By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
After a sluggish start in game one for the Bruins in their first-round matchup against the Washington Capitals, the tides took a turn for the better. The Bruins played four complete, 60-minute-long efforts each game following en route to a series win as a result of four straight victories. The Bruins best players acted like their best players, with Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy leading the way for their skaters. Goaltender Tuukka Rask played as good as playoff goaltending gets, especially against a high-powered Capitals attack.
Game 1: BOS 2 WAS 3 (F/OT)
This one could best be explained by one goaltender in particular: Washington Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson. Goaltender Vita Vanecek got the start to begin the series but was injured in the first period and did not return later. With Ilya Samsonov on the COVID Protocol list at the time, then 39-year-old goaltender Anderson was the next man-up. He came in and only faced 22 shots from the Bruins, just surrendering one goal to Nick Ritchie on a Bruins power play. Capitals forward Nick Dowd deflected a shot from the slot a few minutes into overtime, handing the Bruins a 1-0 series hole to dig themselves out of. Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk scored the Bruins goals in what was a half-tanked effort from the team.
Game 2: BOS 4 WAS 3 (F/OT)
The Bruins learned their lesson from game one and fired back with 48 shots of their own in this one, with Taylor Hall collecting seven of his own along with the game-tying goal with less than three minutes to go in regulation. Rask was stellar, making 36 saves on 39 shots. Brad Marchand scored the game-winner in overtime off a beautiful feed from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who finished the game with two assists of his own. The Bruins third line started showing signs of life that were missing from portions of the regular season, as Jake DeBrusk scored another early goal for his second of the series in just as many games.
The Capital’s fourth line of Garnet Hathaway, Carl Hagelin, and Nick Dowd proved to be problematic, as they were the Capitals best line of the game. Hathaway scored two goals, but it wasn’t enough to separate themselves from the Bruins exciting goal-scoring punches to end the game. Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson got the start and finished with 44 saves on 48 shots in a losing effort, while the Bruins were back even in the series after an explosive game from their top-six.
Game 3: BOS 3 WAS 2 (F/2OT)
The closest the Capitals came to earning another victory in this series came in this one, but it was a huge mistake and mere miscommunication from Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz that cost them big-time. A quarter of the way through the second overtime, Schultz garnered the puck behind the net in a slow reaction with poor puck protection, and Bruins forward Craig Smith swept in to steal it and pot it behind Samsonov with tremendous aggression. That sealed a victory for the Bruins after they had been buzzing, outshooting the Capitals in the two overtimes combined 19-8.
Hall scored the first Bruins goal to tie the game at one following a rip from Alex Ovechkin mid-way through the second. Marchand tied the game midway through the third period after Nick Dowd scored the separator in the second, and the game was off to overtime soon thereafter, only for Craig Smith to win it. Rask finished with an impressive 35 saves on 37 shots, and the Bruins were up 2-1 in the series.
Game 4: BOS 4 WAS 1
The Bruins best effort all series long, whether the score reflected it or not, gave the team some breathing room heading into game five. Boston shut down Washington’s offense nearly completely, only giving them one goal and 20 shots. Their one goal was also due to a shot going wide from Alex Ovechkin that deflected off of Brandon Carlo’s skate and went behind Rask. Outside of that, the Bruins and Rask deserved a shutout for their effort. The Bruins first line were the stars of this game, with the defense pairing of Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy also making their mark on the game at a whole new level.
McAvoy finished the game with 26:18 TOI and three assists, remarkably. Grzelcyk finished with a power-play goal late in the third to seal the victory. David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Charlie Coyle collected the other three Bruins goals, with Pastrnak’s and Marchand’s coming on the power play that went three for five throughout the game. Rask made 19 saves on 20 shots and could’ve easily had the shutout, but becoming the Bruins all-time playoff wins leader with the victory was just enough for no. 40.
Game 5 : BOS 3 WAS 1
Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron led by example, put his words into action and led the Bruins to an impressively brief series win. He scored two goals that proved to be the difference for the game and denied any chance for the Capitals to come back in the series, and without him, the Bruins would’ve had a tough time bailing out Tuukka Rask. Rask made 40 saves on 41 shots, with the Capitals firing everything to the net in their final effort. It wasn’t enough to faze the Bruins starting netminder.
Although the Capitals had the better effort all game long in this one, they couldn’t execute and beat Rask by any means. They outshot the Bruins 41-19 yet only potted one goal from the stick of forward Conor Sheary in an attempt to get some momentum. Bruins forward David Pastnak finished with a goal and an assist, and he’s begun to heat up quickly as the team heads into round two. Bruins defender Mike Reilly had his best game of the series and finished with two assists.
Even though the first three games went beyond the usual 60-minute regulation time, the Bruins depth and character showed this series. The Capitals have plenty of familiar names and normal producers who just were invisible for most of the series, while the Bruins got well-deserved production from each line every game. Rask proved yet again that the Bruins starting goaltender gig is his until he says otherwise, and his poised play shut down one of the best offenses from the regular season. The Bruins head into a second-round dance with either the New York Islanders or the Pittsburgh Penguins at a future date. The Islanders currently lead that series 3-2.