No Zdeno Chara? No big deal for the Boston Bruins as the ‘Next Man Up’ motto continues in a 4-0 Game 4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes to complete a sweep of the Eastern Conference Final and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the last eight years (2011, 2013).
Bruins goalie and Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Tuukka Rask finished off another dominating series with 24 saves in Game 4, his second straight series-clinching shutout after a 39-save blanking of the Blue Jackets to clinch that second-round series in six games.
As they always seem to do in potential clinchers, ‘The Perfection Line’ of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak was as close to perfect as you can be. Bergeron lit the lamp twice and assisted on another; Marchand had a goal, and an assist and Pastrnak had a goal and two helpers.
Meanwhile, without their captain and best penalty killer, the Bruins blue line and penalty kill shut down the Hurricanes and their power play as Carolina went 0-for-2. As it has been all season and even more so in the playoffs, it was a team effort for the B’s, and now they’re four wins away from their second Stanley Cup in eight years and seventh in franchise history. Here’s my takeaways from in terms of precision, another Patriots playoff-like win for the Bruins.
Rask rewriting history books
Rask continues to silence his critics and move up the list in playoff record books and stats. Consider this comparison. Compared to Tim Thomas’s – who Rask unfairly lives in the shadow of – run to the Stanley Cup, through 17 games, Rask is 12-5 with a .942 save percentage, 1.84 GAA and two shutouts. Thomas was 11-6 with a .926 save percentage, 2.42 GAA and
one shutout. He stopped of 109 of 114 shots against the Hurricanes, and in this current seven-game win streak he’s riding, the much-maligned Rask has turned away 220 of the last 229 shots he’s faced for a .961 save percentage.
In the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, Rask has now stopped 94 of 95 shots in three series-clinching games and had shutouts in the last two clinchers. Rask also now has the most series-clinching shutouts in team history. The much-maligned in Boston netminder has now won seven straight in this playoff run and is 8-0 in the conference final which as NHL PR pointed out, puts him in some legendary company. While this run to the Stanley Cup Final has been a complete team effort, there is no doubt that Rask is in rarified air right now and if he can get four more wins may well lock up serious hall of fame consideration when all is said and done.
Tuukka Rask of the @NHLBruins improved to 8-0 in eight career appearances in the Conference Finals (also 4-0 in 2013).
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 17, 2019
Perfection When It Counts
They may go through dry spells during a series, but they never stop doing the little things, and when it matters most, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak are clutch. As mentioned above, they came through again in Game 4 at Carolina but let’s look back at what this trio has done when their team needs them most.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 17, 2019
With their team facing elimination and critics wondering what may be wrong with them during their first-round series against the Maple Leafs, the aforementioned Bruins ‘Perfection Line’ stepped up in Game 6 at Toronto to help pace the B’s to a series-tying 4-2 win. Bergeron had an assist; Marchand two goals and an assist and Pastrnak chipped in with two helpers. In Game 7, Bergeron had an empty-netter to help seal a 5-1 win over the Leafs advancing the Bruins to the second round.
With everyone wondering if Pastrnak was injured because he wasn’t lighting the lamp as often as he usually does, the Czech sniper stepped up in a pivotal Game 5 in Boston lighting the lamp twice. Marchand had a goal, and an assist and Bergeron finished with an assist.
Even when they’re not registering points in big games, the leadership of Bergeron and Marchand continues to shine through and it’s rubbing off the ever-maturing Pastrnak as well. They shut teams down as much as they light them up.
Brad Marchand connects with David Pastrnak and the Bruins strike first
1-0 Bruins pic.twitter.com/8OvMczpzUH
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) May 17, 2019
Bruins Special Teams Special Again
The Bruins power play went 2-for-3 in Game 4 against the Canes and is now 17-for-50 in 17 playoff games. They really torched the Canes in the series going 7-for-16. Per NHL PR, the B’s now have the second best power play percentage through 13 games in Stanley Cup playoffs history. They’re scoring at a 34-percent clip and only the 1981 Islanders were better through the same amount of games at 37.8.
The penalty kill has been almost as good as they’ve killed off 86.3 percent of the powerplays they’ve faced and held the Hurricanes to a 2-for-13 showing on the man advantage.
Thanks to all this and so much more, the Boston Bruins are the 2019 Eastern Conference Champions, and despite where some thought they’d be at points during the regular season and even during this playoff run, they’re “Still Here!”