By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins’ 3-2 double-overtime comeback win against Ottawa in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first round series Friday did more than just extend the series.READ MORE: DA: Woman Arrested In South Shore Plaza Murder, Shooter Remains At-Large
It also solidified a lot of plans for the Bruins’ future.
Over the course of the 4 hours and 6 minutes of their dramatic victory after trailing 2-0, the Bruins’ hopes that they have the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara on their back end were confirmed–and they found a future power forward thanks to a hunch by their coach.
First, there was offensive hero Sean Kuraly. He was in the lineup because of a hunch by Bruce Cassidy, the best hunch by a Bruins coach in the postseason since Claude Julien put Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, and Daniel Paille together as a line in the 2013 Stanley Cup final. Cassidy wanted someone willing to throw the body around and make things happen, and Ryan Spooner probably won’t ever fit that bill.
So there was the bulky forward who, in a roundabout way, was acquired in exchange for ancient-Bruins-history power forward Milan Lucic, burying two goals from around the Ottawa net. The first tied the game with 2:55 remaining in the second period after a heavy hit on the forecheck and a return pass from David Backes. The second won the game on a rebound of a Charlie McAvoy shot from the right point. David Krejci’s first-period injury created an opportunity for other forwards to get more ice time and Kuraly found a home on a line with Backes and Tim Schaller–the most improbable Bruins second line you could’ve have drawn up just 24 hours ago.READ MORE: 2 Firefighters Injured At Laundromat Fire In Dorchester
Most of the glory for the win goes to Kuraly and goaltender Tuukka Rask, who after giving up two breakaway goals, the last with 30 seconds elapsed in the second period, was impenetrable. It didn’t matter whether the Senators tried deflections, breakaways, tough-angle short-side shots or slap shots from the points, Rask answered the bell. But quietly we also witnessed an almost complete passing of the torch from Chara to McAvoy as the Bruins’ best defenseman.
Chara edged McAvoy in ice time, 36:46 to 31:14. But as the game wore on, Chara looked like he had less and less fuel in the tank. McAvoy, as you’d expect of a 19-year-old, was still flying. He was credited with five hits, and although he wasn’t credited with any blocked shots, he got a skate on a Bobby Ryan chance late in the first overtime after Chara was caught stranded at the offensive blue line. Most of McAvoy’s plays can’t be quantified, as he continues to move the puck without hesitation, takes hits from men ten years his elder like he’s made of rubber and doles out his own share of punishment. He passes the puck D-to-D like no Bruins defenseman I’ve seen in the past 12 years.
There were contributions from other potential pieces of Bruins teams of the future. Noel Acciari had a goal disallowed for the second straight game but he also took Ryan Dzingel out of the game for a couple shifts with one of his patented bone-crushing hits. Joe Morrow continued to show he might be a cheap third-pair option for the Bruins, or another team, or he could be someone the Vegas Golden Knights might take in the expansion draft and leave the Bruins with the veterans they want to keep.
If the Bruins are going to keep the comeback going and win this series, they might need some more hunches from Cassidy. They’re also going to need more contributions from players that are part of the current core and part of the future core. Best of all, those future parts are gaining invaluable postseason experience that will pay off whether the Bruins are still playing this May or in the spring and summer months of the years to come.MORE NEWS: Nor'easter Likely To Bring More Than 2 Feet Of Snow, Blizzard Conditions Saturday
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.