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Five Takeaways: Lightning Get Halaked, Boston Bruins Take Game 1

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The Boston Bruins won their fourth straight game of the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead Sunday in Toronto. 

Jaro Halak made 35 saves, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each had a goal and an assist and Charlie Coyle lit the lamp for the Bruins as well. 

Victor Hedman scored both goals for the Lightning and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves.

Here’s your BHN Five Takeaways:

Halak Equals Playing Field

Heading into this series, there was a unanimous opinion that the one area that the Lightning would have a huge advantage in was goaltending. Instead of two Vezina Trophy finalists in Tuukka Rask and Vasilevskiy going head-to-head, it’s the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Vasilevskiy, against Rask’s 35-year old back-up, Halak. Well, Halak reminded the world once again why he’s the best backup goalie in the NHL and why he and Rask teamed up to win the William Jennings Trophy for the Bruins this season with a combined 2.39 goals-against average. 

After a steady but not overly busy first period in which the Lightning got ten shots on Halak, the Bruins netminder was under siege in the second as the Lightning outshot the Bruins 18-7 in the middle frame. Halak was up to the task though turning away all of those 18 shots and every Tampa Bay shot until Hedman broke the shutout at 8:50 of the third period. Halak was screened by Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on the play and had no chance. Overall, Halak did what he was supposed to do – give his team a chance – and more in a potential tone-setting performance for the series. 

“It’s huge. Yeah, we see our game dip – they had a push,” Coyle said of Halak in the second period. “They’re a good team, they’re going to push. We had a heck of a first I thought and then, yeah, they’re not going to sit back. When they come, they have their chances. Jaro is there to shut the door on a number of good chances to keep us ahead. Could be a totally different game. 

But we have to help him out as much as we can. We also have so much confidence in him. He’s a great goalie, he’s been huge from us and that’s what we need from him. When they slip in there and we break down a little bit, he’s there to shut the door.”

Big Guns Firing For Boston Bruins

When the Boston Bruins lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, one of the major reasons was their top line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak was not a factor. Hedman and the Lightning did a spectacular job of minimizing the threat ‘The Perfection Line’ presents and at that point, the Bruins tended to be a one-trick pony. If the big three weren’t scoring, that usually meant a loss for the Bruins. Well, as Halak did between the pipes, the top trio for the Boston Bruins seemed determined to dictate play out of the gate and dictate play.

“Well they’re good players; they don’t quit on plays,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the game. “Third goal is a great example of that, puck recovery on the power play for Pasta’s goal by everyone in the group, so real good job. Marchy hanging onto it on the first one, finding Brandon [Carlo], [Charlie] Coyle goes to the net, so a lot of good stuff out of those guys.

You typically aren’t going to advance if your best players aren’t your best players and you know the second period they weren’t as strong on the puck as they were early on, but they got it back. And again, full value, their line carried us. I thought some other guys did their job as well, just didn’t get rewarded on the score sheet but nice start for that line.” 

Marchand assisted on Coyle’s first period goal at 18:52 of the first period, Pastrnak put the Bruins up 2-0 on the powerplay at 4:34 of the second period and then Marchand made it 3-0 1:17 into the final frame with Pastrnak and Bergeron grabbing the helpers.

Coyle, Boston Bruins’ Center Depth Shines

As mentioned above, in 2018, if the top line for the Boston Bruins didn’t score and dominate, there was a solid chance the Bruins were not going to win. After acquiring Coyle just prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline though, the Bruins suddenly had that depth up the middle they had lacked and now have one of the best 1-2-3 punches with Bergeron, David Krejci, and Coyle. It was clear in Game 1 that this center depth was a difference and Coyle’s goal was a perfect example of that. 

With teams having to deal with shutting down Bergeron and then Krejci, it was already tough enough but adding in the big, puck-controlling pivot in Coyle just tires down the opposition even more. 

“When you have three first line centers, it definitely makes it hard,” Marchand said of the Boston Bruins’ depth up the middle. “You’re having two of those lines play against a lesser matchup. It’s a little different against a team like Tampa where they have six top two defensemen. They have a good matchup over there but the depth that we have, I think that’s one thing the organization really put an emphasis on, is getting a lot of depth. That’s how you win playoff series.  

You can’t win with one line. You have to roll all the way through. Different heroes every night, different series. That’s why we were a good team last year, that’s why we were dominant all season long. And why we’re here tonight. We rely on our group. We always have that next up mentality and that continues.”

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Powerplay Delivers Again

Pastrnak’s powerplay goal 4:34 into the second period was a perfect example of how lethal the Bruins’ powerplay can be and if he can stay healthy, how hard it will be to contain. Pastrnak was wide open for that perfect pass from Krejci and there was nothing Vasilevskiy could do. The powerplay was 1-for-3 and has connected in five of the six playoff games the Bruins have played.

Boston Bruins Have Toughness Too

Heading into this series, the focus amongst many media pundits was on the ‘new identity’ of the Lightning and how much tougher they’ve become with the acquisitions of players like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at the trade deadline this past season. Apparently they forgot the Bruins are pretty damn tough too and can bang with the best of them. For the first two periods, the Bruins outhit the Lightning and let it be known they not afraid to muck it up either. The Lightning would end up with 39 hits to the Bruins’ 37 but the Bruins team toughness was there when they needed it. 

“We just play our game, we’re fine, they want to bang, we’re going to match them hit for hit,” Cassidy said. “If something goes from there, we’re going to stick up for one another, we can handle ourselves if the mitts are off. So for us not a huge concern in that type of game, we feel we’re comfortable in it. You got to be able to do it night after night if that’s how it’s going to go, to be able to take the wear and tear, and then expose teams if they get too aggressive.”

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.

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