday, the Bruins relinquished a pair of third-period leads against their Original Six rivals. The Maple Leafs notched two equalizers in the final frame, with Auston Matthews scoring the second tying marker with a little over five seconds remaining in regulation.

Matthews’s tally marked the third instance of the Bruins’ relinquishing a tying goal within the last 15 seconds of regulation. But unlike their two encounters against the Ducks and Lightning, the Bruins came away with two points after Brad Marchand ended a chaotic 3-on-3 extra session with his first goal in eight games.

A night after the thrilling OT win in Toronto, the Bruins closed out Columbus on the heels of Marchand’s third-period natural hat trick. Still, the 6-on-5 issues remain prevalent, which is why they took the final few minutes of Wednesday’s practice to specifically search for improvements in late-game situations.

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“At the end of the day, they got six and we’ve got five, right? But we need to identify ways where we’re not giving up too many grade A [chances],” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “A lot of teams are throwing stuff at the net, as they should. I think that’s the best way to try and find mismatches.”

The coverage in front of the net may look a little too relaxed, but the Bruins encountered more issues clearing pucks out of the zone during crunch time. Those failed attempts result in more taxing shifts in the defensive end and extended primary and secondary looks for the opposition’s top weapons.

Sometimes, the Bruins haven’t received friendly bounces either. Still, McAvoy and company know they’re giving up too many good looks.

“But for us, it’s about staying loose and staying tight and controlling things that we can control,” McAvoy added. “Sometimes bounces are going to go the other way – that happens – but as far as our positioning and strategy wise of where we want to be in our 6-on-5 situations, we can control that.”

The Bruins aren’t the only team who struggled to secure wins within the final moments of regulation.

Entering Thursday’s slate of games, the number of third-period comebacks sits at 70. The Blues, Jets, and Islanders are the only squads who haven’t earned a come-from-behind win in the final 20 minutes.

The talent level across the league proves that no lead is safe at any point of a 60-minute tilt. Combine that with certain teams pushing players into a shutdown situation earlier than expected, and you have yourself a perfect storm.

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“I think it’s two things,” Montgomery said. “The skill and the ability of so many different players to make plays is pretty evident across the league. And I also think you’re seeing that … we’re at 32 teams now, and there’s not that many players on the ice that have the experience of shutting people down.”

The Bruins, however, have quite the experience with the extra attacker. According to Natural Stat Trick, Boston logged 32:20 time on ice – 7:30 more than the second-place Panthers – and allowed a league-most seven goals with the opponents’ net empty.

Indeed, the Bruins miss Patrice Bergeron’s presence in crunch-time scenarios. But as they continue working on their late-game situational awareness, they feel that the lessons learned from previous encounters can benefit them in the long run.

“It’s good to be in that position,” McAvoy said. “We just have to find ways to finish it.”

Source: Boston Globe

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