The Boston Bruins needed just two goals and a much better performance in net from Jaroslav Halak to close out the upstart Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday in Toronto, winning the first-round playoff series 4 games to 1.
Veteran core forwards David Krejci (who leads the B’s with 3 goals and 9 points) and Patrice Bergeron tallied second period power play goals, and the team weathered a back-and-forth third period including three minutes of 6-on-5 play to hold on and secure a bit of a rest for what is expected a second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The game marked the return to action for David Pastrnak, who had several quality scoring chances but couldn’t finish (he did post helpers on both goals, however).
Halak wasn’t tested a ton, but after giving up the game’s first goal on a rising shot by defenseman Hayden Fleury, which hit the upper post near the crossbar then bounced into the back of the net and out, he settled in and was perfect the rest of the way.
At the other end, Petr Mrazek was outstanding, robbing Krejci with a mid-air paddle save, and also snagging a Torey Krug laser that would have given the Bruins three goals with the man advantage. His lone miscue was on the Bergeron goal, which the wily veteran scored from below the goal line by banking the puck off of Mrazek’s left skate and into the net.
Carolina has a good team and the series certainly could have gone in a different direction- Boston wasn’t particularly sharp in Games 4 and 5, but the reality is- they were the league’s top regular season team, and sometimes, simply being better means that the Hockey Gods will give you the breaks. In Carolina’s case, they are trending in the right direction and with their mix of veteran and impressive young talent, they will be heard from again.
Zdeno Chara was better defensively than he had in the previous contest, but near the end of the game, got caught out on the ice for an extended shift and instead of making an easy clear, hesitated just enough for Carolina to force a turnover and maintain possession in the offensive zone. The decisions have to come quicker for the captain- he can no longer rely on his enormous reach and experience- opponents will coach their teams to forecheck relentlessly and close the gap instantly. Chara has to make faster decisions and the team would be better served managing his minutes. In defense of Big Z- he made a critical goal-line clear earlier in the game when a puck squirted behind Halak and could have easily been knocked home. Those are the kinds of plays the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer keeps making, and he bailed out his team big time.
Tampa is going to prove a tough opponent- Brayden Point is white hot and the Lightning have plenty of scoring punch, defensive prowess and depth, plus some hard, heavy playoff types like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman.
On paper, Andrei Vasilevskiy holds a significant advantage over Halak, but the B’s are starting to get their lineup going at the right time. And if we’ve learned anything about Halak, he’s got a record of playing above his head at crunch time and against superior opponents. We haven’t seen close to his best, but against a higher seed, he’s capable of delivering more.
We’d like to see more Anders Bjork and less Joakim Nordstrom in the Boston lineup going forward, but for now, the top lines are producing offense and the B’s are getting production from depth players.
We’ll have more as we learn whether Tampa will be the opponent, as it will take major comebacks by Washington or Montreal (who beat Philly last night to make it a series), but for now, the B’s will watch and wait.
Stars of the series:
- David Krejci, C- Playoff Krejci is back- he torched the ‘Canes all series and his 9 points moved him into second place all-time in Bruins postseason scoring 112 points- just 49 behind Ray Bourque. Yep, he’s ahead of Boston icons like Esposito, Bucyk, Orr, Neely and Middleton. The guy just finds another gear when the games matter, and after a four-month rest to preserve his lighter-than-average frame, he looks primed for another memorable run.
- Charlie McAvoy, D- He’s turning into the top 2-way guy he was projected as, scoring at a .5 points-per-game clip and laying a thundering hit on Jordan Staal in Game 4 to set the tone for a Boston comeback. The B’s dealt Dougie Hamilton one year before drafting McAvoy, and after watching the two go head-to-head in the series- it isn’t close. Hamilton has plenty of skill, but no real push to speak of. McAvoy took his game up a notch- and that’s why he’s on the verge of becoming one of the NHL’s top blueliners.
- Brad Marchand, LW- The guy just finds ways to make plays at the highest pace and is a gamer. The Bruins need Marchand at his best, and he gave it a solid performance with room for improvement.
I agree with all excerpt replacing Nordstrom with Bjork. Bjork didn’t do anything in the games he played except take penalties. Nordstrom has been solid with lots of hits, shot blocks and valuable on PK. If you want to take anyone out in favour of Bjork, I would suggest Par Lindholm and slot Kuraly back in center of 4th line.
You’re entitled to your opinion. Mine is that I have little to no time for the brutal turnover Nordstrom committed near game’s end with an inexcusable attempt to stickhandle around Hamilton instead of chipping the puck and skating to space where he could have cleared the zone and killed time off the clock in a 1-goal game. You can have issues with Bjork, but Nordstrom has been far from “solid” in my view. Hits are fine, but he makes too many mistakes for a player of his experience and has virtually no offensive ceiling to speak of. He’s a JAG- I’d rather live with Bjork’s mistakes but bigger ability to make plays at the offensive end than watch the pedestrian Nordstrom make more dumb turnovers at crunch time and potentially cost his team. Luckily for him- Halak made the stops, but yeah- I’m all set on Nordstrom, thanks. Of course- Bruce Cassidy probably agrees more with you than me.- KL
I really want to see Bjork succeed given his upside. However, I am ok with Cassidy’s decision since I think Nordstrom was contributing more at the tume. I bet Bjork draws back in soon. He showed some life when he was moved down to the 3rd line, maybe something to build on there.