Nearly 19 hours after the originally scheduled start time of 8:10 PM, and 21:13 of combined overtime play later, the Bruins victory in Game 1 of their best-of-seven playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes was worth the wait.
With Tuesday’s epic five overtime marathon between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets forcing the postponement of Game 1 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, it was an unusual 11:00 AM puck drop Wednesday morning.
With the way 2020 has gone so far, a five overtime hockey game postponing another only adds to the craziness that the 2019-20 NHL season has become.
“To be honest with everything going on right now and the situation we’re already in, that last night wasn’t too surprising,” said forward Charlie Coyle. “Yeah you don’t expect that and things change and you have to adjust. That’s kind of our mindset going into this with all the new changes and the new normal going on. You got to adjust to things. That was kind of our mindset.”
Once the puck finally dropped, the Bruins looked like the Bruins of old after ugly performances in an exhibition loss to the Blue Jackets, and three round-robin losses to the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals.
There was a lot to like from the Bruins effort in Game 1, a game where for the majority of play the Bruins dictated the pace.
The Bruins got five-on-five goals from each of their top three lines, with their second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase producing the majority of the Bruins scoring chances.
While Krejci gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead .59 seconds into the third period, DeBrusk missed what seemed like 40 open nets in the contest, and Kase had by far his best game as a Bruin in what has been a brief stint in Boston for him since his trade out of Anaheim.
“I’m going to guess it’s going to be a high-end game for them tonight, the way – if they can do that every night, we’re going to be a very dangerous hockey club. Some nights, I think the puck follows you. You work for it and you get it back. Other nights you work your butt off and it doesn’t seem to bounce your way or find it, you have to stick with it,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said of his second line.
In 14:01 of five-on-five time with the Krejci line on the ice the Bruins led in shot attempts 23-7, shots on goal 13-1, scoring chances 12-5 and goals for 1-0.
“Tonight, I thought Jake from the first shift on, second effort, Krech was going. Good in the circle. Solid, solid with the puck and away from the puck to get it back. That’s the formula we’d like, I’m not going to lie to you,” Cassidy added.
“I’d love to replicate that every night with those guys. Like I said, Kase took a few hits and he bounced back. Really what I liked was the second effort on the pucks. That makes any team hard to play against. That’s what happened with that line tonight. And they were – I guess if you ask Carolina, they were hard to play against.”
Wednesday’s contest was only Kase’s second since joining the Bruins in their Toronto bubble. But in those two games, Kase has looked very much like the player the Bruins were hoping they would get when they traded for him back in February.
Kase has two assists in those two games, and with him, Krejci and DeBrusk on the ice five-on-five together in those two contests the Bruins have a 33-12 shot attempt advantage, 17-2 shots on goal advantage, a 15-6 scoring chances for advantage and a 2-0 goals for advantage.
Krejci wasn’t the only Bruins center to score on Wednesday as both Charlie Coyle and Patrice Bergeron scored their first of the playoffs.
Coyle centered Nick Ritchie and Anders Bjork and while Bjork’s name won’t appear on the scoresheet, I thought he was one of several Bruins forwards who had a really good performance in Game 1.
Ritchie on the other hand had a rough night and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he was scratched in Game 2 in favor for a more skilled Karson Kuhlman.
Coyle’s second period goal gave the Bruins their first lead of bubble play, but it failed to come without controversy. The goal had both a potential hand pass, and the potential for a whistle as Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek appeared to have the puck covered.
Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour was none too pleased with the call, revealing after the game the official would not give much information about the call on the ice, forcing Brind’Amour to either challenge the hand pass or the missed stoppage.
Brind’Amour went with the hand pass and chose wrong as Coyle was awarded the goal.
“This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” Brind’Amour told the News & Observer
. “That one is a crime scene.”
Brind’Amour was fined $25,000 for his comments.
But undoubtedly the biggest bright spot for the Bruins was the Bergeron line. Pastrnak opened the scoring for the Bruins and Bergeron closed it with his double overtime tally.
After the line looked out of sync at times during round-robin play, they were back to their usual self in Game 1, looking more like the line that gave the Hurricanes nothing but problems in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, and a line that dominated the league during the shortend regular season.
While the Bergeron line provided the Bruins with two important goals, the line also did an outstanding job of keeping the Hurricanes insanely talented top line of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov off the board.
In the 8:48 of five-on-five time Bergeron and Aho spent on the ice together, the Hurricanes had six shots on goal, five scoring chances to the Bruins seven, an expected goals for percentage of 0.24% and it was Aho’s line that was on the ice when Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron worked their magic for the game winner.
"We were confident. We’re a confident group, confident line. I think we got better as we went on in the round robin. Obviously you want more, you want to keep getting better and taking the next step,” Bergeron said. “Especially we thought that tonight was a really important game, starting round one, so we had to put whatever was behind us in the past and get some rhythm going.”
If there was one area for concern in Game 1 it was the Bruins usually dangerous power play. Both units looked completely off their game and had much difficulty crossing the blueline into the offensive zone with the puck.
When they were able to get into the offensive zone with the puck, the Hurricanes defenders were quick to the puck and quick to the open man, making life difficult for the Bruins.
An ugly Pastrnak cross ice pass at the blue on the power play ended up in the back of the Bruins net and a shorthanded goal for the Hurricanes.
The goal came 19 seconds after Coyle’s goal, a power play that was awarded to the Bruins after the Hurricanes failed coaches challenge.
The Bruins finished with just three shots in four failed power play attempts.