By: Leon Lifschutz | Follow Me On Twitter @LeonLifschutz
The eastern conference’s top two regular-season teams kicked off their series in exciting fashion with non-stop action right from the opening puck drop. The Bruins came out of this one the winner, but early indications suggest this will be a long and hard-fought series. Let’s get into the breakdown of game one!
Late in the first period, Charlie Coyle continued his run as the Boston’s top hitter deflecting a Carlo shot out of mid-air past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Boston would build on their lead in the second with a vintage David Pastrnak power-play one-timer off an impressive seam pass from David Krejci. Tampa Bay pushed hard the remainder of the second, but the Bruins held onto the 2-goal lead. Early in the third, Patrice Bergeron picked the pocket of Ryan McDonagh, starting a pretty passing sequence from himself to Pastrnak to Brad Marchand, who finished the play with a one-timer. The Lightning regrouped in the latest stages of the game and managed to float two-point shots through traffic past Jaroslav Halak, The Lightning would pull within one, but the Bs held on to win 3-2 and take 1-0 series lead.
This was a great hockey game from two outstanding teams. If this is a preview of the rest of the series, hockey fans are in for a real treat. Both sides showed they were capable of attacking, defending, and even getting a bit physical. The pace seemed an extra step quicker than round one, and the skill on display was impressive. Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point stood out for the Lightning continuously rushing the puck up ice and buzzing around the offensive zone. The Bruins five-star first line may not have been at it’s best all game, but they factored into all three goals for the black and gold. Both goaltenders made some great saves throughout the game, with Halak being just one save better on this night. Game one delivered on its hype, let’s hope that continues as the series progresses.
At even strength, Tampa Bay drove the overall play. Boston came out fast in the first and uncharacteristically traded chances, highlighted by the 12-10 scoring chances in the period. They did get the better of the ledger in all but expected goals (which were almost even), but the Bs typically prefer low event games to track meets. Tampa’s second-period pushback after going down two was ferocious, as evidenced by the numbers. Without a great period from Halak, the outcome of this one could have been very different. The early third-period goal by Marchand swung momentum the Bruins’ way before Tampa’s late push evened up the third-period numbers.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The Bruins continued to get goals from inside the dots and managed several additional shots from that prime area. Tampa used the low to high play a decent amount and generated shots off it, especially from the right point. They were also able to get many shots from on top of the crease and were clearly prioritizing getting traffic in front. Some nice saves by Halak and some boxing out by the Bruins D prevented any scoring from the net-front.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Coyle led the team in-game score and batting average (last baseball comparison, I promise, it’s just August). His line though, struggled through the first two periods struggling to create with the exception of a singular excellent rush. The third was a little more productive, but Coach Cassidy played Anders Bjork and Nick Ritchie the least of all his forwards shifting ice time to the Kuraly line, especially when protecting the lead.
Halak had an excellent game and a substantial second period. If not for the late goals, the Bruins netminder would have been the runaway game score leader. Nonetheless, he was undoubtedly one of the stars of the game. The David Krejci line was again strong. Debrusk and Kase used their bodies when needed, and David Krejci kept his point streak going. They played a smart low event game and were quick and dangerous in transition where their patience paid off in the forms of chances. This blueprint for the Bruins will be the focus of tonight’s video breakdown.
The Bruins defenders remain a slight cause for concern. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo looked to be moving the puck pretty well in this game but continue to come out on the wrong side of the possession and chances ledger. It was progress though for the crucial pair after struggling in round one. Zdeno Chara continues to bleed chances. Charlie McAvoy led the team with close to 27 minutes of ice time. Overall his game was alright, but he struggled when matched up against Point, Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. However, only one goal was conceded against Tampa’s top line, which you’ll take most nights.
The Video Breakdown
Tonight’s video comes from the David Krejci line. While the line did not end up on the score sheet, they offered a blueprint for how to beat the Lightning 5v5. They played stout defense, stuffing lanes without over committing. Once Tampa Bay forced a play or made a mistake, the line took advantage by transitioning to the offense as quick as possible. Here is a great example:
As a five-man unit, the Lightning are forced to the outside on their entry. Once outside, Chara, Krejci, and Kase all contain the play. They do not play soft, but they also avoid over-committing.
A shot block by Kase leads to a turnover. Debrusk quickly gets to the loose puck. Even as he gets to the loose puck, all five Bruins and especially Kase and Krejci have transitioned from defense to offense. Debrusk makes a clever little area pass for Kase. It is a little off stride, but it is enough to get the rush going.
They are quickly up ice. Debrusk drives the center lane to push the defense back. This allows Krejci to hang back just a little with a touch of space. Kase tries his most Krejci-an saucer pass, but it is just a little behind his countrymate.
While this play didn’t quite connect, it was indicative of the lines play all night. They didn’t trade chances with the Lightning but rather played smart and tough defense. When the opportunity to attack presented itself, they took it. As a result, they were the only Bruin line to post positive shot attempts or expected goals.
Moment of the Night
Feel free #NHLBruins to brag about Bergy.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
The Bruins lead 1-0! See you Tuesday after I try my best Bergeron impressions out at Tuesday night shinny (pick-up hockey)!