After closing out their series with the Sabres on Monday night, the Boston Bruins find themselves in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season. This marks the first time since 1992 the Bruins have advanced past the first round in consecutive years.
Should the favored Capitals win, the Bruins would travel to Pittsburgh to play the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. If the Canadiens can pull off the upset, the Bruins would host their Winter Classic foes, the Philadelphia Flyers.
In just six games, the Bruins seemed to solve many issues that had haunted them all season long. They were scoring, they were physical, a nd they were consistent throughout. The result: an upset of the third-seeded Sabres, and a major confidence boost.
Drawing the Sabres and subsequently Ryan Miller in the first round was a match-up nightmare for the Bruins offense. They were the league’s worst offense coming in, and now needed to find a way to get past the league’s best goaltender.
They persevered and had some pretty amazing feats in the process. The Bruins erased two goal deficits against the Vezina Trophy front runner twice.
They also overcame third period deficits in Games Two and Four, marking the first two times all season the Sabres lost after leading after two periods. (The Sabres were 31-0 in the regular season when leading after two periods.)
Patrolling the crease for the Bruins, Tuuka Rask was outstanding in his playoff debut. He kept Buffalo searching for ways to beat him all series long, and shut down Buffalo ’s top scoring forwards, Tim Connolly and Derek Roy in the process.
The duo did not score a goal the entire series, which speaks volumes for the young Rask.
I was concerned about how Rask would handle the pressure of a playoff series, and wondered how the young goalie would respond.
Rask shined throughout in his coming out party, his best performance in Game Four, a double-overtime thriller in which he went save for save with Miller, ultimately outlasting him and giving the Bruins a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Also playing a big role in helping the Bruins win this series was their special teams. The Bruins were the third- best shorthanded team in the league during the regular season, and nothing changed for the playoffs.
The Bruins successfully killed every one of their 19 penalties, keeping a potent Buffalo Power Play scoreless in six games. The advantage was also a strong suit for the Bruins. A serious area of concern for the team all season long, the Bruins finished the series scoring on 6 of 22 chances on the Power Play.
The Bruins await tonight’s Washington-Montreal outcome, and still hold out hope for home ice advantage in the second round, which isn’t bad for a team no one thought would even be playing in the second round.
With their consistent physical play, special teams’ execution and outstanding goaltending, the Bruins have put together a strong formula for playoff success, and have shown they will not be an easy out of this year's tournament.