The Boston Bruins encountered a little turmoil heading into their important Game 3 matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
Yet, just moments after Tuukka Rask announced his exit from the Toronto bubble, Bruce Cassidy’s squad remained focused en route to one of their best performances since returning to play.
Jaroslav Halak (29 saves), now the team’s primary netminder, made some timely stops in the opening period and in crunch time; Charlie Coyle tallied a goal and an assist and Brad Marchand secured the 3-1 win with an empty netter late in regulation.
Quite the impressive feat without Rask, a Vezina finalist, and David Pastrnak, the league’s leading goal scorer.
Here’s what we learned following Boston’s emotional Game 3 triumph.
No one was against Rask’s decision
General Manager Don Sweeney took to the podium before Game 3 to address Rask’s departure. He revealed some specifics regarding the decision, but also remained supportive toward the franchise’s all-time winningest goalie.
Cassidy, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle and Jaroslav Halak all took to the podium for postgame Q&A’s. Most of the questions surrounded around Rask’s departure, when they found out about the news and the team’s mindest without him. Not one of his teammates spoke against Rask’s decision to head home and be with his family.
“I think that we found out shortly before the departure of the bus. Obviously our first concern is the health and safety of his family. That’s the most important thing we were all kind of thinking about, and, obviously, we support Tuukka’s decision,” Chara said. “There is nothing more important than your family. You know, at this point, we want to make sure that everybody else respects his privacy. And, you know, I think we all just want to wish his family the best, and that’s it.”
“We’re behind him, and we understand. Family comes first. We’ve always said that,” Bergeron added. “Obviously, we’re a tight group in this locker room. We’ve been together for a while and supporting each other. Obviously, we’re thinking about him, and we’re supporting that decision.”
The Bruins have a tight-knit locker room both on and off the ice. They never waver whenever they enter next man up mode as they did without Rask and Pastrnak in Game 3.
The respect for one another goes beyond the rink, especially in this pandemic world. Their talent and professionalism helped form a strong bond, no matter the situation.
Bruins show trust in Halak
He only played once in a two-week time-span and didn’t have much time to prepare for Saturday’s noon start. But against the grain, Halak shined bright in his first real postseason action since 2015 with the Islanders.
Carolina’s relentless pressure forced Halak into action early, but he was up to the task making 15 of his 29 stops in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins picked up where Halak left off with on Charlie Coyle’s batted power play tally from mid-air a mere 14 seconds into the middle stanza.
Halak didn’t leave Game 3 unscathed. In fact, his head-scratching turnover directly to Nino Neiderriter’s stick during Carolina’s fifth power play attempt cut the Boston lead to 2-1 with 13:30 left in regulation.
The Hurricanes pressed hard for the equalizer forcing Halak to make more timely saves. But he didn’t waver in crunch time, nor did his teammates. Marchand made sure of that with his empty-netter to secure a 2-1 series lead.
“Injuries are a part of hockey, and unfortunately, some of our star guys are out. There are other guys that have to step up and maybe elevate their game. I think there are a few guys that did that,” Halak said. “We need more. Obviously, we need everybody in the locker room pulling the same rope. And again, it’s going to be tough on Monday, but I’m confident in our group.”
Halak isn’t new to postseason hockey. The Bruins are in good hands with a savvy veteran who has a decent amount of playoff success, including his 2010 run with the Habs to an unlikely Eastern Conference Final appearance.
Now, a year removed from Rask’s stellar run to the Stanley Cup Final, Bostonians hope Halak can deliver the same magic he performed in Montreal a decade later.
“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind if you know if we want to reach our goals we’re going to need a goaltender in there to help us get there. No team gets there without solid goaltending,” Cassidy said. “So maybe this is Jaro’s year. Tuukka had a great run last year. So that’s certainly something we can rally around. But by the same token, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world to have Jaro in there.”
Boston shows relentless pressure
The Rask news and Halak’s effort in relief provided the headlines in Game 3. Underneath the surface, the Bruins showcased their offensive firepower during their best performance of the Toronto bubble.
They didn’t have the sharpest of starts, but the Bruins weren’t in scramble mode like they were in the second and third periods of Game 2. They slowly found their groove late in the first as Bergeron found himself with a pair of quality power play chances on the doorstep in the closing moments of the opening stanza.
The Bruins were off and running on Coyle’s batted tally early in the second. The former Boston University standout added an assist on Sean Kuraly’s shorthanded marker in the third to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Jack Studnicka — in for a struggling Nick Ritchie — found a rhythm with Kuraly and Coyle in his first real postseason action. Joakim Nordstrom displayed a relentless pursuit in all three zones. David Krejci (two assists) channeled his 2011 playoff run with two capable linemates in Ondrej Kase and Jake DeBrusk while earning time on the top power play unit.
No matter who’s in the lineup, the Bruins have a formula for another deep playoff run. Getting Pastrnak back will only help their cause.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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