The Boston Bruins took a 1-0 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 win Sunday night over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Here are some thoughts, observations and takeaways from Sunday’s game.
— We’ll start in the crease, where Jaroslav Halak had his finest showing this postseason and perhaps his best in a Bruins uniform.
The Boston netminder appears to be rounding into form at the perfect time, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. The two goals, both off the stick of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, were hardly Halak’s fault alone. On both goals, Halak seemed to be screened by Charlie McAvoy, and the puck also appeared to deflect off the Bruins defenseman.
Halak’s best work came in the second period, when he fended off a surge from the Lightning, who outshot the Bruins 18-7 in the middle frame, with Halak turning away each shot.
“He was dominant that period,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after the game. “The other two goals, I think one went in off Charlie the other one had eyes, so they certainly got a couple of fortunate ones, but boy did he make some saves in the second where they probably deserved better.”
— It’s hard to find words that haven’t been said to describe the success of the Bruins’ first line. The trio of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had their best game since the restart. The troika combined for two goals (one on the power play), while putting 11 shots on net. Bergeron also dominated in the faceoff dot, winning 17 of 27 draws.
While it might be hard to describe the line’s effectiveness and chemistry, Marchand’s third-period goal, the eventual game-winner, more or less showcased the strengths of each all at once.
— Cassidy shook up the lines once again, opting to go with a little more size up front, inserting Nick Ritchie back into the lineup, while also bringing back Anders Bjork. The idea, Cassidy explained before the game, was to protect against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense corps. The Lighthing blueliners certainly seemed eager to jump into the plays in the offensive end from the get-go.
It was a mixed bag for Ritchie, who largely went unnoticed, although he did make a nice play in the second period. As Boston entered the attacking zone, Ritchie was able to muscle a puck to Charlie Coyle in the middle. Coyle set up Charlie McAvoy for a one-timer that was turned away by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Then again, one of Ritchie’s selling points is his play along the walls, but he did get outmuscled a few times, including being upended by Alex Killorn in the third period.
Bjork managed to get three shots on net, and while Ritchie didn’t even attempt a shot, he did take the body where possible, registering five hits. At the end of the night, Bjork and Ritchie had the least amount of ice time on the Bruins.
— Will Ondrej Kase ever score again? Counting his time in Anaheim and all the playoffs, he has just seven goals in 62 games this year and has yet to find the back of the net with Boston. Perhaps when (if) he gets one, the floodgates will open. He had no shortage of high-quality chances in Game 1, including two Grade-A beauties in close. Regardless, though, he continues to make that second line look very effective.
— It has become something of a surprise when the Bruins’ power play, especially the first unit, fails to score. Putting David Krejci on the top power-play line has made a world of difference, as he’s able to slowly work the offensive zone until he finds a play he likes, which is exactly what happened when he weaved through traffic before finding Pastrnak to set up the Bruins’ second goal.
“To be honest, I was ready for about 15 seconds,” Pastrnak said. “I knew it was coming. He’s an unbelievable playmaker and he’s been doing that for a long time in this league.”
Since the first round began, the Bruins’ power play is hitting at a 27.3 percent success rate, third among 16 teams.