Last night the Bruins started off their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the New York Rangers at the TD Garden in Boston. As expected, it was a long, tough, grinding game. With these two teams being built and having styles that are so similar, many people believed that every game in this series would be low-scoring and won by a single goal. Well Game 1 held true to that theory. It was constant back-and-forth play, causing players to be on the ice for long shifts and both teams getting pretty worn out through regulation.
Both teams have pretty good offense, but with their usual top scorers having underperformed in their previous series. They also both have great goalies, though admittedly the edge here goes to the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist.. but the Bruins have an edge on penalty killing. Other similarities are that both teams struggle on the power play, and are mostly built with tough, hard-hitting players. This all means that the entire series will likely be full of close, back-and-forth, nail-biting games.. and that’s how it went in regulation in Game 1.
The big questions were: would Tuukka Rask be able to match up to Henrik Lundqvist, but more importantly, would the Bruins’ rookie, young, and inexperienced defenseman be their weakest link, and one that could cost them games. This question only came up because three of our top defensemen – Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, and Wade Redden – and all out with injuries.
This meant that our rookie Dougie Hamilton (the second of two first round picks we got for trading Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs) would be getting lots of ice time after having only played his first couple of NHL playoff games in the previous series. In those games, he seemed to make to rookie mistakes, but in this game, he played almost 21 minutes and played well. He even had an assist on the goal that tied the for us after being down 2-1 in the third period.. and he made a smart play to do that.. He held the puck to draw in the Rangers defenseman, leaving Torey Krug open, then passed the puck to him to take the scoring shot.
Another rookie defenseman was Matt Bartkowski, who was called up from the minors after Redden got hurt. I watched him play in Game 7 of the previous series and thought he actually looked better than Hamilton, who had been playing with the team throughout the regular season. He was also way better than Aaron Johnson, who was called up a few times during the regular season, didn’t do much, and has pretty much been forgotten. Last night, he played solid defense and was one of the best defenseman on either team, but he was also smart offensively, sometimes even carrying the puck into the offensive zone himself. His highlight was in Game 7 against the Leafs when he scored the first goal of the game. In last night’s game, he continued his good play with 27 minutes of ice time and I was very impressed considering his lack of experience.
Lastly, there’s Torey Krug, who was also called up. He played two regular season games with us last year, and one this year, but last night was his first career NHL playoff game. And what a way to start your NHL playoff career.. he played 17 minutes and as with the other two young defenseman, was surprisingly effective and smart with the puck. The best part of his game, though, was that he scored that game-tying goal in the third period when we were down by one.. his first NHL playoff goal, and first NHL goal in general, in his first NHL playoff game! Woooooooo! What makes this goal even better is that it was on the power play, which the Bruins have struggled with. As some have said, I believe that if these young guys keep up their good play, they absolutely will not be the team’s weakest link. The level they’re playing at is only slightly lower than that of Redden and Ference (with how he’s played this year). I also want to mention that our best defenseman and one of our best players overall, Zdeno Chara, had his usual amazing game with a whopping 38 minutes of ice time. He also scored the first goal of the game, and stole the puck from the Rangers as they rushed forward in overtime, which led to the Bruins’ game-winning goal. So it seems Bruins fans don’t really need to be concerned with our defense.
Moving on to the goaltending in this game, it was solid on both ends of the ice. Rask had a great game, stopping 33 of 35 shots, including 3 of 3 during Rangers power plays. He would finish with a .943 save percentage. Now Lundqvist, I hate to admit, was nasty. If it was any other goalie in the Rangers’ net, the Bruins would probably have won this game 5-2 in regulation. However, he stopped a total of 45 of 48 shots. He did, however, let in a Bruins power play goal, which tied the game at two in the third period. Towards the end of regulation, the Bruins started to surge and had many close scoring chance, including hitting the post a number of times. It stayed tied, though, so they went to overtime.
In the overtime period, the Bruins surge had not faded – or you could say they started a new one – as they totally dominated. Two minutes in, the Rangers took a penalty and we went on the power play. While we didn’t score, we totally worked it. It was probably the best power play the Bruins have had all season. For the entire time, plus a few minutes after, they never left the Rangers’ zone, never really lost control of the puck, and got tons of scoring chances. They kept that momentum going through the entire 16 minute overtime period.
Remember how I mentioned both teams’ top scorers had been underperforming in the playoffs? Well, for the Rangers, Rick Nash and Brad Richards still didn’t do anything significant (besides a Nash assist), but for the Bruins, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand both stepped up. Seguin made some good plays and had a bunch of good scoring chances. But Marchand was the highlight of the two. He played much harder and eventually go the game-winning goal! 15 and a half minutes into the overtime period, the Rangers turned the puck over and the Bruins moved in for a quick transition. It developed into a 2-on-1 for the Bruins with Patrice Bergeron carrying the puck and Marchand skating down the other side. Bergeron held the puck until the last second, then made a sweet pass that went past the Rangers defenseman.. Marchand tapped it 5-hole and into the net to win the game and score his first goal of these playoffs! You can thank me fore this goal 😉 … As soon as the Rangers turned over the puck and the 2-on-1 developed, I said “here it is.” Totally called it! Also worth noting, Bergeron had his usual solid game and huge effort in every aspect of the game.
The Bruins having owned the overtime period is what caused the Rangers head coach, John Tortorella, to say that his team “got spanked” during his extremely brief (and hilarious to Bruins fans) post-game conference. I couldn’t have said it better myself! The first game of the series can’t tell us everything about what will happen, but you have to look at this Bruins performance and feel pretty good about the road ahead. Plus, there were a lot of questions that had Bruins fans worried, but those questions seem to have been answered and we should feel a lot more confident. Still, no matter what happens, remember Bruins fans, you must always..
Here are some videos from Game 1:
Extended Game 1 highlights (HD):
Short Game 1 highlights (SD):
Zdeno Chara scores the first goal of the game/series:
Torey Krug scores his first NHL & NHL playoff goal in his first NHL playoff game to tie it when the Bruins were down 2-1:
A great example of the underrated Daniel Paille – stealing the puck and getting a good shot off:
Patrice Bergeron to Brad Marchand for the game-winning overtime goal:
Same clip as above but in SD, and by the NHL, so it won’t get removed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8BpQesdzC4
Thanks for reading,