What we learned: Rask leads Bruins to gutsy win in postseason return
How’s that for the first playoff game in exactly 1,085 days?
And 1,089 days between playoff wins?
In their first appearance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since their Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bruins appeared to be heading toward a similar fate against an Ottawa Senators squad that swept the four-game regular season series.
Trailing 1-0 entering the final 20 – and fresh off totaling a grand total of zero shots on goal in the second period – the Bruins dug deep on a night where Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and David Krejci were out of the lineup.
And a night where an injury to Colin Miller forced the Bruins to play with five defensemen for a good chunk of the second and third periods.
No matter. Charlie McAvoy impressed in his NHL debut, Tuukka Rask continued to prove his doubters wrong and the Bruins found a way to get pucks deep in the final 20 as Frank Vatrano and Brad Marchand lit the lamp to steal the 2-1 victory.
Here is what we learned as the B’s take a 1-0 series lead.
Rask calm, cool and collected as Bruins fight through tough stretches
Cassidy on Rask's goaltending: "We needed it, because it could have gotten away from us in the second period."
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 13, 2017
12-0. That was the second period shots on goal advantage for the Senators.
The only goal Rask allowed came in that second period on a great individual effort by Bobby Ryan, who was the Sens best skater all night. At a time where the Bruins struggled to generate offense in Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 trap, Rask kept the Bruins in it with 11 stops in the middle 20.
On a night where the Bruins were inconsistent at times, Rask was anything but. Whether it was stoning Derick Brassard in the first period, holding the Sens to just one goal in the second or making timely saves while Ottawa was looking for the equalizer late in the third, Rask was up to the task.
He’s unquestionably had his share of critics. Wednesday was another good night for Rask to quiet those naysayers.
McAvoy callup already paying dividends
The hype surrounding the former Boston University standout has been pretty high since he was selected in the first round of last summer’s Entry Draft. That hype escalated entering his first NHL game on Wednesday night.
So far, McAvoy is well worth that hype. In 24:11 of ice time, the Long Island native displayed that coveted puck-moving ability and more than held his own on the defensive end. His biggest impact came on Marchand’s game-winner (see below) where he kept pucks in at the point and found good passing lines while the Sens were pegged in for a long shift late in the third period.
He performed well when the spotlight shone the brightest in Beanpots, Hockey East and NCAA tournaments. That carried over for McAvoy into his first taste of playoff hockey. Not bad for a highly anticipated debut.
Vatrano also comes up big in his playoff debut
Vatrano ended the regular season with a career-long 15-goal drought. He started the postseason by ending that skid.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for Vatrano and the Bruins. In their first shot on goal since Patrice Bergeron’s attempt with roughly eight seconds remaining in the first period, Vatrano’s snap shot found its way through traffic and past Craig Anderson for that all important equalizer at 4:55 of the third period.
The former UMass-Amherst winger led all Bruins forwards with three shots on goal. None more important than tallying his first goal February 26th in Dallas.
Marchand returns from suspension, saves best for the end
For a good chunk of the game, the Bruins struggled to get pucks in deep. The Bruins relied heavily on the top line of Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak to do just that and set the tone against the Sens’ neutral zone trap.
More often than not, Marchand looked for the cute play through the neutral zone in his first game back from his two-game suspension. In the end, Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak and the defensive pairing of McAvoy and Zdeno Chara went back to the drawing board.
As the Sens struggled to clear the puck out of the zone, the five aforementioned skaters kept the play moving and got pucks towards the front of the net. Eventually, their hard work paid off with Marchand’s first postseason tally since 2013 off an Anderson rebound at 17:27 of the final stanza.