By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Call me crazy, but even as the Bruins were rallying from a 3-2 hole against the Maple Leafs, and even as they rattled off three straight wins to dispatch the Blue Jackets, and even as they came back from a third-period deficit to win Game 1 against the Hurricanes … I still couldn’t help but feel like the Bruins weren’t playing their best hockey. It was good hockey, to be sure. Very good hockey, even. But it was not their best hockey.
Sunday in Game 2 against Carolina, though? That looked a whole lot like the Bruins hitting the peak of their capabilities. And if the team can replicate that kind of game going forward, they simply won’t be beaten. Not this round, and not in the next one.
The thing is, after a blowout win during which a team led 6-0, it would be easy to gloss over the full 60 minutes and say one team came to play and one team did not. But really, on Sunday afternoon, the Hurricanes came to play. They really did. From the opening shift of the game, the Hurricanes were buzzing. It was all accentuated by Micheal Ferland’s near-devastating hit on Matt Grzelcyk, but the Hurricanes were playing with the right level of energy to start that game.
Tuukka Rask turned aside some solid bids from the visiting team, including a Justin Williams redirect of a Jaccob Slavin point shot three minutes into the game …
… and a Justin Faulk shot from the top of the right faceoff circle through a whole heck of a lot of traffic …
… and another Faulk shot through traffic, this one coming on the power play:
Prior to Petr Mrazek letting in a softy to Grzelcyk, the Hurricanes were outshooting Boston 6-4. The hits were about even (Boston had 13, Carolina had 12) as both teams were throwing bodies around all over the ice. It was very much an evenly played game through 15 minutes.
That was when Marcus Johansson made something happen, skating out of the corner, looping around the blue line and squeezing a pass past Teuvo Teravainen. Grzelcyk fit a shot through the six-hole, the Bruins took a lead and the game got away from Carolina from there.
A suspect tripping penalty on Williams gave the Bruins a power play, and the Hurricanes’ dreadful penalty kill gave Jake DeBrusk the opportunity to take about 40 whacks at the puck just seconds into that power play, to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
The Bruins, obviously, slammed their foot on the gas pedal in the second period, killing off an early penalty on Patrice Bergeron and then stretching that lead to three, and then four. It was sheer dominance, and it never really let up. Carolina’s first goal was legitimate, and the second one came only when Tuukka Rask showed the world why he’s not a puck-moving defenseman by trade. Regardless, those two Carolina goals did very little to lessen the feeling that this was a a thorough beatdown.
The Bruins showed what it looks like when they play like the best team in the world*** for 60 minutes.
Let’s do some leftovers.
–***Had to put an asterisk or three on that “Best Team In The World” proclamation. That title might technically belong to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Or, it would have belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning, if the Lightning hadn’t … gotten swept … by … the Columbus Blue Jackets?
Folks, I’m still not over that one.
–After Dougie Hamilton complained following Game 1, you knew that officiating was bound to be a big storyline for Game 2 and beyond. Hamilton looked like he might have gotten some leeway, too, when he very clearly tripped up Brad Marchand when the B’s forward was making a shorthanded rush.
Hamilton also avoided getting called for a penalty when he decked Danton Heinen in the head after turning a puck over late in a power play to give Boston a 2-on-1 rush. Seemed like a clear case of a player taking out his frustration on the head of an opponent, but, well, guess not!
Nevertheless, the Hurricanes ended up with four power plays, and the Bruins got just two.
The Hurricanes went 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Bruins went 2-for-2.
The teams entered the series with a massive disparity in special teams, as the Bruins had the best power play in the postseason and the Canes had one of the worst penalty kills. In a rare sports moment, it’s thus far played out exactly as we all expected, with Boston going 4-for-7 on the power play through two games to bring its success rate up to 33.3 percent this postseason.
The Hurricanes are now killing penalties at a 69.8 percent clip. They’re going to want to keep an eye on the skater directly in front of the goaltender two seconds after a faceoff when they get their next chance, or that number’s only doing to dip further.
–One thing I found strange was that the refs allowed Torey Krug and Brock McGinn to just straight-up Greco-Roman wrestle each other during the game.
I don’t know how a penalty or two wasn’t called here, but the judges gave this one to the undersized Krug. It’s the little ones you always have to worry about in a scrap like this.
–The number that really jumps out to accentuate the point about the Bruins looking like the best team in hockey is the fact that they’ve gotten goals from 19 different players this postseason. Nineteen different players. That’s incredible. (Maybe pick up the slack a little bit, Brandon Carlo.)
By contrast, Carolina has gotten goals from 12 different players this postseason, while out in the West, the Blues have 16 different goal scorers while the Sharks have just 12. The top line of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand has been solid with 17 goals, but they’ve accounted for just one-third of Boston’s 51 goals.
A team really can’t win the Stanley Cup with too top-heavy of a roster. Getting contributions from the likes of Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton makes life a whole lot easier this time of year.
–Brad Marchand’s ability to set the bait for Justin Williams caught quite a bit of attention, but it was noticeable that Marchand was apparently looking to draw a penalty on someone at some point in that second period. In his shift prior to the penalty, Marchand tangled himself up with Andrei Svechnikov and got a little bit nasty with the 19-year-old Russian. It happened well behind the play, when Boston was already skating shorthanded. Perhaps Marchand was trying to offer some retribution for Svechnikov’s dangerous hit on Zdeno Chara in Game 1, or maybe Marchand was just feeling frisky.
Whatever it was, a big takeaway would be that despite a 3-0 lead and control of the game, Marchand was still playing with some spunk late in the second period. It contributed in a big way to that lead growing to 4-0.
–Considering Connor Clifton has been in the NHL for about 30 minutes, I was struck by how deep he got into the Carolina zone in order to score his goal. Clifton carried the puck through the neutral zone and ended up taking it behind the goal line before dishing to Danton Heinen. Clifton then swooped all the way behind Mrazek’s net, separated himself from Haydn Fleury, and then skated to the goal mouth to make himself available.
So, Connor Clifton … how exactly did you end up behind the Carolina net?
“You know,” Clifton said. “I’m not too sure.”
Clifton admitted that he may not have had the comfort of skating into such an area when he was just getting his feet wet at the NHL level during his 19 regular-season games.
“Yeah, I’d say. Obviously you don’t want to give up anything, especially your first run up here,” he said. “So I’ve been focusing defensively first and picking my spots. Feeling it out.”
Being up 2-0 likely helped Clifton feel that one out, and it turned out to be some pretty good timing.
–Shaft saves are cool:
That is all.
–Tuukka Rask hasn’t needed to fill up highlight reels with spectacular saves, but the way he’s been either seeing pucks off deflections or just keeping himself in good position to stop redirects has stood out through 120 minutes of hockey.
This would be a case of the latter:
Rask now leads all playoff goaltenders (with at least four games played) with his .937 save percentage. His 2.02 GAA is second only to Robin Lehner, who played seven fewer games than Rask this postseason. Rask’s even-strength save percentage is at .942, up significantly from his .925 mark in the regular season.
Rask entered this postseason with the fifth-best postseason save percentage of all time, but he has now climbed into third place. His .927 save percentage trails only Tim Thomas (.933) and Braden Holtby (.928).
–I know that team Twitter accounts have a certain voice they’re trying to express. Most are used to try to get the fan base excited. Understandable.
But I have honestly no clue what the Hurricanes’ account was going for here:
Not sure the hockey team wants to really take that energy into Game 3. But what do I know? I’m not a Twitter account.