BOSTON — In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, Steven Kampfer scored the Boston Bruins’ first goal.
In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Connor Clifton potted Boston’s first tally.
Imagine thinking that in September of 2018.
But alas, that’s the reality, as Sean Kuraly’s cross-ice pass in the second period of Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues found the rookie defenseman. He got a piece of the puck with his skate and it spun in the air and into the back of the net, beating a well out of position Jordan Binnington.
Said Clifton, “I guess I saw a 3-on-2 and I just saw an opportunity to go to the net and luckily it hit off my foot and went in.”
It was Clifton’s second goal of the postseason, and the continuation of the sharp play the third-pairing blueliner has provided since giving head coach Bruce Cassidy no choice but to keep him in the lineup.
“Well he’s certainly not afraid to get involved,” Cassidy said of Clifton. “We noticed that when we first saw him and it was almost a detriment at times. We saw him at a rookie camp in Buffalo, so he’s learned when to go, when to be a good support person on the rush, he’s done a great job for us since he has been here. He has the ability to separate so he can skate and beat his guy up the ice, he goes to good spots, that’s how he got his goal against (the Carolina Hurricanes), right in front as well. So good for him.
“Real timely goal for him,” Cassidy continued, “he was a little fortunate but his stick was on the ice, he was ready for the puck and he got a good bounce on that one. He’s certainly a guy that can add some offense to the back end. Sneaky kind of guy, he’s not a guy you notice a lot, he’s not flashy, but he’s certainly good out there.”
Ever since his first call-up to the NHL, the lack of reticence on Clifton’s part when he plays was noticeable. Perhaps that’s why he’s stuck in the lineup, and in that vein, goalie Tuukka Rask in few words gave arguably the best assessment of Clifton.
“He plays fearless and it’s great to see, great character as a young player,” Rask said.