The Boston Bruins, who returned to the wall after back-to-back losses to start their streak against the Carolina Hurricanes, made two key changes for Game 3. Changes they should have made sooner.
Updated yesterday at 11:16pm.
Coach Bruce Cassidy removed goalkeeper Linus Ullmark from the starting line-up and handed the net to youngster Jeremy Swayman. He also brought together the trio Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. How was it possible to create a scrimmage nicknamed The perfection line ? This is a question to which one can hardly find a satisfactory answer.
The result was a beautiful 4-2 win that started this best-of-seven series between the two teams. Well built racquets and still just as disciplined in their playing structure.
We understand the Bruins’ decision to sign Ullmark as a free agent last summer. Swayman was inexperienced and it was unclear what lay in store for Tuukka Rask, who retired for good after a brief return to active duty a few months ago. A wise choice by GM Don Sweeney, certainly.
Ullmark is not a bad keeper. But 20 million for four years? It’s too much money for a goaltender who would be sitting in the right chair if he were a reserve player limited to thirty starts a season.
Swayman was partly lucky and partly good on Friday night but it seems pretty clear his presence in front of goal gives his team-mates more confidence than Ullmark’s. The 23-year-old keeper allowed a poor goal on a Jaccob Slavin shot midway through the third period that made it 4-2 and made the final minutes more interesting, but overall Swayman did very well, saving 25 shots in 27.
At the other end of the ice, Pyotr Kochetkov didn’t have to blame himself much either. There wasn’t much he could do against the Bruins’ goals. Canes’ third goalkeeper, the 22-year-old Russian, who usually has to communicate with his coaches via a translation app, Google translator not to mention her, started the first game of her career in the playoffs, as did Swayman.
Finally the guns
It’s not rocket science for the Bruins. If they want to continue in the tournament, their big guns need to score most of their goals, as they have consistently done for years. Your support players are in the lineup because of their resilience, pre-training control, or the quality of their defensive play. Of the blue line, only Charlie McAvoy, who has established himself as one of the top five defensemen in the NHL this season, can make a consistent contribution on offense.
The big guns of the Bruins, we all know them: Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron and Taylor Hall. With the exception of Bergeron on Friday night, all scored and had seven points.
More specifically, in the second period, after nine very decent periods, the Bruins finally got going to start the streak. The Hurricanes had controlled the game and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a first-half strike from Vincent Trocheck, but Charlie Coyle’s net from a great pass from the undermanned Jake Debrusk turned the pace of the game upside down, with the locals ahead of the Break.
In the second period, Marchand scored his first empty goal in 16 games, then Pastrnak made it 3-1. As the game progressed, the Boston attackers became more patient at the entrance to the zone, resulting in scoring opportunities that they took a number of times. Without saying that they play the famous “trap”, let’s say that the forwards of the Hurricanes play very tight in the middle zones…
On the other hand, the Bruins defenders began to assert themselves better in terms of toughness and positioning, thus better containing the powerful Hurricanes forwards. Derek Forbort was particularly good, blocking nine of Canes’ shots. The Bruins did a better job of keeping the rim canes up front and allowing less juicy second chances at goal mouth.
Scenario to avoid for the canes
Prior to Friday night’s loss at TD Garden, the Hurricanes had won each of their five encounters against the Bruins, including three in the regular season, by an aggregate score of 26-4 … On Monday and Wednesday nights, not only had they been a lot faster than those Bruins, but they’d also been a lot more physical.
The Canes beat them this year, but let’s not forget that they were eliminated by the Bruins in five games two years ago. The previous year, the Bruins served a sweep to Rod Brind’Amour’s men.
But with the exception of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hurricanes may have been the NHL’s best organization in four or five years. Your training was structured correctly. Their collection of talented young forwards, led by Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and soon Seth Jarvis, is impressive, and their defense is spearheaded by the NHL’s most underrated player, Jaccob Slavin. Not to mention Brind’Amour, a rising star in the world of coachingall sports together.
The Canes will continue to win for years to come. However, if the Bruins level the series on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m.), all the pressure will be on the Hurricanes’ young shoulders when they return to PNC Arena two days later. The Bruins will have fully regained their confidence if they haven’t already, and as the series progresses their expertise will shine through in hot moments.
Two out of three against Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and McAvoy? It would be doable for a talented team like the Hurricanes, but certainly not the ideal scenario after dominating most of the first two games.