Bruins Face First Must-Win Game of Season

by abournenesn

May 7, 2009

Games, seasons, series, championships. Throughout all of those, self-determination creates destiny. 

Destiny is not something that is predetermined, but rather something
that teams create or must suffer because they fail to rule their

Destiny arrives not in the singular moments that individuals
experience, but rather by the collaborative efforts combining the force
of all combined strengths — shift after shift.

Linemates and defensive pairs must take what their teammates have
left them in the fury and chaos of the ever-changing moment and build
on it. The unspoken code of the sport is to leave it better than you
found it. That goes for everything from the macro (making sure the
sport progresses) to the micro (ensuring that your shift ends with your
team in better position than it held when you swung your legs over the
boards). Each player must examine what he does in microscopic detail to
fit as well as possible into the puzzle and reveal the beauty of the
picture. And — upon such close examination — one finds that in the
details of the good stuff, there is genius. 

Like this:

14:01 to go in the first period of Game 3, Wednesday. The score? 0-0.

Face-off at the dot on the left just outside the Bruins’ attacking blue line. Boston has David Krejci centering Blake Wheeler (left) and Michael Ryder (right) with Zdeno Chara at left defense and Dennis Wideman right. Carolina’s top line is on the ice with Eric Staal centering Ray Whitney (left) and Erik Cole (right) with Tim Gleason at left D and Joe Corvo right. 

Off the face-off, Ryder lifts Whitney’s stick and wins the puck,
moving it across open ice to the right side. Wideman takes the space as
the puck drifts toward the boards and whacks it around the corner,
getting the puck in deep. Corvo gets to it first but has immediate
pressure from Wheeler, who makes minimal body contact but enough to
keep Corvo from gaining control. Ryder comes from the right side of the
goal and further reduces the comfort level. Corvo backhands the puck
along the kickplate, back through the corner at Cam Ward’s
left to Whitney. Wideman has come up the boards, deep into the
attacking zone, to try to keep possession. But Whitney sends a diagonal
pass to Cole, who nudges the puck to Staal in the neutral zone. 

Staal speeds over the Boston line with Cole trailing and Chara
taking away the middle. Chara forces Staal to the wing, so Staal makes
a drop pass to Cole. Krejci’s backchecking keeps Cole from having a
path to the net, so Cole gets off an unchallenging backhand. Tim Thomas
makes a stick save but gives up an uncharacteristically juicy rebound
right up the slot. Ryder has come back to take that space away, though,
and he easily beats Whitney to the puck.

Ryder spins to his forehand side and sends a crisp outlet pass out
of the zone to the left, onto Wheeler’s backhand. That sends Wheeler
all the way up the left wing and into the Carolina zone unopposed. Dennis Seidenberg,
on for Corvo at right D, forces Wheeler to check his speed. But Krejci
has raced forward in support. Wheeler pivots so that his back is to the
goal, sliding toward the middle of the ice. He makes a short pass to
the onrushing Krejci, who carries his speed forward and creates a
two-on-one against Seidenberg. Seidenberg takes away the face-off
circle, so Krejci keeps his speed with an around-the-net rush, curling
around for a backhand wraparound attempt. Ward blocks that with a
strong side-to-side move, sealing the floor of the goal with his left
leg pad.

Cole, who got back to the crease to protect the dangerous part of
the ice, scoots the puck into space in the neutral zone. Whitney, at
the red line, swivels the puck behind him to Staal, who is coming up
the left side. Staal hesitates at the left side of the Boston line with
Whitney gliding to the middle of the line. Cole comes busting through
between those two, and Staal muscles the puck all the way to the
half-boards. Krejci checks Staal down, forcing a weak shot to go wide
(stick side) of Thomas and off the end boards. Chara bumps Cole to keep
him from tracking down the puck. The puck caroms off the kickplate, and
Whitney beats Aaron Ward (on for Wideman) to it. Ward
will let Whitney skate to less dangerous space, away from goal to the
right-wing boards. Whitney twirls and spanks a forehand along the
boards, back in behind the Boston goal where Cole and Staal go to work
against Chara. But Chara wins the puck and gives it, left side, to
Krejci in the corner. 

Krejci drops the puck to Chara as both teams change out their
forwards. Chara passes D-to-D to Aaron Ward, who sees the open ice,
carries the puck to the red line, draws Joni Pitkanen’s
attention and flicks the puck up the wall behind Pitkanen. Ward follows
and picks up the puck along the right-wing boards at the hash marks,
scooting it behind the Carolina goal to the other side where P.J. Axelsson (now up front with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton) challenges Seidenberg. Carolina’s Ryan Bayda comes after the bouncing puck, bangs into Yelle, and Patrick Eaves has a chance to clear the zone, but Thornton seals off the left-side boards near the blue line.

Thornton backhands the puck forward to Axelsson, who makes the short, accurate off-the-boards pass to Mark Stuart
(who has come on for Chara). Stuart one-times the puck with Yelle going
to the middle.  The puck changes direction either off Yelle or
Pitkanen, beats Cam Ward, clunks off the post to Ward’s left, and
Seidenberg belts it off the boards and out to center.

Eaves battles through Steve Montador (on for Aaron
Ward at right D) and loses control of the puck as Stuart skates the
diagonal to cut him off entering the Boston defensive zone. Axelsson
gains possession and skates to safety behind the goal. Axelsson passes
onto the right to Montador, who reverses off the end boards to Stuart
in the corner to Thomas’s left. Stuart fires a snap pass to Yelle, who
gets sandwiched by two Carolina players in front of the Boston bench.

The puck slides to Rod Brind’Amour, who whips a hard pass to the middle of the Boston blue line to Eaves. Niclas Wallin
comes up the left wing, takes Eaves’ feed and pounds one toward Thomas
with Bayda going to the front of the net. The shot goes wide and
ricochets to Marc Savard (on for Yelle). Savard swivels the puck to the neutral zone.

Eaves clunks it off Andrew Ference (on for Stuart) and into the Boston zone as the Bruins change forwards. Ference attempts a long pass to Milan Lucic (who has replaced Axelsson) at the right side of the Carolina blue line. 

The puck scoots past Lucic and Wallin, all the way in behind Cam
Ward. Ward goes off the end boards to the right of his goal to Corvo
(rotating on for Seidenberg). Corvo goes vertical for Scott Walker, who tips the puck into the corner to Thomas’ left. Wideman (on for Montador) beats Chad LaRose to the puck and tries to work it up the right side, but Matt Cullen
swoops through and takes the puck back behind the Boston goal. Cullen
gets everyone moving with him, then makes a drop pass to Walker, who
has gone behind the goal. Walker, from the left-wing corner, passes to
the left point to Gleason, who passes to Corvo at the middle of the
blue line. Corvo shoots. Thomas makes the save in traffic with three
Bruins getting back in front of the goal. 

Thomas finds the rebound first, reaching around Wideman to his right
and poking the puck forward to Kessel in the circle. Kessel explodes up
ice, carrying the puck 150 feet forward and using his speed to
destabilize Carolina’s D. Corvo offers some resistance, and Kessel
fires a wide-angle wrist shot at Cam Ward, low and hard — a shot with
purpose. There’s a 30-foot rebound to the top of the right-wing circle.

Savard wins the loose puck, keeps control while fending off two
players’ stick checks, and backhands the puck through both corners to
Kessel, who has gone to the left side. Kessel taps the puck forward
past Corvo to Lucic, who has gone behind the net, and Lucic protects it
against Gleason. Gleason reaches through and punches the puck around
the corner, but the Bruins get it right back. 

Wideman, at the right point, gets off a quick-release wrist shot.
Cam Ward makes the save, Lucic pounces on the rebound and slugs it into
the back of the goal.

11:17 to go in the first period. 1-0, Boston.

Two minutes and 44 seconds of intense playoff hockey with chances at
both ends, but the Bruins put all of their most impressive attributes
on display.

Good defensive positioning, protecting space and taking away options.

Alert puck movement out of the zone, taking whatever Carolina gave up.

Passes with intelligence, quick releases on attack, shots with
purpose, winning body battles and puck scraps, and scoring on a rebound.

Winning loose pucks, using their bodies to shield the puck from defenders, supporting one another in all three zones.

Kessel using his speed, Lucic using his body and determination,
Ryder doing the little things like lifting the stick and getting back
to the defensive slot, Wideman using good judgment to get rid of his
shot in a hurry, Thornton sealing off the boards.

This is why it’s the ultimate team sport. Everyone was involved in a sequence in which everyone had to be involved.

The Bruins might be well-served to have a one-hour tape session and
show this clip 20 times in a row. This sequence is why many people
think the B’s are better than the Carolina Hurricanes — because when
they pay attention to what Claude Julien has asked them to do and get
timely saves from Tim Thomas, they give Carolina’s defensemen problems
that the Canes are not capable of solving.

It is as simple as this: After losing 3-2 in overtime in Game 3, the
Bruins are playing their first must-win game of the season Friday in
Raleigh. If they don’t play the way they did in the shifts leading to
Lucic’s goal — for all 60 minutes — it’s likely that they will be playing for their playoff lives in Game 5, Sunday in Boston.

They can do this. It’s up to them. We’ll see their destiny unfold, shift by shift.

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