BOSTON (CBS) –It seemed like just yesterday that articles, columns, tweets and rants were being fired off at a dizzying rate after the Bruins lost Game 1 to the Red Wings, as many wondered whether the Wings were exactly the type of team capable of giving the Bruins fits. As it turned out, the opening 60 minutes proved to just be a feeling-out period, and after that, the Bruins imposed their size, strength and skill to dominate for almost the entirety of the rest of the series.
Really, aside from the first period of Game 4, there were very few moments where the Red Wings looked capable of even slowing down the Bruins, and the five-game series win is indicative of the top-to-bottom talent level on the two teams.
The Bruins had health, experience, goaltending, special teams and coaching on their side, and that’s exactly why they can kick back and relax for the better part of a week while watching other teams battle it out in six- or seven-game series.
But before fully moving on to the upcoming Montreal series, let’s take one last run-through of all the leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 4-2 series-clinching win in Game 5 against Detroit.
–I keep track of some of the bigger saves made on both sides, and I didn’t mark down any difficult save for Tuukka Rask until 11:10 into the second period. That’s more than half of a hockey game.
When a team is facing elimination, you expect them to hit the ice with a certain degree of desperation, firing anything and everything on net and relentlessly pestering the opposing netminder as much as possible. Yet the Bruins absolutely locked down their own zone, getting sticks and bodies in the way of a ton of shots, and keeping their goalie from having to work too hard in the first half of the game.
Sometimes coaches who say things like “shot blocking is the most useless stat” ought to watch tape of the first period for the Bruins. It was a clinic, and Rask was not really challenged as a result. I understand the premise that you don’t want to block a lot of shots because by necessity that means the other team is taking a lot of shots and therefore is owning the puck, but it’s an important skill, and it’s why teams with grit find themselves playing deep into the spring. Perhaps the overall number is not all that important, but if you don’t value the impact of a blocked shot — by definition, the immediate cancellation of a scoring opportunity — then you’re not making much sense.
–One major takeaway from this series: No member of the Red Wings is going to want to skate against Johnny Boychuk ever again.
Luke Glendening was the poor kid who got thumped by No. 55 in this game, and Boychuk had at least one of those bone-crunching hits per game. It’s the type of thing that doesn’t show up on the score sheet (I find that the people keeping track of the “hits” statistic are typically blindfolded, intoxicated or both), but it really wears an opposing team out, and it’s the type of work that can result in an opposing team lacking that extra energy in a win-or-go-home Game 5.
–I was fairly shocked to see the Detriot penalty-killing unit pretty much let Dougie Hamilton make the exact same rush through the neutral zone and across the blue line as the one he made in Game 3. Yet, the whole ice opened up for him. When he carried with speed from the Boston end and through center ice, I thought, “The Wings can’t be bad enough to let him do this again.” I was wrong. While he was eventually forced to the outside, he had plenty of space to wheel the puck back in front of the net for Loui Eriksson to score the game’s first goal.
Fool Detroit once, shame on Detroit. Fool Detroit twice, come on, Detroit. Are you even paying attention?
–During a penalty kill in the first period, Justin Florek used his skate to pin the puck to the boards deep in the Detroit zone and drained a good 7 seconds or so off the clock. The TD Garden crowd gave a rousing ovation for the effort. I’m not sure how many buildings do that, but Boston’s is definitely one of them.
–Boston Bruins fans also deserve credit for raising more than twice as much money as any other fan base in this year’s Beard-A-Thon. As of the morning of April 28, Bruins fans raised $57,905. The second-place New York Rangers raised $22,521, and the third-place Penguins raised $19,430. The money all goes to a good place (last year the Bruins raised $115,000 for The One Fund, and this year the money raised by the Bruins is going to Team MR8, a charitable foundation set up in honor of Martin Richard), and you can check it out at Beardathon.com as well as the team-specific Bruins page.
–The Bruins’ penalty kill finished the series at 90 percent effectiveness, which is pretty spectacular but somehow ranks third behind Minnesota (94.4 percent) and Chicago (93.1 percent) in the postseason thus far. Brad Marchand, who tied for the league lead with five shorthanded goals in the regular season, was at it again on Saturday, leading a 2-on-1 rush with Patrice Bergeron late in the first period. Marchand sent a good, hard, low shot to the far side, with the intent of getting a rebound to Bergeron. Jonas Gustavsson kicked it just out of Bergeron’s reach, though.
Marchand’s got that innate ability to turn the tables when his team is shorthanded, the likes of which Boston hasn’t seen since Brian Rolston (during his first go-round with the Bruins).
–On the flip side, Marchand was unable to kill a couple of penalties in Game 5, because he spent that time in the box. Clearly, the referees took note of Marchand’s grabbing the wrong knee in Game 3 and took offense to it, as he was unable to get away with anything in this game. He was tripped by Danny DeKeyser late in the first period, but the infraction drew no call. He was called for roughing after falling with some extra oomph on top of Niklas Kronwall, and he again went off for roughing after engaging in some mutual pushing and shoving with Henrik Zetterberg. Marchand certainly wasn’t innocent in these instances, but it was the type of play that is typically allowed in the playoffs.
But the refs paid extra attention to Mr. Marchand in this game, backing up the arguments of those who thought Marchand’s antics in Game 3 would ultimately prove costly in the long run. Whether or not you believed him when he said that he hurt his right knee upon landing on the ice, it’s clear the NHL’s referees made up their minds.
–Speaking of the men in striped shirts, referee Steve Kozari took a puck right to the kisser and went down like a sack of bricks.
He went off the ice, the game paused for a TV timeout, and Kozari came right back down the tunnel without missing any time. Even the refs in hockey are tough. It’s almost comical.
(Maybe sport a visor there, Mr. Kozari. I don’t know, it’s a crazy idea and all, but you kind of have a dangerous job, sir.
–Once Rask was pressed into action, it was a tough 30 minutes of hockey for him. His most impressive save was actually one that immediately preceded Zetterberg’s goal, as his stop on Justin Abdelkader’s doorstep bid actually caused my jaw to drop.
The toe save on Abdelkader was just unreal. That Rask nearly made the follow-up save on Zetterberg, with the shot catching part of his jersey before going in, was all the more unbelievable. That’s what it took to beat Rask in this series. Look at what he gave up: a highlight-reel wrister by Pavel Datsyuk, a double deflection off the stick and glove of Glendening, a Kronwall power-play blast through a screen, a puck bouncing behind the net in Game 4, and a pair of rebound goals in Game 5.
That’s why the NHL.com leaders page looks like this:
–This oh-so-casual toe save wasn’t bad, either:
The ease with which he makes such saves is pretty typical of Rask’s overall demeanor. He stood at his locker after the win, surrounded by at least 30 reporters and a dozen TV cameras, yet he had the demeanor of a man walking his dog in the park on a Sunday morning. If you had just stumbled upon the scene (admittedly, it’s hard to stumble upon an NHL goaltender at his locker after a playoff game, but hear me out) you would have had no idea that he had just won a playoff series. His composure is really something to behold, especially for someone who showed a healthy amount of rage in the early years of his career. (That sound you hear is the family of that poor, poor Providence milk crate nodding in agreement.)
–For anyone who doesn’t know, Thrice is the greatest rock band of our generation. It’s just a fact; don’t bother looking it up. And the Bruins caught on to this phenomenon last year, blasting “Silhouette” when the team goes on the power play. Zdeno Chara scored his power-play blast just 10 seconds after the song blared inside the TD Garden. Some may say that’s a coincidence. Others might say it’s just further proof of Thrice’s great influence on the world. I’ll leave it up to you to decide (that it’s the latter).
–Much is being made of the Bruins having 10 different goal scorers in the first round. That’s fair, but I think the fact that David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Carl Soderberg and Johnny Boychuk are almost guaranteed to start scoring goals at some point is an even better sign for the Bruins.
What was just important as the goal scorers, in my opinion, was the Bruins’ ability to simply establish dominance over an opponent. For stretches this season, the Bruins were the very best team in the NHL, and they did that by playing a suffocating game that leads opponents to feel like they’re drowning. The Bruins, after that initial cautious start in Game 1, began playing that heavy game that is just relentless. It’s the game where Milan Lucic is stapling defensemen to the end boards after dump-ins, where Boychuk is punishing anyone for daring to skate with the puck, where Zdeno Chara and the rest of the D corps stands up to nearly every even-man rush, and where Tuukka Rask tears out the hearts of opponents who think they’ve done what’s necessary to score.
Now, the extra time between series, which could allow Daniel Paille to recover and make his 2014 playoff debut in Game 1 of the second round, should only make the Bruins that much more complete.
–There was one point where Z almost fought Z. I would have liked to have seen Z fight Z. Why didn’t Z fight Z? I wish Z fought Z. I do.
–How about that sequence of a million penalties called in a row? Ridiculous. It started with an atrocious goaltender interference call on Eriksson after he was cross-checked into Gustavsson, and it snowballed from there with make-up calls and legitimate calls mixed together. I understand the referees are likely lonely from all that travel, and they want their friends and families to see their ugly mugs on TV, but that was out of hand.
–Whether or not the Bruins could slow down Gustav Nyquist, Detroit’s leading goal scorer, was a real question before the series. Well …
—For two teams that have only been in the same division for one year, there sure seemed to be plenty of hate in this series. Nevertheless, because the NHL postseason is truly the greatest, the series ended as all series do:
And now, we all wait impatiently for the second round to begin.
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