Sports, for as complex that we like to make them with over-the-top analysis and advanced statistics and everything in between, are kind of simple at their root. More often than not it’s the better, deeper team that comes away the victor.
That’s no more apparent than in the playoffs, especially the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sure, a hot goalie can steal a game or a series or even an entire postseason, but the deepest, most talented teams find success most often. That’s why the Bruins are moving on and the Rangers are going home for the summer.
The Bruins were the better team for the majority of the five games, and that’s why they’re moving on. They were not only more talented, but they were much deeper. It was clear to all who watched, and it ended up being the difference-maker in the series.
One of the key storylines entering the series was how the Bruins would respond to the absence of three veteran defensemen in Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden. Their injuries forced the Bruins to use three rookie blue liners in Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Barktowski. The kids responded in a big way, too, especially Krug. The 22-year-old, who spent just about the entire year in Providence, was sensational in his playoff debut. He scored four goals — including a power-play blast in Game 5 — and gave the B’s a much-needed offensive shot in the arm for the entire series.
“You always hope that guys can come in and help your team out,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “There’s no doubt he was magic for us in this series. To score that many goals, and show the confidence that he showed in playing in this series is pretty outstanding. He’s a player that we’ve always felt good about in our organization and as I said, he’s shown what he’s all about. He had ice in his veins, and that’s what he’s got.”
It wasn’t just Krug, though. Bartkowski and Hamilton (who played Games 1-4 before sitting upon Seidenbeg’s return in Game 5) gave the Bruins a boost in some way or another during this series. Maybe their impacts weren’t stamped on the series like Krug’s offensive explosion, but they were able to make a difference and more than hold their own in the veterans’ absences.
“They played real well,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the Bruins’ rookie D-men. “It’s funny how it works. You get worried about this, that, the other thing and especially the kid there, Krug, they got a lot of offense from the back end. It was another difference in our series was getting offense from the back end. [Krug] led the way. It’s funny how it works as guy comes into lineups.”
The Bruins’ depth was also on display with balanced scoring for much of the series. No line personified that better than the club’s fourth line. The Merlot Line earned the Bruins a win in Game 3 with a couple of late goals, and they were at it again in Game 5. Gregory Campbell scored two gritty goals — the types of goals you have to score to defeat defensive-minded teams anchored by Henrik Lundqvist — and they were one of the biggest reasons the B’s are moving on.
“That line makes a coach look good, there’s no doubt about that,” Julien said. “They reward us. We’re known as a team that rolls four lines. I don’t roll four lines because I want to roll four lines. I roll four lines because I’ve know I’ve got the depth to roll four lines. If I was coaching a team that didn’t have the depth, I would no doubt shorten my bench. “
The Merlot Line ended up combining for four goals and seven assists in the series, and they forced Tortorella to shake up his fourth line in order to keep pace. The Bruins’ fourth line was one of the main reasons that Tortorella had to sit former Conn Smyther winner Brad Richards in order to keep up with the Boston trio.
We probably play a few more minutes than regular, traditional fourth lines, I guess,” Shawn Thornton said. “But my two [linemates] aren’t stereotypical fourth liners, either. I think we’ve earned the right to be out there, too.
“[General manager Peter Chiarelli] and our organization has allowed to have the players that give us the opportunity to go four lines and they just keep rewarding us with big goals,” Julien said. “There’s no doubt that line played a big role in this series. We’re moving on and they certainly deserve a lot of credit for that.”
It was far from just the fourth line and the young defensemen who contributed in the Bruins moving on. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find any better examples of the club’s impressive depth, the biggest key in moving onto the Eastern Conference finals.
Sometimes it really is that simple.