BOSTON (CBS) – I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: Nothing compares to playoff hockey.
I don’t care if you’re the most diehard Boston Bruins fan or a casual observer parked on your couch and occasionally looking up from an iPad – if you weren’t on the edge of your seat during Boston’s Game 1 showdown with Washington at the Garden last night, you’re not human.
Call me old-fashioned, but I love a 1-nothing game. I’ll take it over a 6-5 shootout any day of the week. A 1-zip overtime contest in the playoffs? Orgasmic.
There’s just something about largely mistake-free hockey, the way your heart skips a beat at every loose puck that squirts across the crease, the shift among officials to put their whistles away as the game approaches its climax, the extra full-body sacrifices made by skaters in front of their net, and the wonder as chance after chance is stopped by a pair of confident goalies…who will be the hero, or make the first mistake.
Pure poetry on frozen water.
Let’s get to Friday’s thoughts. We’re all Bruins focused.
1. I don’t know Chris Kelly. Maybe he couldn’t care less about individual honors. Perhaps the team’s 7th Player Award – had he won – would be nothing more than a feather in his, well, helmet. Just seems to me watching this guy, though, like he’s out for blood. If you’re looking for someone who went above and beyond expectations this season, Kelly’s your man. The forward played in every single game and posted career-highs with 20 goals and 39 points. And, how about that plus-33 rating? Nothing special; only tied for third in the NHL (I freely admit the top five in the league were all Bruins, but you get the point).
Kelly took just one shot against the Caps and it proved to be the winner, stunning third-stringer Braden Holtby (Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth are hurt), who played like a number one netminder against the defending Stanley Cup champs. That kid’s got stones. Getting back to Kelly – I really wish I could have made a From Justin to Kelly reference there – he had 13 points in 25 playoff games on the way to that long sought after title a season ago, and I truly feel like he’s just getting started again. After all, he looked pretty comfortable wearing that postgame team MVP chain that Andrew Ference apparently stole from Flavor Flav. Nice of the team to leave the clock on the wall.
2. Did you notice that defenseman Dennis Wideman was the Cap that Kelly snuck by on the winning shot? If you’re a Bruins fan, then of course you did.
3. Admit it, when the game went to overtime, I wasn’t the only one wondering what it would be like if Nathan Horton didn’t have that damn concussion. Man, he was fun to watch against Montreal last year.
4. You could certainly say Holtby (17 second period saves) out-played Tim Thomas, but the grizzly veteran was his usual acrobatic self down the stretch on the way to his 6th postseason shutout. I know he only made 17 stops to Holtby’s 29 – a credit to team defense – but he was more locked in than Kelly wearing that chain. I don’t care how worn down he looked throughout much of the regular season, or what happens in regard to the nagging political nonsense when Timmy gets to DC, this is his time to shine. Tired or not from playing all those games after Tuukka Rask hurt his abdomen, I find it hard to believe you’ll see that now. Am I guaranteeing another Cup? Of course not. But I also doubt Thomas will be a leading reason if his team doesn’t get there.
On another note, I love Tim’s mustache. Tom Selleck level? No. Burt Reynolds? Awfully close. Those guys don’t have Vezina’s, Conn Smythe’s or Stanley’s, though.
5. Alex Ovechkin had one shot. Let me say that another way. Washington’s leading goal-scorer (38) and point-producer (65) this season had only one shot in the Capitals’ loss. I know this dude traditionally shows up in the postseason (25 goals, 50 points in 38 games) even if his teams don’t, but that’s just inexcusable if the crushin’ Russian’s hoping to push the Caps to a 7-2 seeding upset. Time for him to wake up and realize they’re the underdogs for a change.
6. Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot had the assists on the Kelly goal. There’s a lot to like about that, even if those things are sometimes by chance. The B’s third line was awesome. Not a lot of scoring chances, but energetic and reliable. You’ll always look to Tyler Seguin for scoring but there’s no need to fret there. The sophomore may not have landed on the score-sheet, but he did rifle off a game-high 5 shots.
7. After a high-intensity 61 minutes and 18 seconds, that was Boston’s first 1-0 playoff overtime win since 1935. I don’t keep the stats, I just happily regurgitate them.
8. In a not-so-remarkable turn of events, while the Bruins were celebrating their win on the ice, David Krejci – last year’s leading playoff scorer – was struck by a pane of glass that dislodged from the partitions. No word on whether he was hurt but, for both his and the B’s sakes, I sure hope not. At least we know it worked out better for him than when glass fell on that dink in Ghost.
9. Finally, it’s not like the B’s needed any extra motivation for a playoff game last night, but perhaps they were at least a little inspired. In case you missed it, the NCAA champion Boston College hockey team was honored at the game. The Eagles, captained by Bruins prospect Tommy Cross, finished their run to a title with 19 straight wins, which means they haven’t been around a losing atmosphere since late-January, and I can’t imagine Jerry York’s crew felt like ending that streak on Thursday.
Adam Kaufman, a native of Massachusetts, joined the Sports Hub as an on-air personality in June 2011. He has worked as a television and radio anchor and broadcaster for various outlets since 2004, and his written views on sports and entertainment have appeared on NESN.com and in the New England Hockey Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamMKaufman.