Tuukka Rask Up To Playoff Challenge And Other Leftover Bruins Thoughts
BOSTON (CBS) — Perhaps no fan base in Boston is more hesitant to fully celebrate a win than Bruins backers. They’re not inherently negative, per se; they’re just cautious. Between questioning the coach’s lines, wanting more out of one or two underachievers or bemoaning whatever it is the team seems to be having trouble with at any given moment, there’s always something to about the Bruins that can make you feel not right.
And to be certain, Monday night’s effort in Toronto was not perfect, but man, that’s one game that everyone who cares about the Bruins should feel really, really good about.
Considering that Toronto, said to be the “center of the hockey universe,” was hosting an NHL playoff game for the first time since George W. Bush’s first term, the building was electrified, the plaza outside was filled with thousands upon thousands of Leafs fans, and the whole city was jacked up for this hockey game. The Maple Leafs did their part and matched that energy, but the Bruins managed to weather the storm to survive and score the most goals they’ve scored in a single game since April 10.
There were some breakdowns, some missed opportunities and some lucky bounces, but this is a bottom-line business. And the bottom line says the Bruins won 5-2 and now lead 2-1 in the series. It was a pretty impressive way for the Bruins not only to make a statement that they are the better team in this series, but that they’re also going to back it up.
It was a rather eventful one, so let’s tear through some leftover thoughts.
–I didn’t notice this upon first viewing, but replays showed that Adam McQuaid’s shot from the right point actually deflected off Dion Phaneuf’s stick and past James Reimer. Considering Phaneuf really should have been suspended for this game, that’s one cold serving of sweet hockey justice.
–Have you ever seen a goalie so completely unable to manage rebounds like Reimer? My goodness, even the softest of shots to his glove side find a way to bounce right out to the front of the net, and seemingly every time the Bruins get a puck on net, a big fat rebound ends up in the slot or in the crease. It’s really a wonder how the Bruins haven’t capitalized more on them.
–Down the other end, Tuukka Rask was just immense. Literally the only knock anyone could have legitimately had on Rask prior to this series was that it wasn’t clear what type of postseason goalie he was. Well, his 93 saves on 100 shots give a pretty good indication. His best of the night on Monday was probably when he lunged right to left to make a left pad save on a Joffrey Lupul one-time attempt, but the kick save he made while lying on his back wasn’t too bad, either.
The Lupul Save:
The Sprawling Kick Save:
It’s not as if he was terrible in the 2010 playoffs, when he went 7-6 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage, but with the way he went out against Philly, combined with the incredible Tim Thomas performance the following spring, Rask needed an opportunity. He got it, and so far, he’s making the most of it.
–At the same time, there’s a good chance Rask gave his posts a massage and maybe even a kiss for good luck after that. They saved him from giving up two goals, one by Phaneuf and one by Cody Franson, but any goaltender will tell you posts aren’t luck, that they had the net covered and did their job. They’re full of it, but they’ll tell you that.
–Another goal was taken off the board not by luck but by effort on the part of Patrice Bergeron. His backcheck helped prevent Phil Kessel from burying his second goal, which would have cut the Boston lead to just one goal in the third period. Bergeron just does everything right. You know this by now, but a player like him can be the subtle difference in a series like this one.
–And on the note of subtlety, three of the biggest plays of the game most likely went unnoticed in the first period. Johnny Boychuk perfectly timed a shot block on one of Kessel’s patented snap shots that looked rather dangerous early on. Andrew Ference broke up a Mikhail Grabovski pass to James van Riemsdyk that likely would have led to an easy goal, and he also made a great play to block a Jay McClement shot later in the first and cleared the puck out of the zone.
They weren’t highlight-reel plays, but keeping the Leafs off the board early was absolutely imperative for Boston’s game plan, and it was that type of all-out effort that helped make it happen.
–Considering this is the Internet Age, I am thoroughly disappointed that an enterprising young man or woman didn’t immediately set up a fundraiser for charity when Brad Marchand and Kessel were yapping at each other from their respective penalty boxes. I know I would’ve thrown down at least $25 to see those two hop out of the box and throw down at center ice, and I’m sure I’m not alone. If someone relayed the message to them that hockey fans had raised $85,000 for charity during their two-minute penalties, they’d almost have to fight, wouldn’t they?
–I’d also pay a few bucks to hear the audio of that exchange. Like Peyton Manning, Kessel’s crutch word when talking is “right?” so I wonder if that makes his way into his trash talk too. “I hate you, right? Shut up, right? I’ll hit you, right?”
It did look like Kessel was trying to demonstratively make a nose insult at Marchand, but does that hurt a hockey player’s feelings? “You have a big nose, right?” I mean, really, Marchand doesn’t even have the biggest nose among Boston left wingers, so I’m sure that type of insult won’t keep him up at night.
–After the mayhem that took place between the Senators and Canadiens on Sunday night, I’m sure referees around the league were tense on Monday to not allow a repeat to take place. But the men in stripes had a pretty awful night in Toronto. From calling Milan Lucic for diving, to calling Nazem Kadri for boarding, to the needless roughing calls on Kessel and Marchand, the refs put their stamp on this one a little too much.
For the Bruins, that might be the only way they lose this series, because the Leafs are now 4-for-12 on the power play. That accounts for exactly half of their scoring, so the Bruins might want to shore up that penalty kill if they hope to go on any sort of extended run.
–It wasn’t surprising in the least to see the fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton hop over the boards and serve as the saviors for the Bruins late in the third period, after the Leafs had gone on the attack and outshot the Bruins 16-4 in the first 16-plus minutes of the final period. The fourth line finally got the puck deep in the Toronto zone for about 20 seconds before Thornton battled hard to pin the puck along the end boards and allow for the Bergeron line to get on the ice.
In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, the Paille-Campbell-Thornton line did that about a dozen times, keeping some of the most skilled players in the world pinned in their own zone for full shifts at a time, and it was as big a reason as any that the Bruins hoisted the Cup that night in Vancouver. And it’s exactly why Julien calls upon his fourth line more often than many coaches would in some extremely tense situations.
–Thornton also made a magnificent move in the first period, where he weaved through blue jerseys, cut to the front of the net and nearly jammed one home on a forehand. A little lift on the shot would have helped, as Reimer was able to make a left pad save, but it’s probably for the best. Had Thornton scored that goal, 45 minutes from his hometown, in a Stanley Cup playoff game, he might have had to retire on the spot.
Also, the poor kid in the front row grasping his hat would have been really upset, and that would have just been sad.
–I hate when people try to be “fan police,” so don’t misinterpret this as some high-and-mighty note of condescension, but like a lot of people, I was pretty disturbed to read about the Toronto fan who was knocked out with a sucker punch on his way out of the Garden on Saturday night. We all know that the one jerk who did it does not represent a city or a fan base or anything like that, but I just think if you’re going to any games this postseason (or ever, really), maybe just look out for some of the visiting fans. You don’t have to be their best friend, but if you notice things getting hostile or potentially violent, don’t be afraid to say something to security. Nobody wants to see that kind of idiotic violence take place again.
–After all, if Adam McQuaid and Jay McClement can get along, can’t you and Tommy Toronto Fan?
–How’s this for efficiency: Adam McQuaid skated just 9:46 in Game 3, more than only Thornton. In that abbreviated ice time, he was able to score a goal (his first in 35 playoff games) and finish with a plus-3 rating. He also was credited with six hits, just one behind Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk for the team lead. Oh, and he blocked two shots, which had him tied for second-most on the team. That is a true model of efficiency.
–Late in the game, the home crowd and James van Riemsdyk really wanted a penalty called on Boychuk for a high hit of some kind, even though it was pretty clear that van Riemsdyk buried his own face into Boychuk’s shoulder and was very displeased with the results. The photo from the aftermath captures the situation — and the whole night, really — pretty well.