For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins completed a dominating sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final Thursday night with yet another suffocating performance. The Bruins defense which was missing Zdeno Chara choked out Carolina, the Bruins top line players scored four goals and goalie Tuukka Rask shutout Carolina 4-0 at PNC Arena.
The Bruins did not touch the Prince of Wales Trophy.
Forward Brad Marchand set the tone, telling reporters post-game that Boston was ready to bring it on this night. “With the situation we’ve been in, being up 3-0, everyone in the room wanted to be at their best.” To say they were at their best tonight would be an understatement, as Carolina was never in it as the Bruins stymied them in the second period. Carolina went 14 minutes without a shot on goal.
Although the first period concluded without a goal, the Bruins peppered Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney with numerous chances. Later in the first period, David Pastrnak had a beautiful look in-close. The Bruins tried to make the extra pass or skate the puck into the net but still fired eleven shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. The final five minutes looked more like a shooting gallery in Carolina’s zone.
The Bruins kept the momentum that they gained in the second period of Game 3. The top-line, which has been quiet at times this series, executed a beautiful play in the offensive zone to open the scoring.
Brad Marchand rushed on the wing while David Pastrnak slipped past Carolina’s Calvin de Hann and drove to the net. Marchand’s pass was right on the tape of Pastrnak (7), whose tip was the first goal of the game and the eventual series winner.
Late in the second period, the Bruins power play scored another power-play goal. In the series, the Bruins were an astounding seven-for-15. They scored two more power-play goals Thursday night. The first man-advantage tally came after a goaltender interference call on Carolina grinder Greg McKegg.
From the slot, Patrice Bergeron (7) snapped a shot from Pastrnak. The 2-0 lead appeared to break the Carolina spirits.
The strong Carolina counterpunch in the third period never came. After going shotless over 14 minutes in the second period, the Bruins held Carolina shotless for the first 12 minutes of the third period, too. Carolina had accepted the end with a lifeless effort.
The Bruins continued to pressure Carolina and earned a 3-0 lead midway through the third period. Once again, Bergeron (8) converted a Pastrnak feed.
With nearly five minutes remaining, Carolina pulled McElhinney for the extra attacker in the last ditch effort to keep their season alive. Carolina never came close to scoring as Rask gobbled up chances. Carolina watched their magical season coming to a crushing end.
Marchand (7) would put the final dagger into an empty net at 17:43 to officially punch Boston’s ticket to the Final after a dominating four-game stretch.
Final Game Thoughts
The story–aside from goaltending–has been the Bruins depth. Their depth scorers stepped up and controlled this series while the top guns worked their way through a mini-slump. In Game 4, the top guns awoke and they were the difference. Pastrnak played arguably his best game of the series while Bergeron potted a pair and looked awfully comfortable in this one.
The loss of captain and leader Zdeno Chara was a surprise, but the Bruins made it seem like they didn’t miss Chara. They played a dominating team game and completely suffocated Carolina’s dying offense. Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen and Nino Niederreiter were barely noticeable. The quartet combined for only four shots.
Lastly, Tuukka Rask deserves heaps and piles of praise. His coach was eager to give it to him post-game, saying “Tuukka’s been very consistent. If you’re gonna get on a roll, your goaltender’s gonna have to be there for you.” He was terrific in his third straight series and was Boston’s best player during Games 1 and 3 of this series. Thursday was an easy game for Rask, but he earned an easy night after stealing Game 3 Tuesday.
The Bruins continued a strange trend this season, as they keep a string of sweeps alive. The New York Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs. New York was then swept by Carolina who were swept by the Bruins. Undoubtedly, the Bruins hope that trend will not continue in the Final.
The Bruins also swept their last Conference Final, too. The Bruins brought the brooms out in 2013 when they bounced the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to a date with Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. Ironically enough, in 2009 Carolina was swept by Pittsburgh in their last ECF appearance.
This marks the third time this decade that the Bruins will advance to the Final. They defeated Vancouver in seven games in 2011, then fell in six games to Chicago two years later. They’ve never played San Jose in the Cup Final, and have played St. Louis once. Boston won that series back in 1970.