Boston Bruins' Biggest Takeaways from 1st Round of 2014 NHL Playoffs
The Bruins trailed the series for less than 48 hours before winning four straight throughout the past calendar week. Over that span, they trailed for only one stretch in an individual contest, that being Thursday’s Game 4.
After a six-game set with Buffalo in 2010 and three straight seven-game seesaws, this was more of a throwback to the last time Boston held the top overall seed in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. That year, the team cleanly swept the Montreal Canadiens, whose current installment is on deck for the 2014 Atlantic Division Final.
Naturally, that series cannot commence until the rest of the first-round bouts are settled. In the early stages of the interim, here are five key takeaways from Boston’s triumph over Detroit.
In accordance with the pattern of the series, we will revisit one fault on the Bruins bench and follow with four of Boston’s boons.
Stuck In His Own Marsh
Only one forward other than fourth-line center Gregory Campbell has failed to muster a single point so far in Boston’s playoff run. Unlike Campbell, however, his lone specimen of company generated headlines because of that and for other unsavory reasons.
Brad Marchand’s lack of production through the first five games was not the core of the issue. Rather, it was the way in which that lack of finish remained status quo.
The second-liner striker could have been the decider and preempted overtime in Game 4. He could have rinsed out the residual vinegar from his Game 3 dive with a one-time sweep into a gaping goalmouth.
Instead, around the halfway mark of the closing frame, he misdirected Torey Krug’s cross-ice pass wide of the opposite post.
Not the best way to make people forget about a preceding debacle. Marchand had also whiffed on an 18-foot snap shot with 5:06 left in the first.
Per Stephen Whyno of the Canadian Press (h/t The Chronicle Herald), Marchand subsequently said, “First one I kind of flicked it and missed, and I really wanted to bury that second one. Maybe my shot’s too hard and I’ve got to take a little off.”
He could also stand to take a little acidity off of his temper.
To compound his status as the Bruins’ prom night pimple, Marchand took two roughing penalties in the final period of Saturday’s clincher. In the latter instance, he attacked Henrik Zetterberg two seconds after the Detroit captain recorded a hit at his expense.
That behavior and barrenness cannot continue against Montreal.
Who says Tuukka Rask does not get enough love? The Bruins backstop was named the third star of Game 1 and first star of Games 2, 3 and 5.
Granted, only one of those games was on the road, which is where someone other than Boston’s radio broadcasters select the stars. But it was hard to overlook Rask’s role in that critical, series-shifting victory.
With a 1-1 deadlock in the series, Rask scraped the blue paint at Joe Louis Arena, where he had allowed an aggregate nine goals in two regular-season visits.
In Game 3 of the playoffs, he capitalized on the resurfaced sheet that comes with the outset of the “second season.” While he dealt with 23 shots, he repelled everything as needed, including 12 in the middle frame to safeguard a 2-0 lead sculpted in the first.
Four of those 12 second-period stabs came during a three-minute, 25-second sequence of continuous short-handed action.
Two nights later, after authorizing an initial 2-0 deficit, Rask stopped 21 straight to bolster a comeback. Those included seven shots from within 15 feet and five within 10 feet. The most outstanding and crucial of those was easily when he snuffed Justin Abdelkader’s breakaway bid early in overtime.
Teammate Jarome Iginla rewarded him with a sudden-death strike at the other end and a 31-save, first-star performance helped to polish the series on Saturday.
Boston’s power play went 6-of-16 in the series, converting at least once in each of four consecutive victories after a shutout loss in Game 1.
Six different skaters—three defensemen and three forwards—recorded multiple points with the man advantage. With the primary helper on Zdeno Chara’s Game 2 dagger, Iginla constitutes the team’s seventh playoff power-play point-getter.
A man-up conversion from a second-year professional blueliner constituted Boston’s icebreaker in each of its two road games.
In Game 3, Dougie Hamilton raised a 1-0 upper hand by strolling the puck from behind his own goal line to Detroit’s near circle-top, where he roofed the eventual game-winner into the top right shelf. Krug initiated the Game 4 comeback when he slugged home Patrice Bergeron’s feed off a faceoff.
Forward Loui Eriksson likewise drew first blood in Game 5 by polishing another end-to-end rush that Hamilton started. Later in the opening frame, the veteran Chara buried a momentous last-minute strike to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead with less than four seconds left till intermission.
The timing of those tallies made a pivotal difference in Boston’s weeklong assertiveness, as it never looked back after tying the series at a game apiece. Likewise, the fact that first-year members of the organization and green blueliners were in on those plays ought to amplify several individuals’ self-assurance going forward.
Kids Keeping Their Cool
For all they have done on the power play and offense in general, Hamilton and Krug warrant equal credit for holding up in their day jobs. The same goes for fellow less-than-seasoned defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller.
The challenges they face are sure to elevate in difficulty as the playoffs progress. For now, though, they each have a foundation to build upon after helping to neutralize Detroit’s depth.
The Bruins did not authorize a single goal in any of the 83 minutes and one second Miller logged on the ice. Bartkowski, Hamilton and Krug each shared the liability for one setback apiece.
Of those who suited up for at least three games, Hamilton, Miller and veteran Johnny Boychuk were the only Boston skaters not charged with a giveaway at any point. That is all the more extraordinary considering how much contact they took.
A perusal of each NHL.com play-by-play transcript will reveal that Boychuk and Miller each absorbed 14 body checks from the Red Wings, Hamilton 12. Only Marchand took more with 16, but the likes of Hamilton handled the necessary abuse more productively.
In Game 5, the two-way sophomore accepted a check from Kyle Quincey at 3:25 of the first period. Two seconds later, his pass to Eriksson was in the net for the icebreaker.
Later, at 4:27 of the third, Krug tallied a takeaway and the lone helper on Lucic’s strike to augment Boston’s lead to 3-1.
On the flip side, Miller was a close third to Lucic (19) and Chara (18) in terms of hits given, landing 17 in his four games played. Any further questions as to his readiness for the intensity of a Bruins-Canadiens best-of-seven bout?
First-Line Wings Take Flight
Depth, which came in spurts from the likes of Eriksson, Justin Florek and Jordan Caron in this series, is an indispensable asset for any contender. As noted in a previous slide, power-play production can never hurt one’s effort to establish, let alone embolden momentum.
With that being said, no puzzle is complete unless a team’s most leaned-on scorers are living up to their labels. Enter Iginla and Lucic, a pair of power forwards flanking David Krejci on the Bruins’ top troika.
Lucic accounted for three of Boston’s eight even-strength goals and three of the six five-on-five strikes that were not empty-netters against Detroit. Two of those tallies raised a 3-1 upper hand en route to a home victory in Games 2 and 5.
Meanwhile, Iginla perked up with favorable timing when he and his colleagues earned the game-winning break in overtime to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. None other than Lucic had drawn a 2-2 knot to force that bonus round by parking on the porch and pumping home Iginla’s feed from behind the cage.
Fittingly enough, Krejci and Lucic would later relay the puck to Iginla en route to an empty-netter that finalized Saturday’s 4-2 upshot.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.