BOSTON (CBS) — When two teams skate for 73 minutes in an intense playoff hockey game, there is never one player or moment that can be pointed to as the single reason for determining the outcome.
With that being established … the Bruins would have had no chance to win Wednesday night’s Game 4 without the incredible work of the penalty kill.
Of course, David Krejci will deservedly receive a great deal of praise for his hat trick, which included the overtime game-winner, and Tuukka Rask earned heaploads of credit for standing tall with 45 saves on the day he learned he was not a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Both deserve their credit.
Alas, they were provided that opportunity to win the game thanks to the efforts of the penalty killers, who refused to lose the game.
The Leafs got their first opportunity on the power play 8:57 into the second period when they held a 2-1 lead. The Leafs could have halted the Bruins’ momentum built from Patrice Bergeron’s goal early in the period, but instead they were held to zero shots in the two minutes, while Bergeron actually generated a quality scoring chance of his own.
The PK got back to work at the end of the period and had to work overtime when Gregory Campbell, a crucial penalty killer, got called for slashing while Krejci was already in the box for “roughing.” The Leafs mustered just one shot on net — a bid from the goal line by James van Riemsdyk — on the two-man advantage and one more shot on the remaining time of the Campbell penalty.
The Bruins lost another of their valuable PK men, Zdeno Chara, with just 6:33 left in a tied game, on an impressive Toronto flop, and things looked somewhat bleak for the Bruins. The home crowd was roaring, and the Leafs were flying around the ice. Yet again, Bergeron murdered the penalty, and the teams played on. You know the rest.
Bergeron finished with 2:28 of shorthanded time on ice and two shorthanded shots on net. Chris Kelly had 2:54 and Rich Peverley had a ridiculous 3:24. On defense, Dennis Seidenberg logged 4:07, while Chara had 3:19 and Andrew Ference had 2:51.
Each and every one of those seconds proved crucial. The Bruins finally shored up their shorthanded play, a strength during the regular season that briefly disappeared to begin the postseason with only a 75 percent success rate through the first three games. In Game 4, it was perfect. That wasn’t the only reason the Bruins won, but they wouldn’t have had the opportunity without it.
Now let’s dig through the leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ thrilling 4-3 overtime victory that sets up a potential series-clinching Game 5 at home on Friday night.
–I just can’t go on any further without saying that I genuinely feel bad for this person:
I wish I could tell you that things will get better, but these are the Maple Leafs, so I just don’t know if that’s true. Hang in there, bud!
–I put the word “roughing” in quotation marks above because the penalty came when big, bad David Krejci put his hand on James van Riemsdyk’s neck, and van Riemsdyk reacted as if he had just been struck down by Darth Vader’s force. If you’re keeping track this series, that’s a butt-end to Brad Marchand’s special man place and a flop for the ages in the span of four games. That’s no way to represent the US of A, JVR.
–James Reimer also crossed the line when he violently grabbed at Bergeron’s leg and tried to lift him up when Bergeron was surrounded by four blue jerseys after a whistle late in the second period. That’s needlessly dangerous, and it was a bad time for Reimer to actually hold on to something. Everything else he touches seems to bounce right off him.
–Have you ever seen more blood in a single postseason? Between Lars Eller last week in the Montreal series, and then Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic and Mark Fraser in Game 4, TV networks can start replacing their play-by-play men with this kid:
–There weren’t too many negatives from a Bruins perspective after the overtime win, but man, what is wrong with Tyler Seguin? That’s the million-dollar question right now. He used to absolutely destroy the Maple Leafs, and now he just seems lost. When the puck hits his stick, he takes an extra second or two before making his decision, and by then, it’s usually the wrong one. For a player with a release like Seguin’s, the easiest way out of this funk is probably to just start ripping pucks on net. Good things will happen — especially against Rebound Reimer.
–All series, I’ve yelled at anyone who would listen, saying the Bruins need to just fire pucks on net and let Reimer set up the goals for them with his big, fat rebounds. The Bruins did get a couple of these goals in Game 4, but I think it is probably best that they didn’t completely change their offensive strategy around for one team and, more specifically, one opponent. If they do finish off this series and end up facing, say, Henrik Lundqvist in the second round, it wouldn’t be worth the risk of having some of those bad habits carry over.
–There’s little to be said about Rask that won’t get repeated over and over again in the 45 hours or so between Games 4 and 5. He was spectacular yet again. There was the toe save on Tyler Bozak’s one-timer in the first, the blocker save of Leo Komarov’s redirect from the slot of a Colton Orr feed in the second, the point-blank consecutive stops on Joffrey Lupul early in the third, the kick save on a streaking Mikhail Grabovski in the final five minutes of regulation, and of course, the glove save on Lupul in overtime which Rask made in an impossibly casual fashion.
Again, Rask will forever unfairly be playing in the large shadow cast by Tim Thomas’ 2011 postseason run. Well, in the first four games of the ’11 postseason, Thomas went 2-2 and allowed 11 goals on 120 shots for a .908 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average. Through Rask’s first four games this year, he’s 3-1 and has allowed 10 goals on 147 shots for a .932 save percentage and 2.39 GAA.
It’s ridiculous to try to say that means Rask is better than Thomas, but it’s equally as preposterous to hold it against Rask that Thomas was great in 2011. Rask has earned his proper due.
–No, no, I haven’t forgotten that posts have been friendly to Rask. But hey, when you’re hot, you’re hot. Matt Frattin is the latest Maple Leaf to learn that lesson.
–For all the talk about “cheating” on the faceoff dot, I didn’t see too much of an impact in terms of players getting thrown out of draws. The Bruins ended up winning 55 percent of faceoffs, with Bergeron and Bozak each going 5-for-10 against each other. The only thing that could have made that little “controversy” worse is if someone started calling it Faceoffgate and oh my God I just did it let’s move on now please.
–On one shift in the third period, Dion Phaneuf got away with a high-stick on Rich Peverley and then put himself about 50 feet out of position because he wanted to go for a big hit. He missed the hit and left Nathan Horton wide open in front of the net, but Reimer came through with a huge save. It was fitting, then, that Phaneuf again went for the big hit, this time on Horton, in overtime and ended up getting caught on the wrong end of the ice while David Krejci was taking his sweet time to calmly bury the game-winning goal. It helps explain how a D-man with as much offensive skill as Phaneuf can be a minus player in five of the last six seasons, and it’s a big reason why the Leafs are down 3-1.
–Stories should be written, tweets should be sent, Facebook statuses should be posted and golden statues should be erected for the work of Johnny Boychuk in the second period. He could not stand up after taking a shot off the leg, yet he managed to crawl his way in front of the net to block a shot, then limp over and dive on a stick to break up another chance. Fortunately, his work will live forever on the Tubes of You.
He left the bench briefly to get some attention from the medical staff, but being the Johnny Manchuk he is, he didn’t miss a shift and finished the game with 23:18 time on ice while registering a team-high seven hits and a game-high seven blocked shots. It was the 371st chapter in his self-help novel, “How To Be Tough.”
–Shawn Thornton is also tough, but he was only called upon to play 6:42 of the 73-minute game. You don’t want to be wearing a Maple Leafs sweater Friday night at the Garden, when Thornton is finally let out of his cage. Seriously.
–Here are some playoff stats for you: The two teams combined for 120 hits (Phaneuf had 10), 51 blocked shots and 182 total attempted shots. For comparison, in their meeting in Boston on March 25, which went a full 65 minutes before a shootout, they combined for 47 hits (Seidenberg led the way with five), 27 blocked shots and 107 total shots attempted.
–This series has at times been much tighter than the 3-1 advantage for Boston suggests, and if a few bounces go a different way, it could seemingly just as easily be 3-1 Toronto right now. The Maple Leafs have been impressive as a group that really is playing its absolute best and is not wilting under the playoff pressure. Their best, though, doesn’t match the Bruins’ best, particularly with the way Rask has been playing.
And while the Leafs have yet to put forth a spiritless effort this series, it’s going to be really hard for them to bounce back from this one when the series picks back up Friday night in Boston. I thought all along that it’d take the Bruins six games to beat any team this postseason, but if they can score early in Game 5, they might be able to force the Leafs to tap out.