Brad Marchand was outstanding, and Jaroslav Halak recorded 35 saves as the Boston Bruins skated to a largely impressive game one victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night. Ironically, a global pandemic, five-month layoff, and the abandonment of the traditional playoff format couldn’t stop what was set in motion back in March, an inevitable playoff clash between these titans of the Eastern Conference.
Since struggling to manufacture offense let alone win a game in the round-robin, the Bruins stand victorious in five of their last six games. During that span, they have scored 18 goals. Inserting David Krejci into the first power-play unit has yielded incredible results making the man advantage yet again Boston’s most treasured weapon. Jaroslav Halak at 35 years young continues to impress, stepping-in right where Rask left off, turning in yet another masterful performance. While consistent secondary scoring stands as Boston’s albatross Coyle, DeBrusk, Kase, Kuraly, Wagner, and Bjork have all had excellent looks on goal making it feel like only a matter of time, which is a welcome sign.
While undoubtedly Tampa carries the more sizable roster it was the Bruins who appeared unbothered showing no signs of intimidation. Kuraly routinely went after Pat Maroon, Chara never shied away from an opportunity to make his presence known to Victor Hedman, and Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom were human bowling balls ramming themselves into anything that moved.
Through 25 minutes of hockey, Boston’s performance was surgical, rolling four lines with rhythm and controlling the pace of the game. Nikita Kucherov hardly had a look on goal and likewise for Brayden Point – and when the puck did find their sticks Boston did a marvelous job forcing them to the perimeter and away from the high danger zone.
However, Tampa began to find their legs following Pastrnak’s power-play goal by virtue of otherworldly pass from Krejci. A 2-0 lead for Boston was not made comfortable as momentum noticeably began to shift in the opposite direction. Tampa proceeded to pepper Halak with repeated high scoring percentage shots, 34 attempts alone in the second period, of which 18 made it on net.
Yet again Boston found themselves in familiar territory: too comfortable with their own lead. Perhaps a mentality that won’t burn you against Carolina, but playing Russian roulette with the firepower Tampa possesses is a lofty game at best. In fact, had it not been for Marchand’s eventual game-winner early in the 3rd the Bruins would have sacrificed the lead purely on Hedman’s goals both of which deflected off McAvoy, the second goal coming with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Expect a much more spirited performance from Tampa tonight an element Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has to make his team ready for. The pendulum can swing in two drastically different directions tonight. Boston can either take two games to none series advantage or Tampa can even the score. Regardless if Boston can’t find a way to shake their second-period slumbers they will be in hot water.
Keep an eye on Ryan McDonagh who had to leave the game halfway through the 3rd period, he did not return. Leaving you with his horrid turn over which led to the game-winning goal.