For the third time in eight seasons, the Boston Bruins are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final. After their 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, there is really only main – as my former colleague in Montreal, Tony Marinaro once said ‘Tuukkaway’ – from this game, and that’s the best player in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs right now, Tuukka Rask.
Here’s my quick take on him and two other reasons the Bruins once again had no issues winning in a hostile environment:
Rask Approaching Tim Thomas Status
Tim Thomas’ 2011 Stanley Cup run is arguably one of the top three playoff performances ever. Unfortunately for Tuukka Rask, he had to follow that as the next Bruins starter between the pipes and until the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has been unable to shed that shadow he was under from Thomas’ legacy. Well eight seasons later, Rask is in one of those zones that very well could become legendary. The much-maligned Bruins goalie made 35 saves in a game that his team was under siege more often than not and now he and the Bruins are one win away from their third Stanley Cup Final in eight seasons.
“Tuukka is always calm and collected,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pointed out to the media after Game 3. “Right now, he’s in the zone. He’s been amazing. He’s a huge reason why we’re here right now.”
Rask weathered the expected storm from the Hurricanes in the third period making 20 saves and taking his team into the first intermission tied at zero.
“You need your penalty kill to step up, and he was our best penalty killer for stretches there,” Cassidy said of Rask. “What it does for the team there, is it allows you to take a deep breath knowing you go into the first intermission ‘Hey we haven’t played our best, but it’s 0-0’, so I think you have to have a short memory in the playoffs and we were able to find our game after that.”
His best and maybe the best of the playoffs came in the second period, and after that, there was simply no way his teammates were going to let him lose the game.
Tuukka Rask just refuses to let pucks in the net anymore pic.twitter.com/yS1Tj0SuLL
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) May 15, 2019
Wag The Tail
“If you say that “The tail is wagging the dog,” you mean that a small or unimportant part of something is becoming too important and is controlling the whole thing.
By no means is Chris Wagner unimportant or a small part, but he and the fourth line aren’t exactly who the Bruins depend on to play a major role in a win. Wagner is an energy guy that has done a great job chipping in with some timely goals, and providing the relief that the Top 6 forward lines need. In Game 3 he scored the most timely goal of his career when he broke a 0-0 deadlock at 1:21 of the second period after Rask stole the first period.
Then with his team up 2-1 late in the third, the Walpole, MA native put his body on the line blocking a shot that sent him to the dressing room early. Head coach Bruce Cassidy described his injury as “not good” after the game. According to a trusted source, there was a strong fear that Wagner broke his wrist and could be done for the playoffs. If that is the case, that is a case of a player maybe some that don’t follow this team carefully, think will be a minor loss for the Bruins. Thanks to their depth and the fact fellow energy line plugger Noel Acciari is healthy now, yes the Bruins can slot him in for Wagner, but make no mistake they will miss the tail that was wagged in Game 3.
As Tucker Boynton of Barstool Sports pointed out, the play ironically took place in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final just as the legendary blocked shot by Gregory Campbell did in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.
Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, a fourth-liner with a huge blocked shot… pic.twitter.com/xJscgey5vX
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) May 15, 2019
PK Killed The Canes
The Carolina Hurricanes went 0-for-5 on the powerplay in Game 3. As mentioned above, Tuukka Rask was a huge reason for that, but that’s also a team simply buying in. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy assisted on what proved to be a game-winning goal at 6:28 of the second period, but the star rearguard was even more valuable with three of his four blocked shots coming on the penalty kill. Four of the Canes’ powerplays came in the first period and while they eventually scored a goal at 13:48 of the second, the Bruins had begun the slow deflation of their confidence and completely sucked the air out with a kill on a Matt Grzelcyk interference call at 5:38 of the third period.
“It just didn’t happen for us,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams told the media after Game 3. “That stinks. That’s the way it goes sometimes, but we’re not going to go away quietly.”
Problem is for Williams — who by the way was an undisciplined mess in this game taking three minors, one of which could’ve been a major — and the Canes, the Bruins penalty kill and all around game is more deafening than the Caniacs that will try to help their team stave off a sweep.