The Boston Bruins had one of the slowest starts among the bubble teams. They lost every round-robin game in horrific fashion, dropping from the best team in the NHL to the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference. But their return to playoff hockey has revived the pre-hiatus Bruins. The Carolina Hurricanes were arguably the toughest team that came out of the play-in round, but they certainly didn’t look it against Boston. The Bruins dismantled the Canes in five games and are now onto the second round. But more importantly, they look back to their normal selves. Are the Boston Bruins back after their round one victory?
Are the Boston Bruins Back? Takeaways From Round One
No Tuukka, No Problem
One of the biggest storylines coming out of the first round was Tuukka Rask‘s departure from both the bubble and the Bruins. It was a surprising move that not many expected, but Rask’s comments following the game two loss raised some questions about his commitment. Following his departure, Jaroslav Halak was next in line. Halak was undoubtedly a great goaltender over the course of this season, but would he be able to fill the shoes of the Vezina finalist? The answer is yes, at least so far.
Halak finished his three starts with 1.66 GAA and most importantly, three wins. Normally, losing your starting goalie is a pretty big blow to a playoff team, but these past three starts by Halak have certainly increased the confidence of many Bruins fans.
Did he have some weak goals? Sure. But his first playoff start in years was some of the best goaltending we had seen in a Bruins uniform in a while, aside from his one mix-up behind the net. But the overwhelming majority of Halak’s play was as close to Rask as you were going to get. This is certainly a plus for the Bruins headed into round two and another reason why the Bruins are back. The elite goaltending has returned.
The Perfection Line is Back
One of the biggest worries following the round-robin games was the lack of production from the “perfection line”. Through those three games, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak combined for one assist. That is certainly not ideal.
One of the key traits of Boston last season during their cup run was their top-line scoring. The “perfection line” was key in every series win, especially in the first round. Against Toronto last year, the three combined for 20 points in just seven games. So the lack of production combined with the three losses to start the bubble tournament was extremely alarming.
However, the first round has turned their slump around. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak combined for 16 points in just five games, including four points in the series-clinching game. David Pastrnak missed most of the series with an injury, but he was still able to total four points in the two games he played in.
The top line for the Boston Bruins is the most talented in all of hockey and their stretches of bad play are detrimental to the team. But, the saying that big players will step up when it matters is true. All three of these players flipped the switch when game one hit. Furthermore, the return of the “perfection line” not only means the Bruins are back, but it means the rest of the NHL should take warning.
Special Teams Find Their Way
The Boston Bruins have always prided themselves on being great on both the penalty kill and power play. Through their first three round-robin games, Boston scored zero powerplay goals. Not to mention, they had a multitude of chances to do so. So not only could they not score five on five, but even three, four, or five powerplay opportunities weren’t even enough to put the puck in the net.
Come playoff time, Boston turned it around. They were 27% on the powerplay during their first-round series, which is a great number to hover around for the remainder of the playoffs. They had production from multiple guys as well.
Their penalty kill had similar success. The Hurricanes powerplay struggled to get going in any of the five games. The disruptive sticks and shot-blocking were fantastic during all of their kills. Not to mention, Halak held his own as well.
Special teams are key for every playoff team, but it’s a very important aspect of Bruins hockey. It was absent during the round-robin games, but it returned in a big way.
The Return of the Bears
Boston has turned their play around very quickly since the restart of the NHL season. They disappointed all of New England, dropping their first three games back. But Boston was able to flip that playoff switch that many teams aren’t able to flip.
In just a few short weeks, hockey fans have gone from saying the Bruins are toast, to the Bruins are back.
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