By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — I said something during the first intermission on Monday night. You want to know what I said? OK, I said this: Hey, if that’s the Bruins’ “bad” period after the 10-day break, then they’ll probably be all right.READ MORE: Amid Concerns Over Omicron COVID Variant, CDC Says All Vaccinated Adults Should Get Booster Shots
I wish I had said that publicly, because man oh man, I’d be looking like a smartypants right now.
Turned out, all of that incessant talk about long layoffs and accumulated rust turned out to be more than a waste of hot air. Turned out, playing the most intense hockey in the world is hard to do when you’re starting from a standstill.
That’s not to say the Bruins got dominated through 20 minutes, but they certainly weren’t the better team. The Blues, dealing with a five-day layoff themselves, were just notably better. Winning races to loose pucks and battles along the boards, the Blues looked like some bullies while building their 1-0 lead. This was certainly not the same Bruins team that steamrolled the Hurricanes in Game 4 of the conference finals. A David Pastrnak giveaway leading directly to a St. Louis goal 60 seconds into the second made it seem like the 17,000 fans who packed the Garden might have been in for one expensive disappointment.
From there, though, you know what happened. The Bruins awoke, remembering that they’ve been the best hockey team in the world for the past month. They executed the way they are capable of executing, they raised their effort level, and they gave their opponents a firsthand lesson in how to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final.
As a result, the Bruins are now 13-5 in the postseason, winners of eight straight games and 11 of their last 13 games. They are cruising. And now Craig Berube and his staff are going to have to get to work quickly, because if play continues the way it did over the final 40, his team won’t stand a chance in this series.
That’s looking ahead though. There’s plenty of time for that. Before we go all the way into the future, here’s a run through the leftover thoughts from Boston’s 4-2 win in Game 1.
–I’ll admit that I yelled out loud when Torey Krug delivered that hit on Robert Thomas. How could you not? You just don’t see hits like that very often in today’s NHL. Plus, given that Krug had skated 100-plus feet with a head full of steam and a hair across his tuchus, what were the chances that he’d actually get that opportunity to lay a clean, heavy hit in a perfect situation? Really, the odds were minuscule.
But Krug got the chance, and he made the most of it. As a result, he’s got himself an iconic photograph or two for the office wall.
Krug, feeling a level of confidence most of us can’t comprehend, got to follow up that hit with a strut through the St. Louis end of the ice.
While the hit didn’t really have a discernible impact on the game, it was a big victory for small people everywhere. And as, arguably, a not-tall person myself, I can appreciate that.
–Krug not only authored the hit; he issued a pretty solid statement when asked if he believed the Blues were trying to get under his skin.
“Every game in the NHL, since I’ve been in the league,” Krug answered. “I’m a 5-foot-9 defenseman. I’d probably be doing the same thing if I was on the opposing team. I’d probably try to run me right through the boards. It’s no secret that a strength of mine bringing up pucks and their strength is being on the forecheck, so they’re going to be coming. I know that. They’ve been coming all playoffs.”
As David Backes put it, “I think that was Torey Krug establishing himself in this series.”
Score one for the little guys.
–One more note on Krug: He logged 27 minutes of ice time in Game 4 against the Hurricanes, when captain Zdeno Chara was out. In Game 1 against the Blues, he was on the ice for 25:24. Granted, a whopping 6:40 of that ice time on Monday was on the power play, but nevertheless, Krug is logging some heavy minutes this postseason.
He has always been and will always be criticized for his lack of size. An alternative way to look at him though is how remarkable it is that he’s able to play these minutes in these games and more than hold his own.
–Ditto for Matt Grzelcyk, who wasn’t afraid to battle down low with Pat Maroon. I haven’t checked their height-weight differences but I think we can safely surmise that Maroon had a foot and a hundred pounds on the B’s defenseman.
–Jake DeBrusk is so fast. It’s unbelievable. Maybe it doesn’t always stand out on TV or even in person, because he’s only slightly faster than the guy next to him. But when you remember that these are the best hockey players in the world, the fact that DeBrusk can seemingly outrace all of them really is incredible.
He got a jump on Robert Bortuzzo early in the first and was off to the races.
Almost finished it, too.
–Speaking of “almosts” … Brad Marchand has scored some big goals. He’s scored some big Stanley Cup Final goals. This one maaaaybe would have been his best.
Technically an easy save for Jordan Binnington, but the spin-o-rama is still captivating.
Marchand made sure to congratulate Binnington later in the game.
–Not the busiest night of Tuukka Rask’s life, but he did make a handful of big stops to make sure this game went to the Bruins. He turned aside a Colton Parayko blast in the first, just moments before Boston drew a penalty, and he stopped Bradyen Schenn through traffic in the third period to preserve a 3-2 lead. (In the second period, Rask … well, he had all of his equipment on and was present and accounted for.) And at the end of the game, even though the Bruins were up two and the game was in hand, Rask was at his best.
Had Rask allowed a late one, it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of the outcome of the game. But on a night where he didn’t get a ton of action, it had to be comforting for the Bruins to see Rask remaining in the same type of zone that allowed him to help carry the team to this position.
–That being said, Rask earned the win by allowing two goals, and yet his stats worsened. His save percentage dropped from .942 to .940, and his goals-against average skyrocketed from 1.84 to 1.85.
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–Down the other end, Jordan Binnington was pretty good. He certainly did not seem fazed by the moment. He stopped a David Pastrnak one-time bomb early, got some help from his rosy red friend on a Marcus Johansson rush, denied two quality opportunities from Patrice Bergeron in the second, he was in position to stop a Charlie Coyle redirect and a Danton Heinen redirect in the second to temporarily preserve a tie game. The young fella made 34 saves in his first Cup Final game.
If one were to find fault, it would be in coughing up a rebound on a soft wrister from Zdeno Chara, leading directly to Sean Kuraly’s game-winning goal. (A minor quibble, giving up the game-winning goal and all.) That is something that, in that moment, quite obviously cannot happen. But the Blues can be heartened that for the bulk of play, their rookie handled the moment well. If they can maybe prevent an avalanche of shots in Game 2, their goalie should be good enough to backstop them to some wins.
–They’re going to need some shots, though. The Blues’ lack of shots is all I want to talk about. In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, in a game they led 2-0, then 2-1, and then were tied 2-2, the Blues mustered five shots on goal over 35 minutes of play. Well over half the hockey game. Five shots on net.
It wasn’t just that shots weren’t getting through; they weren’t coming at all. During that 35:31 stretch, the Blues attempted just 13 shots. Five made it to Rask, four were blocked, and four missed the net. Sure, the Bruins had power plays, but 13 shot attempts over 35 minutes of hockey, 13 shot attempts. That’s unfathomable. The Bruins are good, but are they that good?
–It was good to see Todd Angilly belting out the national anthem for the national audience. What a story he’s been this year, replacing a legend and displaying the subtle art of firing up a crowd by holding “freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” for about a half-hour.
Guy must be raking in the tips this year. Good for him.
–The most perplexing part of the night was Joel Edmundson taking offense to David Backes … getting cross-checked? Sure, Edmundson believed that Backes sold the call. And considering Edmundson’s proximity to the action, one has to lend a certain level of credence to his assessment.
At the same time … Edmundson did go high on a player in the middle of the ice for all to see. Was he mad that Backes hit the deck … or was he mad at himself for making a really foolish mistake in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final?
Also, even if we don’t play armchair psychologist … it looked like the dude cross-checked Backes in the face.
Nevertheless, Edmundson got his revenge on Backes (revenge for Backes having a face) by violently cross-checking Backes from behind, just before Backes took an elbow to the face from Binnington.
These guys are compensated well and all of that, but … ouch.
–The Bruins have been a franchise for roughly 3,000 years. They’ve played in a lot of Cup Final games. How is this possible?
I do not know. Allegedly, it is. This was the sixth multi-goal comeback win for the Bruins this postseason, so it was no surprise to see.
The Bruins are the first team to rattle off eight straight playoff wins since the 2012 Kings, but it’s not the longest in team history. The ’70 Bruins won 10 straight, and the ’72 team won nine straight. All three of those teams won the Cup, so … draw your own conclusions.
–The most dazzling player on the ice in Game 1 was … Marcus Johansson? Sure!
Johansson busted out some tremendous moves to create opportunities multiple times in the first period, ringing iron early:
He was feeling confident enough to do this:
He was so good that, despite zero goals and zero assists and one shot on goal, he was named second star of the night.
Even though that third line — with Coyle and Heinen — didn’t score, it did generate quality chances throughout the night. If they continue to do so, they’ll get theirs eventually. And if the Bruins end up relying on secondary scoring to carry them for any more stretches, that figures to be quite a boo.
–This was a cool shot.
That is all I’ve got to say about that.
–I do think there was a little too much officiating at times. Should this be a penalty ever, let alone in the Cup Final?
I vote no.
Should David Krejci have been penalized for lightly glancing the face of a player who was tumbling forward?
Again, I vote no.
Didn’t love those, as far as Cup Final calls go.
But then again, they let David Perron and Torey Krug wrestle for three rounds, and they let plenty of physicality go, so I suppose in totality it was fine. I just don’t think a “penalty” seen by zero people in the arena should ever be called in a game of such consequence.
–One of the best ways to shake off “rust” from 10 days without a game would probably be taking a high stick to the face on the opening faceoff.
It worked for Sean Kuraly. Look for all three Bruins forwards seeking contact with a stick blade on the opening draw on Wednesday night.MORE NEWS: Attleboro Man Wins $1 Million On Scratch Ticket Gifted To Him After Having Heart Surgery