It is not how you start, but how you finish. The old adage, often used in sports, has been proven reliable on many occasions. The Boston Bruins (10-5-1) have been an example of just how true the saying can be.
They proved it in the Stanley Cup Finals of course, leading the entire way in what turned out to be a deciding game six, before blowing a one goal lead with just minutes left. They also proved it in the first round of those same playoffs by stunning the Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-0) and erasing a three goal deficit with ten minutes left in the third period.
The Bruins faced the Maple Leafs for the first time since that improbable comeback on Saturday night. Would these two teams once again prove the saying right?
The answer: sort of.
The Bruins did finish the game very strong, outplaying the Leafs for the entire third period, but they came out in the first period and played impressively as well.
As I have said on numerous occasions, the Bruins are at their best when they bring their skating game and physical play from the opening puck drop. The Bruins must be reading my articles because it did not take long for Boston’s physical play to show up.
Less than two minutes into the first period, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid squared off against Toronto enforcer Frazer McLaren in a heavyweight fight. Both players connected on some big punches, with McQuaid scoring the take down after connecting with a nice right hook. The early fisticuffs seemed to help Boston get into the game early, feeding off the energy of the crowd.
The Bruins’ strong work in the opening period finally paid off 15:27 in the period while on the power-play. It was the usual suspect for the B’s on the goal with Torey Krug using his skating and puck handling ability to open up a passing lane between two Maple Leafs penalty killers. Jarome Iginla received the pass from Krug and skated to the front of the net; after an initial save by goalie James Reimer, Iginla regained possession of the puck and found Zdeno Chara in front of the net and the captain jammed the puck home for the 1-0 lead.
While the Bruins got the better of the play in the first, the Maple Leafs did not have eleven wins on the season coming into the game because of luck. Toronto came back in the second with a much better effort, causing the Bruins to play back on their heels. The poor decision making and inability to get out of their own zone, something that has plagued the Bruins lately, appeared once again. Toronto was able to capitalize on their good play and tie the game at one after an absolute snipe from the right faceoff circle beat Tuukka Rask top shelf at 16:52 of the second.
As I mentioned before, the Bruins dominated play in the third period. Boston scored twice in the period on their way to a 3-1 win. Going forward, the biggest thing that can be taken from this win was the play of the Bruins after Toronto upped the level of play in the second period.
Unlike other games this season, when Boston seemed unable to take their game to that “next level” after their opponents had, the team was able to match Toronto and come back in the third with more aggressive play. It was a relief to see the team respond after Toronto had made adjustments in the second, clearly having better of the play. Moving forward, it will be the Bruins ability or inability to match the other team when they increase the level of play that will determine how successful they will be.
The last two games for Boston have been completely different from their previous six contests when they looked lifeless. They are starting games much better and have been able to get offensive contributions from more than just their first line. Don’t be surprised if the team goes on a nice winning streak like I expect them to. That is, of course, if they continue to read my articles and keep listening to my suggestions.
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