BOSTON — The first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs was expected to be a very competitive matchup, but Game 1 Thursday night at TD Garden was anything but competitive.
The Bruins dominated all facets of the game en route to a convincing 5-1 win.
Here are four takeaways from Game 1.
David Krejci Proves His Immense Value
There’s no question the Bruins are far more dangerous when Krejci is in the lineup. He’s battled several injuries throughout his Bruins career, but when he’s healthy, the B’s have one of the most potent 1-2 combos at center with him and Patrice Bergeron.
Krejci scored a goal and earned an assist in Game 1. His goal was Boston’s fifth of the night — he banked a shot of Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and into the net during a B’s power play.
The Bruins had a plus-13 edge in shot attempts and a plus-5 advantage in scoring chances at even strength when Krejci was on the ice.
Krejci has led the playoffs in scoring twice in his career, and Boston went to the Stanley Cup Final both times. As good as Boston’s top line has played this season (and in Game 1), Krejci might be the most valuable piece of the Bruins’ offense.
“He?s methodical with his reads,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krejci. “I think he knows where everybody is on the ice, yet he can slow the game down and still make those plays under duress and in traffic because of his ability to slow the game down but still see everyone on the ice. When he?s on, he makes it look easy. He?s been doing that for years. He?s a clutch playoff player, and we?re happy to have him, and he was real good for us (Thursday).”
Rick Nash Shakes Off Rust, Plays Well In Return
Bruins forward Rick Nash returned to the lineup after missing the last three weeks of the regular season with a concussion. He slotted back in to his right wing spot on the second line alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
Nash drew two penalties, one of which led to the Bruins opening the scoring with a first-period power-play goal. Overall, he played well, finishing with three shots on goal in 17:01 of ice time.
“He?s an important player for us,” Cassidy said. “That deal was made for a reason. He?s an elite player, so, unfortunately, we lost him for a stretch there, but we saw it before he got hurt. Makes us more of a threat of a team. He?s just a proven player in this league that can finish, that can win pucks and get to the net. We didn?t even use him on the kill (Thursday night) — that?s another area. We just wanted to make sure we get him back up to speed. He hasn?t played in a while, and that?s another area he can help us, as well.”
Nash admitted he was a little rusty after his lengthy absence, but he was pleased with his performance.
“There was a few times where I felt a step slow,” he said. “I would have just been a lot faster bringing the puck to my shooting position or I would have had a step on the guy. You know it?s almost four weeks without a game. I was pretty happy with the results.”
Bruins Closed Strong
The Bruins had issues finishing games against the Leafs this season, particularly in Toronto. The B’s were much better Thursday in this regard. Boston scored a back-breaking goal with 38 seconds left in the second period to increase its lead to 3-1. Then the Bruins overwhelmed the Leafs in the third period by outscoring them 2-0, outshooting them 15-9 and owning a 26-13 edge in shot attempts.
Leafs Must Play Better At 5-on-5
The more the series is played at 5-on-5, the better the chance the Bruins have of advancing. Why? Well, the B’s were the second-best 5-on-5 puck possession team in the league during the regular season, as evidenced by their 53.72 Corsi For percentage. The Leafs ranked 17th at 49.82 percent, and their advantage in this series was on special teams.
But the Leafs got destroyed on special teams in Game 1, giving up three goals to the Bruins’ power play and scoring on none of their three opportunities with the man advantage. Even if Toronto improves on special teams, it must give a much better effort at even strength. Boston led 50-34 in shot attempts and 30-19 in shots on goal at 5-on-5 in Game 1. The Leafs were pinned in their own zone for much of the first and third periods as a result. This, of course, is not a recipe for winning hockey.