Bruins start slow but quickly shake off the rust.
A slow start was expected from the Black and Gold. After easily dismissing the Canadiens, the Bruins practiced and waited for the next obstacle in the chase for the Holy Grail. With no specific team to game plan for, the boys were just trying to stay sharp, disciplined and get healthy.
In spite of an early goal, the Bruins didn't have the best first period. Just 1:34 into the game, David Krejci tipped and Aaron Ward wrist shot from the left point past Cam Ward for the first goal of the series. Milan Lucic was stationed in front of Cam Ward and set a perfect screen for Krejci's tip. After the initial burst, the Hurricanes out hit, out shot and for the most part outplayed the Bruins. Coming off their seven game series with the New Jersey Devils, you could see they were a more cohesive unit early on. When Jusse Jokinen scored with only 1:10 to go in the first period, the Canes had out shot the Bruins 10-6.
The second period Claude Julien started to reshuffle his lines to get his offense going. Coach moved Milan Lucic up to the first line with Savard and Kessel. Blake Wheeler played with his old linemates David Krejci and Michael Ryder. P.J. Axelsson found himself playing on a line with Stephan Yelle and Shawn Thornton. The buttons that the coach pushed worked out well as Marc Savard scored two goals with his reunited “little brothers”. When asked about having Lucic back on his wing Savard replied, “I think we played 60 games together so when he came out on the line, it gave us a bit of a jump: we like seeing each other again. Me and Luch get along great obviously, he’s like a little brother to me. Last year, we drove to the rink every day together. Obviously Kess, on my other side, he’s my other little brother. They’re both grumpy at times, but we have a lot fun when we’re together.”
At the 7:00 minute mark of the second, Kessel, Savard and Lucic were running around the Carolina zone, doing pretty much whatever they wanted to do. Kessel stole the puck high in the slot and flipped a wrist shot that Ward saved but left a rebound just outside the crease that Savard pounced on to put the B's in the lead for good. Five minutes later, it was Michael Ryder coming off the bench and stealing a lazy, cross ice pass from Tuomo Ruutu at center ice. Ryder carried the puck towards the left wing and over the blue line. In classic Ryder fashion, shooting off of his back foot he picked the top corner on Ward for a 3-1 Bruin lead. Just a terrible play by Ruutu. He had no business making that cross ice pass but to compound the mistake, he didn't bear down and pass the puck but he more like flipped it towards his winger before Ryder intercepted the puck.
The B's final goal of the night was another Kessel to Savard combo special. Savard intercepted a pass in his defensive zone, passed the puck up to Kessel and followed Kessel up the right wing. Once Kessel gained the blueline, he made a deft drop pass the Savard. Savard took a stride from the right wing towards the slot, wound up and blasted one far side past Cam Ward for the final goal of the night.
The Bruins were once again the more disciplined team tonight. They only took two penalties and one of them, both teams were penalized so the Bruins were only shorthanded once. The B's did have three unsuccessful power play chances tonight. It would be nice to see them get the power play clicking again.
My initial thoughts were that this series would go six games. Yes, the Bruins dominated all four regular season games but the Canes rode a hot April to make the playoffs and then beat the Devils and arguably, one of the best goaltenders of all time to get here. Now, I'm not so sure. Even with the long layoff and early rustiness, the Bruins were by far the better team. Sunday will be interesting to see if anything is different. If Sunday goes like tonight, the first game in North Carolina will be the real test to see if the Hurricanes can come out and take the play to the Bruins or if this will be a repeat of the Montreal series.
Tonight's Three Stars
1 – Marc Savard with a pair of goals. The Bruins have only played five games and tonight was his second, two goal game. Although Savvy doesn't wear a letter on his sweater, he is one of the true leaders on this team
2 – Tim Thomas was solid as a rock tonight. He made several stops early tonight, protecting the early Bruins 1-0 lead throughout most of that first period. Even after the Bruins got the lead, he was called upon to make key saves before the B's opened up the lead.
3 – Michael Ryder had a goal and an assist tonight. He assisted on the David Krejci's opening goal with a nice play to get the puck back to Aaron Ward at the point. His goal, the Bruins third of the evening, was the one that drained the life off the Carolina bench.
Next up – these Hurricanes are going to be here for awhile. Game 2 will be Sunday night at 7:30 from Boston.
You can add Claude Julien's name to the list of Bruin finalists for post season hardware. He, along with Todd McClellan (San Jose) and Andy Murray (St. Louis) are the three finalists for the Jack Adams award which is awarded “to the head coach who has contributed the most to his team's success.”
His feel for this team is uncanny. When the sky was falling throughout the last half of February and into March, he never panicked. This is especially noticed right after an OT loss to the LA Kings. The Bruins actually had a 2-0 lead before losing 3-2 that night. When the whole team expected to be skated into the ground after that loss, he came in and let the guys have an easy, fun scrimmage. Even tonight after the first period. He moved guys from line to line and made the right combinations and the team took off. No one – not even the staunchest, most die hard Bruin fans – expected the team to come together like they did this year. My hunch is that Andy Murray will get the nod for actually getting the Blues into the playoffs but in my mind, Julien should win it. I even took off my Bruin pajamas when I wrote that.
Talk to you after Sunday night's Game 2 but if you have any questions, send me a mail at email@example.com anytime.
As always – Go B's
About the Author
Written by Jim Mulligan