The best thing a coach will see on the ice is when his players do the little things right. In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, it took some time for the Boston Bruins to find their game, but once that happened the Bruins were able to find their cycle and pressure game that was so effective in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Again it was the depth on the roster that came to the forefront and a reason why the Bruins have won eight games in a row.
Matawan New Jersey native and Quinnipiac standout defenseman Connor Clifton made his presence felt in the Boston Bruins 4-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues. He did the little things right any coach would be proud of as he led the comeback for the Bruins. Simply put: Clifton was, at times, the best player on the ice for the Bruins.
The rookie defenseman did not show any of signs of nerves as he had his best game in Bruins uniform. He scored a goal, his second of the playoffs, and made smart plays with the puck to allow the Bruins to find their game in the comeback victory over St. Louis.
The Bruins have been dominant in the second period throughout the playoffs and that didn’t change in Game 1. Just one minute and 16 seconds after St. Louis made it 2-0 early in the second period, Clifton went to work.
“I think he’s a real effective player when he’s got his feet moving because the game comes a little bit naturally for him when he’s moving,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. That is precisely what Clifton did on the first Bruins.
Sean Kuraly entered the offensive zone with speed, another great weapon in the Bruins arsenal, to back up the St. Louis defense which allows Clifton to join the attack and skate to the far side of Jordan Binnington to the pass for a tap in goal.
Clifton was not done for the evening as he made one of the best plays of the game to allow the Bruins to take the lead and never look back in the third period. On the go-ahead goal, Clifton made a great read after he intercepted St. Louis defenseman Joel Edmundson‘s pass in the neutral zone. Though Clifton would not get an assist on the goal, he is the reason why the Bruins scored. As you can see Clifton gets the puck deep in the offensive zone to allow fresh players on the ice, where the Bruins fourth line went to work.
The pressure from the energy line caused another St. Louis turnover, as Zdeno Chara kept the puck in the zone and threw the puck on net. As the old coaching saying goes throw pucks on net and good things happen. Noel Acciari picked up the puck in front of Binnington and made a nice pass to Kuraly for the eventual game-winner. Again the Bruins capitalize on second and third chance opportunities.
Both goals were scored because players made the right decision with the puck and read the situation on the ice perfectly. Clifton’s hard work paid off late in period three as he was rewarded with time on the power play. Clifton had only 19 NHL games prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now he was named the third star of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Note: Before the Kuraly goal, the last three goals that were scored against St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final were by a defenseman. Charlie McAvoy and Clifton in period two of Game 1, and the iconic Bobby Orr goal in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final.