By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you’re a Bruins fan, the good news is that your favorite hockey team only has to win one out of four games in order to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
The bad news is that you’re about to be bombarded with numbers like 19-1, or 209-4, or 98.1 percent. The “1” in that story would be the one time the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in a series and ended up losing. The remaining 1.9 percent — that is, the 4 in the 209-4 — would be the inauspicious group that includes the 2010 Bruins, one of four teams in history to blow a 3-0 playoff lead.
It’s not the most exciting time to relive for hockey fans in Boston. And seeing Brian Boucher standing on the ice with Tuukka Rask after Tuesday’s Game 3 win likely only added to some unease in the region.
That’s somewhat understandable, considering grown adults still believe in jinxes and things of that nature. But really, even if everyone in North America spent the next 36 hours speaking only of the blown 3-0 lead in 2010, it wouldn’t impact this current Bruins team. These Bruins are a rather unique bunch, driven by stellar goaltending and supported by a roster that can produce goals from literally just about everyone. (Score a goal, would you, Brandon Carlo?)
Add in what currently stands as the second-best playoff power play of all time, and factor in the calming influence of the head coach, and this year’s Bruins team has nothing to worry about in the way of kicking away this chance.
Nobody needs to start talking about the Stanley Cup Final just yet. But you can allow yourself to start thinking about it. It’s safe.
Before you do that, though, you might as well peruse some leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ nail-biting 2-1 win in Game 3.
–With regard to not looking too far ahead, I’ve found Brad Marchand’s demeanor noticeable recently. Granted, everybody noticed his demeanor after the series-clinching win in Columbus. Since then, while he has been more talkative, he’s been far from happy. No matter how big the win, he’s brushed them off, looking only at the next one.
“We got the win, so worry about the next one now,” Marchand, the game-winning goal scorer, said Tuesday night. “Good spot to be in but far from being over. We’re all so happy with getting the win tonight, but again, we gotta let it go. It’s all about the next one. If they get it, they get life. If we get it, then it’s on to the next one.”
That attitude and focus is perhaps one of the main reasons the Bruins are where they are. The playoff experience on the Bruins’ roster is massive, and that includes Marchand, who was but a young buck when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Back then, when Marchand was a 23-year-old rookie, linemate Mark Recchi likely helped harness some of that unbridled enthusiasm. Now eight years and precisely 100 playoff games later, Marchand appears to be the one preventing any Bruins from getting too high. That’s fairly important at this time of year.
The long and short of it is that Marchand is ensuring that poop sandwiches are never part of the postgame spread available to the Bruins.
–Speaking of ol’ Poopy Sandwich Justin Williams, what was going on with the Hurricanes’ captain on Tuesday night? In the opening minutes, with his team buzzing, Williams decided to entangle himself with Torey Krug; they both went off with matching roughing minors. On his next shift, Williams got away with facewashing Krug well behind the play; he celebrated this freedom by ripping the stick out of Krug’s hands just seconds later. Williams went back to the penalty box. And before the period ended, Williams went in very high (and a little late) for a hit on Krug. The Bruins defenseman ducked to save his neck, but Williams still went off for two minutes for elbowing.
Williams said he was disappointed in himself for the way his little dust-up with Marchand played out in the second period of Game 2, leading to a Carolina penalty and a Bruins power play goal that made the score 4-0.
On one of the penalties, the inimitable Doc Emerick said Williams had been “snookered” into committing it. So naturally, after the captain clearly didn’t have his head in this first period, Williams was asked if he got tied up with Krug too much.
“No,” Williams stated flatly, before adding, “Nope.”
Reasonable minds may disagree.
–There’s a game that people in New England play called “CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THE PATRIOTS DID THIS?!?!” It’s a pretty simple game; you observe a team doing something that happens all the time, but then you say, “CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THE PATRIOTS DID THIS?!?!” The results are wild, but most of the time, the conclusion is simple: If the Patriots were doing this? Buddy, the people would be losing their gosh dang minds.
We can now make a slight variation of this game. It’s called, “CAN YOU IMAGINE IF BRAD MARCHAND WAS THE ONE DOING THIS?”
And the “this” we can use would be Justin Williams dropping a knee into the back of a downed David Backes before taking multiple swings with a gloved hand into the back of the head of a defenseless 35-year-old with a long history of concussions.
OK, now the fun part of the game: “CAN YOU IMAGINE IF BRAD MARCHAND DID THIS?!?!?!”
In this instance, we don’t really need to imagine it, because it happened to a similar degree in the last round. What happened next was international outrage, after Marchand jabbed Scott Harrington in the head after a whistle. People called for a suspension. People wept in apoplexy upon seeing such a violent, vicious act. The punch served as more evidence that He DoEsN’t BeLoNg In TgE lEaGuE.
It wasn’t just the Harrington punch, either. The internet exploded in a huff on Sunday after Marchand “cross-checked and hooked Williams in the neck” prior to Williams taking the bait and going to the penalty box. Even though that play involved standard stick work that happens 500 times per playoff game, and even though Williams was the one who grabbed the stick and pulled himself down to the ice in an effort to draw a hook, people saw No. 63 in a Bruins sweater involved. And they consequently lost their heads.
But Williams? Good ol’ Justin Williams? Bah! That’s just playoff hockey. A high flying elbow aimed at an opponent’s head, a punch to the back of the head of a concussion-prone player, multiple instances of face washing behind the play — what are you gonna do, cry about it??
That’s not to say Williams deserves a suspension. He wasn’t penalized on the play. This is also not to say that Marchand’s reputation is not well-earned, because it is. It is, though, merely an effort to shine a light on how poorly people’s perspectives can be warped when an incident takes place involving a player they simply do not like. As is the case with almost every facet of human life, people see what they want to see.
–And that’s without mentioning the little bop Williams gave to Marchand off a faceoff:
Dear God. There are children watching!
–Going to be honest with you: I came into this series thinking the world of Rod Brind’Amour. But his commentary over the past few days has changed that stance.
On Monday, he started talking about fatigue as an excuse for losing 6-2 in Game 2. Fatigue?! Come on, fella.
On Tuesday night, he started sewing a participation ribbon for his team.
“I think we can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game,” Brind’Amour said after the 2-1 loss. “I mean, we hadn’t given them a game yet. It was pretty easy for them, so at least we battled hard.”
Just not a good series of comments in back-to-back games.
(The decision to go to Curtis McElhinney was good. Perhaps it showed that it should have been made in the second period on Sunday, though.)
–I can’t honestly weigh in on the disallowed goal. I don’t know what goaltender interference is. I don’t know how significant it is if a player gets bumped by an opponent into the opposing netminder. I don’t know how it is determined if a goaltender seems to initiate contact. I don’t know the significance of the blue paint anymore. And I don’t know what it takes to overturn a call on the ice.
Anyone who claims to know any of those things is lying or delusional.
In the case of Jake DeBrusk and McElhinney, I felt like it looked like interference. But then again, I thought the same thing with Zach Hyman in the first round.
So, as has been made clear, I do not know. I’m not entirely convinced the people tasked with making that call really know, either.
(It’s only the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not like it matters or anything. Big whoop.)
–Will any referee be held accountable for calling a slashing penalty on DeBrusk for … this?
Or for Torey Krug going to the box twice for having a face that needed some washing?
Anyone? Class? No?
OK, got it. Makes sense. Again, it’s just the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No big deal.
–Tuukka Rask was story Nos. 1, 2 and 3 after that game, and rightfully so. I shined a light on some of his bigger saves over here. And for the sake of updating a running tally that literally nobody in the world asked for …
TUUKKA RASK, THROUGH 16 GAMES, 2019 PLAYOFFS
.939 save percentage
.943 even-strength save percentage
TUUKKA RASK, THROUGH 16 GAMES, 2013 PLAYOFFS
.943 save percentage
.950 even-strength save percentage
TIM THOMAS, THROUGH 16 GAMES, 2011 PLAYOFFS
.931 save percentage
.941 even-strength save percentage
I guess the moral of the story is that everybody spouting about how this current run is the best Tuukka Rask has ever played apparently just forgot how well Rask played in 2013. I’ve probably said this a time or two over the past few weeks, so it’s worth adjusting our language to say “Rask is just about matching the best performance of his life.”
What’s most wild about the run is he’s stopping everything he’s seeing and also stopping everything he’s not seeing.
Some might consider such saves to be the result of luck, and sure, once or twice, luck can lead to such saves. But luck doesn’t last this long. Whenever Rask makes a blind save through traffic, or stops a redirect with his biceps, or extends the toe to demoralize an opponent, that’s a result of one of the best goalies in the world playing to the peak of his abilities.
–Oh, and considering the knock on Rask has been that he’s afraid of big games or that he melts in big moments or whatever it is the people are saying, here’s a look at Rask’s career numbers in the Eastern Conference Final and the Stanley Cup Final:
TUUKKA RASK, CONFERENCE FINAL AND CUP FINAL, CAREER:
13 games, 9-4 record
.950 save percentage
Some bozo somewhere will say that those games aren’t big enough, but, well, bozos gonna bozo.
–One more nugget on Rask for you:
The Maple Leafs scored 3.49 goals per game during the regular season; they scored 2.29 goals per game this postseason vs. Rask.
The Blue Jackets scored 3.12 goals per game during the regular season and 4.75 goals per game in the first round of the playoffs; they scored 1.83 goals per game vs. Rask.
The Hurricanes scored 2.96 goals per game during the regular season and 3.09 goals per game over the first two rounds of the playoffs; they’ve scored 1.67 goals per game vs. Rask.
Long story short: The fella is having a good time. Nothing lasts forever, but Rask and the Bruins just have to hope it can continue for another few weeks.