BOSTON (CBS) — Pivotal.
Literally, it means “of, relating to, or constituting a pivot.” But in sports it’s used more like its second definition — “vitally important.” It will be used ad nauseam to describe the upcoming Game 5 between the Bruins and Canadiens.
But let’s make this clear: There is no point more pivotal to any playoff series than overtime of a Game 4.
At that point, the swing is just so incredibly massive one way or the other. That was true last series for the Bruins, when they scored the OT winner to take a 3-1 lead on their way to a relatively easy five-game series win. And it was most certainly true in this series, as the Bruins now enter Saturday night knowing it’s a whole new series, rather than facing the prospect of needing to win three straight games against a very good opponent in order to keep the season alive.
This series has been tight as can be. Through three games, just one empty-net goal separated the two teams. Both teams fought tooth and nail in Game 4 to gain that edge, and it took until the 62nd minute for anyone to break through. Any time a playoff game goes to overtime, everyone knows that one bounce or one bad break can make all the difference. In this case, it prevented the Habs from taking a commanding 3-1 lead and instead got things back to even stephen.
Let’s dive headfirst into the leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 1-0 overtime win in Game 4.
–Please — PLEASE! — stop counting posts. STOP COUNTING POSTS! Do you know what the funny thing is about hitting the post? It’s not a goal! Not every piece of iron rung is created equally. Occasionally, a player hitting a post is a sign of some bad luck, but not always. Much of the time, that high-pitched ding comes after a player simply missed. Carl Soderberg’s crossbar late in the first period came when Carl had a giant window to shoot into. He missed. It wasn’t a bad break. It was a bad shot.
So for as much as the pipe counters have exclaimed that the Bruins have bad luck because they’ve hit 10 posts this series, it means very little in terms of “puck luck,” which is the worst term ever, but that’s a story for another day.
The team that spends its time counting all the posts hit is almost always the team that ends up being the loser.
–That third line of Matt Fraser-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson obviously was the one that came through with the game-winner, and it was truly a complete effort from all of them. Eriksson had some strong work along the boards to sustain the offensive possession before passing back to Johnny Boychuk for the point shot. Soderberg battled in front and his big body occupied the attention of Lars Eller and Mike Weaver. And Fraser was able to sneak right around Douglas “The Human Statue” Murray (why is he on the ice a minute into over time, Michel Therrien?) to find the puck and bury it.
It was the culmination of a night where the third line simply owned the puck. Despite Soderberg twice putting the puck directly into two downed bodies and also once skating in circles for so long that even The Human Statue was able to plow him into the boards, the newly formed third line did great work all night. That’s not ideal for a team that relies more on the top two lines for scoring, but if those lines aren’t getting it done, it’s nice for Claude Julien to have a third line like that as his disposal. I remember a certain Bruins team using its third line to win an overtime Game 4 in Montreal not too long ago, now that you mention it.
–The word on Tuukka Rask after Game 3 was a bit mixed. Some absolved him of all blame, considering he was hung out to dry on breakaways. Others said he is a Vezina favorite and needed to step up in such moments and steal games for his team. But the word after Game 4 is unanimous. Rask was excellent.
He didn’t sell out to make any truly spectacular saves, but that’s just typical of Rask’s style. He still made plenty of huge saves in huge moments, and obviously in a game without any goals for 60-plus minutes, they’re all important.
There was this tricky one on Max Pacioretty, which forced Rask to apparently perish upon impact.
There was the turning away of a point-blank slapper from Dale Weise.
There was this glove save midway through the second period, which quelled a momentum surge and allowed the Bruins to breathe for a TV timeout.
And of course, there was the breakaway stop on Brian Gionta.
If Rask’s Game 3 effort wasn’t enough, surely a 33-save shutout is plenty good enough.
–Much is being made about the lack of contribution from the top line, and rightfully so. To me, it’s a lack of commitment from the wingers that’s leading to the offensive ineptitude. Make no mistake, David Krejci hasn’t been himself. He’s turning pucks over and looking lost at times, and he’s not being strong on his stick. But what made that line so successful all year long was a commitment from Lucic to fly to the end board and punish any D-man who dared try to make a play on the puck. That, combined with hard work along the boards by Iginla and the typical wizardry from Krejci is what’s needed to get that line going.
Yet the commitment hasn’t been there. For that line, the wingers need to be physical for anything to happen. If they can start with that and keep it simple, good things will follow.
–Plus, this was an A-plus setup from Krejci to Torey Krug.
The pass was so purdy.
Any time you can get the puck on the tape of a player with a lethal shot like Krug in a good spot on the ice, you’re doing something right. Krejci also had a crucial stick lift of Tomas Plekanec with 30 seconds left in regulation to help prevent a Montreal scoring chance.
–For as much as Lucic hasn’t done much, he at least had a good laugh in the face of P.K. Subban after Subban offered Lucic a little shove after a whistle. There can’t be a much worse feeling than having a guy who’s actually tough laugh right in your eye because he knows you’d never actually do anything to him. Just demoralizing as a human. I would be bummed out. I’m sure P.K. is fine, though.
–How about the fact that the Bruins went to Montreal for two playoff games and were only called for two penalties? Two! In Game 3, teams could get away with murder, as Tim Peel and Chris Rooney simply forgot their whistles in the locker room. But Game 4 was an almost perfectly clean game, with only Matt Bartkowski’s tackle and Alexei Emelin’s shove of David Krejci into the boards warranting penalty calls. I think both teams knew what was at stake and put an extra effort into staying out of the box. Still, we’ve seen that go the wrong way with some refs who get influenced by all that Bell Centre noise. But not in this series. And that, my friends, is pretty shocking.
–You know what? Give credit to the Bruins for employing a bold strategy of wearing down Carey Price via shots to his chest. That man’s chest must be sore with all of the vulcanized rubber that’s been landing on his pecs.
I mean, look at this one. An impromptu 3-on-2 develops, and Brad Marchand can either set up Patrice Bergeron for a one-time slapper, or he could delay and let Reilly Smith create some traffic in front, or he could drive to the net, or he could put a hard show low in order to create a rebound. Orrrrr, he could send a lazy 40-foot wrister into the logo on Price’s sweater.
It’s been the theme of the series. Price has been very good, but the majority of his 138 saves have either hit him in the chest or have been easily gloved down. The Bruins aren’t making it hard enough for him.
–Matt Fraser scored the overtime game winner in his first ever NHL playoff game. That’s pretty cool. But as surprising as it was to see that, I think we were all doubly shocked to learn that Fraser sounds exactly like Tim Thomas when talking in interviews. It’s like a freaky voice clone. It’s scary. All Fraser needs is a mustache and he’s got his Halloween costume already picked out.
–This overhead shot of the game-winning goal is all sorts of spectacular:
–OK, that’s enough about Game 4. Let’s all get ready to get pivotal.
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