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Murph’s Takeaways: Energy Line Sparks Bruins

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Sean Kuraly broke a 2-2 tie 5:21 into the third period and Brad Marchand sealed the deal with an empty-netter with 1:49 left in regulation to give the Boston Bruins a 4-2 Game 1 win over the St. Louis Blues and a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins were able to survive a slow start and shake off the rust from an eleven-day layoff before the suffocating fore-check of the St. Louis Blues busted the game wide open. After a Vladimir Tarasenko goal made it 2-0 1:00 into the second period, the B’s seemed to snap out of their funk. Then when rookie defenseman Connor Cliffton cut the Blues’ lead in half just 1:16 later, the Bruins never looked back as they dominated the second period out-shooting the Blues 18-3 in the middle frame connecting on their fourth power play of the game when defenseman Charlie McAvoy sniped one past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington to tie the game at two.

Here are my takeaways from a game that once again saw the Bruins depth and resilience take over and leave their opponent wondering what happened.

Kuraly And The Energy Line Provided The Spark Rusty Bruins Needed- As he has before in the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had his fourth or as they like to be called ‘energy’ line out for the opening faceoff of the game and the remaining two periods. With his team understandably sluggish from the long break between the Eastern Conference Final and this series and the Blues likely shaping their game plan around stopping the top two lines of the Bruins and solving goalie Tuukka Rask, Cassidy once again depended on the Joakim Nordstrom-Kuraly-Noel Acciari line, and the trio didn’t disappoint. Not only did Kuraly score the game-winner in the third but assisted on Cliffton’s goal in the first. Both were the result of hard work and just knowing where to be and when to be there, something he and his linemates consistently do.

“This is what they do,” Cassidy said following the win. “They possess pucks, they can skate, they play simple hockey, and I think against St. Louis if you play north, especially for us being off as long as we were we had to not get drawn into the fancy stuff, the east-west stuff, stuff that you’re doing in practice because you don’t have the competitive edge. It showed on the second goal; we just mismanage the puck, even the first one we got a little loose so at the end of the day they are always going to play a straight line game, and sometimes they get rewarded and sometimes they don’t, but they always play the
same way.

That’s what they did tonight. They got rewarded by going to the net, they’re always good defensively, Noel will add the physicality. Going back to the previous question, we made the switch, we need to be a little more physical against that line, and I thought they were able to deliver on that too.”

Another Great Second Period For The Bruins – As our own Thomas Fitzgerald pointed out recently, thanks to Tuukka Rask’s “second-period mastery,” the Bruins have owned the middle frame. In Game 2, they entered the second period trailing 1-0 and fell behind 2-0 in the first minute. As they always seem to do in the second though, they came back stronger and answered the Blues goal within 1:16 and never looked back, scoring another in the period and then two more in the final frame.

Cassidy is happy with his team’s successful second periods and credits their ability to pounce when their opponent has the long line change.

“Second period can be tough on one team with a long change,” Cassidy said. “Whatever team starts to dominate, I always found that the second period they’ll continue to dominate because the other team gets stuck getting the puck out, changing, they never really establish anything. So, we were able to build on that first goal, but our team has been resilient all year if you watch our group. Not necessarily from comebacks, but just, you know different guys in the lineup, different guys producing, we’re genuinely going to up and down lineup guys that are going to play hard and they’re not going to quit. That’s for sure. They’re going to respond. Tonight was a good example.”

Binnington vs Rask Round 1 – In a battle of arguably the two leading Conn Smythe Trophy candidates, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask took Round 1. Rask started off looking a bit rusty after the long layoff but neither of the first two goals he allowed were his fault. On the first one, Zdeno Chara got beat on an icing call, and Schenn was alone in front for the goal.

Gagne-Bergeron Pro-Am

On the second goal, David Pastrnak made a complete brain fart and passed the puck from behind Rask right out in front to a wide open Tarasenko, and there was nothing Rask could do.

Rask was solid after that though and allowed his team to come back and take the lead. He finished the game with 18 saves on 20 shots.

As for Binnington, one could argue he looked a bit rattled at times – namely on the Kuraly goal (above) when struggled to follow the puck in front thanks to the Bruins pressure down low – but the Blues easily could’ve been blown out of the building in the second period, and he kept them in it, sending the visitors to the second intermission still tied at two despite the large shot deficit. Binnington would end up stopping 34 of 37 shots.

Cliffy Hockey Contagious – Cliffton may only have two playoff goals, and really he’s not expected to be lighting the lamp that often, but when he does score, it’s the direct result of what his coach and teammates like to call ‘Cliffy Hockey’.

“It’s one of the reasons he’s here,” Cassidy replied when asked about the 24-year old rookie’s puck smarts and instinct. “Cause he can, he’s got good hockey IQ, he’s learned when to go, when to be conservative, when to pick the right spot without being risky, without putting us at a disadvantage. Kind of slides in there. All of a sudden he’s there. Obviously that’s smarts and it’s also foot speed. He’s a better skater I think than people realize. He’s stronger on his feet than I think the people realize. When I say people I mean the opposition. So I think that’s what allows him to be there and he’s got a little bit of that, they call it “Cliffy hockey.” He just plays. He plays on his instinct and right now his instincts are good to him and it’s working.”

 

You Got Krugged! – At 5’9, 186-pounds, this Bruins defenseman isn’t exactly the imposing, 6’0, 194 pound Nicklas Kronwall but if he continues to lay hits like the one he dropped on Blues forward Robert Thomas midway through the third period, Bruins fans could soon be saying “You Got Kruugged!” After he was rag-dolled by Blues forward David Perron in front of the Bruins net and losing his helmet, Krug got back up and bee-lined it down to the offensive zone. Like a runaway freight train, Krug absolutely ran Thomas off the tracks and in the process gave his teammates even more motivation to win.

“That gave me some goosebumps,” forward David Backes said. “He’s battling in our zone. I don’t know what kind of Twister game they were playing in front of our net. But I was hoping we would change, and he doesn’t have a helmet on, but he goes right up the ice and lays a big hit. He thinks he’s playing thirty, forty years ago. That was an exchange, I think that was Torey Krug establishing himself in this series. And that was, from my perspective, a big boost.”

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

Copyright ©2020 National Hockey Now and Boston Hockey Now.

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