The Bruins, fresh off Thursday’s series-opening beatdown at the hands of the Maple Leafs, didn’t take long to get settled in a comfort zone. The Leafs, meanwhile, looked rattled and confused from Boston’s Game 2 counterpunch.
It all came together in front of a rowdy TD Garden crowd appropriately headlined by Rob Gronkowski’s appearance Saturday night. The Bruins gave their fans something to cheer for as Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Danton Heinen found the back of the net in their bounce-back effort.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 4-1 victory to even the best-of-seven series.
Fourth line sets an early tone
Bruce Cassidy isn’t shy putting his fourth line up against the oppositions’ top line. So it came to little surprise when Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner drew that assignment in Game 2 against Zach Hyman, John Tavares and the talented Mitch Marner.
This sent two messages The first that Cassidy wasn’t shy pulling the move again. The second was the Bruins looking to display a physical tone early after being exposed in Game 1.
“Yeah, I just wanted to get into the game. And if you start against a skilled line you kind of want to establish a forecheck and be hard on them,” Wagner said about starting the game against the Tavares line. “We have done it all year. Me, Noel, Nordy and Sean [Kuraly]. It’s a big responsibility and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight.”
The fourth line displayed that physical energy from the get-go. It had a trickle down effect on the rest of the lineup. Even the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci got in on the hitting during the opening 20.
And it paid dividends on the scoreboard early. Coyle — snakebitten after a night of numerous chances in Game 1 — scored 4:44 in to give the Bruins an early lead to build on.
“Yeah they have done a great job all year. Setting the tone when need be and playing their role pretty good,” Coyle said about the fourth line. “They do their part in shutting down their top guys and it’s huge. That’s what makes a team, it’s those little things that don’t necessarily find the score sheet but it keeps those guys off of it. They have been like that all year and especially now, it’s so huge.”
DeBrusk’s and Kadri’s bad blood carries over from Game 1
Jake DeBrusk had a few bumps and bruises after being banged up in Game 1. Skeptics questioned his claim of being 100 percent on a night that saw DeBrusk lose control after trying to break up Marner’s breakaway — that subsequently led to his shorthanded penalty shot tally — and suffer an ugly fall following a collision with Nazem Kadri.
Nonetheless, DeBrusk laced up the skates for Game 2. As did Kadri. The two clashed heads on numerous occasions Saturday. It didn’t end pretty for either party.
It started following DeBrusk’s first period hit and a couple ensuing shots before the officials separated the two wingers.
Then came a knee-on-knee collision that sent Kadri to the locker room late in the second period.
The enigmatic Leafs forward returned for the third. That’s where things escalated into ugly territory. Kadri’s unnecessary cross-check to DeBrusk’s face ended his night late in the third period.
Kadri, as you may recall, earned a three-game ban for his hit on a defenseless Tommy Wingels in last year’s first round matchup. He won’t be so lucky this time around as the league offered him an in-person hearing. You’ll likely won’t hear Kadri’s name for the rest of the series.
DeBrusk, meanwhile, awaits results from his tests in concussion protocol. The 2015 first rounder didn’t have much to say about Kadri postgame. He’ll let Player Safety handle the final verdict instead.
“Yeah, I think that’s up to the league to decide to be honest,” DeBrusk said. “Yeah, I’ve got no comment on that.”
McAvoy played at an elite level
The Bruins played with four defensemen for a good chunk of the third period when Torey Krug and Connor Clifton made their way to the locker room. That didn’t alter Charlie McAvoy’s play at all. In fact, he only got better.
McAvoy’s puck prowess and smooth skating give the Bruins a dynamic in all three zones. The former Boston University standout and 2016 first round pick isn’t shy throwing his weight around either. He certainly joined the Boston hit parade on Saturday.
McAvoy’s game-high 25:44 of ice time included a slew of moments from rag-dolling John Tavares in front of Tuukka Rask to skating with speed and purpose in all three zones.
“Growing up watching playoff hockey, I think that’s one of the things you notice is how physical it is. Guys are playing hard,” McAvoy said about the contagious physical nature of Game 2. “Everyone’s life is on the line and so we have guys that like to play that kind of style. So we can do that and we just need to make sure that we do.”
The Bruins didn’t have Kevan Miller and John Moore in the first two games. They could be without Krug and Clifton when the series shifts to Toronto.
The Maple Leafs will have some sort of response ready for Game 3 on Monday. McAvoy and the Bruins would like nothing more than to quiet the Toronto crowd.
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