By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You could watch hockey for a very, very long time without seeing a game as lopsided as the one that took place in Uniondale on Tuesday night.
It’s not just that the Bruins won 5-0. Scores like that one, and shutouts by larger margins, do happen from time to time. It’s that there were just so many factors that led to the Bruins’ complete and total domination of the first-place Islanders.
–The Islanders registered just two shots on goal in the first period.
–For the entire game, the Islanders got just 13 shots on net. The Bruins, who finished with 39 shots on net, had more than 13 shots on goal in both the first (14) and third (15) periods.
–Despite trailing 3-0 entering the third, and despite likely feeling a sense of desperation, the Islanders could muster just five shots on net in the final period.
–The Islanders had four minutes of power-play time and managed to get just one shot on net during that time. The Bruins matched that with one short-handed shot on net.
–The Islanders lead the league in goals allowed per game at 2.37; the Bruins more than doubled that.
–The Islanders hadn’t lost by five goals since Nov. 21.
–Matt Martin showed courage in squaring off with Zdeno Chara off the opening faceoff of the second period … but it did not go well for him. Chara completely bullied Martin, and the fight at center ice only ended because Chara showed some mercy.
“I respect him,” the 42-year-old captain said of Martin. “He’s obviously been in the league for a long time. He’s tough as nails. He’s doing his job for his team. It’s obviously a great job by him. He takes his job very seriously and he’s one of those guys that I respect highly. It’s not an easy job, so he’s putting his name out there and he’s doing whatever he can to help his team tonight. So good for him. Like I said, he’s one of those guys, he’s very tough, very respected, so I just wanted to give him that opportunity.”
–The Bruins owned puck possession, with the Islanders giving the puck away 22 times, compared to the Bruins’ 12.
–Though Tuukka Rask was not tested very much, he did make two point-blank saves from the same dangerous spot on the ice to keep the Islanders off the scoreboard and maintain the shutout in the third period.
–Still, the defensive effort from the Bruins was nearly perfect, resulting in just 13 shots on net. Rask’s performance was just the 11th time in the past 10 years that a goalie has recorded a shutout while making 13 or fewer saves. (FUN FACT: Tim Thomas posted a 13-save shutout against the Maple Leafs exactly seven years prior to Rask’s.)
Put it all together, and the Bruins reminded the hockey world once again just what they will be capable of come playoff time.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy could only find fault with “a shift or two” from his team over the course of the 60 minutes of hockey, but otherwise saw what everybody else saw: complete and total dominance of a very good opponent.
“In terms of the possession and the worry meter for the coach, usually you see what’s happening before maybe the bad comes. You start to sense, ‘Uh-oh.’ But we never really got away from it,” Cassidy told reporters after the 5-0 win. “It was good. You’re always concerned, did [the opponent] just not have it tonight, or was it just us with great legs and great determination and decision-making? It’s probably a little bit of both, but I can only judge us, and I love the way we played.”
David Pastrnak returned to the ice after a lengthy absence due to his torn thumb ligament, but the Bruins didn’t need any goals from him in his first game back. Sean Kuraly scored his seventh and eighth goals of the year, Noel Acciari potted his fourth, Patrice Bergeron scored on a 3-on-2 in the third, and Jake DeBrusk burst out of the penalty box later in the final period to score on a breakaway.
“For a full 60, that’s up there with one of the best 60’s that I think we’ve played this year,” Kuraly said after his first career regular-season multi-goal game.
While there may not be any space to climb the standings in the Atlantic Division for the Bruins, who trail the runaway Lightning by a comical 19 points, the Bruins have now at least reestablished themselves after last week’s three-game losing streak. They battled to an overtime win over the Blue Jackets — a playoff team — on Saturday — before walloping the Islanders, who dropped to second place in the Metropolitan Division after the demoralizing defeat.
With a six-point lead over Toronto in the Atlantic, the Bruins are a near-lock to have home ice in the first round against the Maple Leafs. Should they get past Toronto, a mighty challenge in Tampa will await.
And while actually beating the Lightning would be considered a massive upset, the fact is that this is the NHL, where the playoffs are among the most unpredictable tournaments in all of sports. (Overall since 2003, the best team in the NHL has been just as likely to reach the Stanley Cup Final as it has been to get eliminated in the first round.) And if the Bruins can regularly play the way they did in Long Island? They will certainly be the toughest out in the Eastern Conference.