The Boston Bruins began their run to the Stanley Cup with an emphatic 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night in Game 1 of their first round series. David Pastrnak led the way with a three-point night, while four other Bruins scored in a wild encounter with their Original Six and Atlantic Division rivals.
Here are my six Extra Beats on the Game 1 win, which could have huge implications on the rest of the series:
- The first line – especially David Pastrnak – was sensational:
Two goals, four assists, and 13 shots on goal (with several more getting blocked before reaching the net) from Boston’s first line in Game 1, as they re-established their place as one of the most formidable trios in the entire league. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak were outstanding from their first shift to their last. Marchand was the first to light the lamp on the game’s first goal, which surprisingly was not challenged, while Pastrnak gave the B’s a two-goal lead late in the second before nearly notching his second goal early in the third to put the game away. Toronto’s defense, which entered the series as its biggest liability, had no match all night long for the first line, and coach Mike Babcock will need to figure out some way to stop them or the Leafs will likely have a short trip in the playoffs.
- Special teams were the key to Boston’s success:
Boston’s power play was potent on Thursday night, with three PP goals, but their penalty-killing unit was just as important in their Game 1 blowout victory. Marchand started the special teams excellence by barely staying onside (or did he?) before taking a great pass from Torey Krug and beating the Leafs’ defense for Boston’s first goal of the evening:
On your feet, Boston. pic.twitter.com/CTCei5EC5W
— NHL (@NHL) April 12, 2018
Toronto countered at the tail end of the first period, and tilted the ice for a good portion of the second, which included two power play chances of their own. The B’s withstood a barrage of zone time and shots, and escaped without allowing a PP goal, which allowed them to take the lead for good on their second PPG of the night. David Backes outworked Ron Hainsey in the crease before kicking to the stick and burying the puck past Frederik Andersen for a 2-1 lead:
David Backes ca$hin' in the loose change! 🤑 pic.twitter.com/hoW3ATRaAB
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 13, 2018
Boston added a third PP goal in the third after a brutal/cheap/dirty hit on Tommy Wingels by Nazem Kadri, but the game was well in hand by that point. The B’s penalty kill in the second period will get lost in the shuffle of the five-goal outburst, but it was a crucial and pivotal part of the Game 1 victory.
- Toronto tried to bring the physical play, and it backfired:
The Bruins came out firing in the first period, with Backes, Rick Nash, and Wingels lowering the boom early with huge hits. Toronto tried to counter by being physical, which worked for a little while, but that strategy played right into the hands of the B’s. The Leafs are built for speed, while the Bruins have a more balanced combination of quickness and bruisers, and the physical play seemed to take the Leafs out of their comfort zone. Toronto was clearly trying to instigate Marchand throughout the game, but the Little Ball of Hate kept his composure (for the most part) and stood out of the penalty box. The biggest hit of the night will likely be the costliest one as well, as Kadri hit Wingels late in the third with a hit from behind that has no place in the game. Kadri will likely be hearing from the league offices after getting tossed after the cheap shot, which sent Wingels off the ice for the remainder of the third and possibly will take him out of the lineup for Game 2 (and beyond):
Nazem Kadri. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Awful, awful, AWFUL decision to make a dangerous run at Tommy Wingels while he's on his knees.
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 13, 2018
Kadri is one of Toronto’s top scorers, and judging by the defense that was displayed in Game 1, the Leafs may need all the offense they can get to succeed, so missing a key weapon for an extended period of time for a dirty hit is not ideal. The B’s would be smart to keep bringing the heat and the intensity throughout this series, because the Leafs aren’t quite built to match the physicality that the Bruins are capable of bringing to the ice.
- Brad Marchand doing Brad Marchand things:
You knew it wouldn’t take Marchy long to do something questionable in the playoffs:
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) April 13, 2018
I’m not sure what’s better, the fact that Marchand basically licked Leo Komarov, or the reasoning he gave to why it happened:
Brad Marchand on nuzzling with Leo Komarov in front of the benches in Game 1: "I thought he wanted to cuddle, so I was just trying to get close to him."
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) April 13, 2018
I’m not sure how to explain that. Let’s move on.
- All Sean Kuraly does is score playoff goals (well not really):
Kuraly has played in five career playoff games in his two seasons with Boston, and now has three goals after a spectacular play in the third that put the game away. The Bruins beat the Leafs with their own medicine, as Zdeno Chara found Pastrnak up ice with a great pass, with Pasta breaking free past the Leafs’ “defense”. Pasta’s shot hit the post and had Andersen diving to attempt the save, but the rebound went airborne and was knocked out of the air by a hustling Kuraly:
Sean Kuraly, clean up on isle 7! pic.twitter.com/KEA8U4drl3
— Bruins (Guy Boston Sports) (@Bruins_GBos) April 13, 2018
Obviously it’s a very small sample size, but Kuraly now has six regular season goals in 83 games, and three postseason goals in five games. If he keeps this going, he’ll not only be seeing more ice time during the playoffs, but he’ll have a reputation as being a postseason sniper. Not a bad reputation to have.
- Total team effort in Game 1, as this looked more like the Bruins’ team that won 50 games in the regular season:
Five different players scored on Thursday night, with four skaters earning multiple-point nights – Pastrnak (1 G, 2 A), Marchand (1 G, 1 A), Krejci (1 G, 1 A), Krug (2 A) – and ten players earning at least one point. All four lines contributed, which more closely resembles how the Bruins performed during the majority of this season. It was a total team effort, which is how Boston picked up many of their victories this season, with players contributing all over the ice regardless of what line or what defensive pairing they are on. Matt Grzelcyk, who did not earn a point on the night, may have made the play of the game when he kept the puck in the zone at the blue line before Backes scored. Noel Acciari (five hits), Kevan Miller (five hits), Rick Nash (three hits), and Adam McQuaid (four blocked shots) were held off the score sheet but had big games as well. There wasn’t one player out of the 20 that suited up for Boston that didn’t make a contribution and weren’t a part of that victory. If that continues, the Bruins will be playing for much longer this season.