By Bob Morello
Bruins and Blue Jackets in round two
It was a night to remember for Bruins fans as their team translated the seven-letter word ‘TORONTO’ into another seven-letter word – ‘VICTORY.’ Boston’s Game Seven, 5-1 win, once again eliminated the Maple Leafs from playoff competition. The sellout TD Garden crowd enjoyed an excellent performance, buoyed by the strong effort from the team’s fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari. Together the trio put forth a five-point night with goals from Nordstrom and Kuraly and assists issued to Kuraly, Acciari and Nordstrom, on a night in which the Bruins’ bottom six forwards, including goals from Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, among those who stepped up and made a difference.
Throughout the season the Bruins have asked for help via secondary scoring… while there has been some help… for Game Seven, the fourth line trio was able to put an exclamation point on – ‘contributions from the fourth line.’ For the Leafs it was a tough pill to swallow as they are now without a playoff victory, going back to 2004, and even more painful is the fact that they’ve been unable to beat the Bruins in a series since 1959, losing six times over that period.
Tuukka Rask in goal for the Bruins earned the ‘First Star of the Game,’ but he was so much more than that in Boston’s first round playoff win. In seven games he was 4-3, facing a total of 223 Toronto shots, stopping 207 of them. Rask’s first round playoff numbers thus far – an impressive .928 save percentage, joined by an equally impressive 2.31 goals-against-average. The Rask-haters will have to wait to try and put Tuukka down again, Rask saved one of his best playoff games in net for Tuesday’s Game 7, and it came at a time when it mattered most. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy heaped praise on Rask, “We got him a couple of goals in the first, so he could relax a little bit, but he made the stops he needed to and more. I hope fans recognize what he did tonight. I think you have to as a fan acknowledge when a player plays well. I know in this town when you don’t you hear about it, and that’s fine, too. But tonight he played well and hopefully the people get behind him and acknowledge that.”
The stage is now set for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in which the Bs will face John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bruins will not take the Blue Jackets lightly as they prepare for Game 1 tonight (Thursday at 7:00pm), this CBJ team made quick work knocking off the number one seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in four games. This is the same team that struggled mightily to make it into the final spot of the playoffs, the team that fared 1-1-1 in the regular season versus Boston. Coach Cassidy when asked about preparing for Columbus was quick to say “We saw them three times late in the year. That will help with our preparation. Should help with the players. We know they were physical against Tampa. They came after them. They got key saves. (Tampa’s) powerplay was lights out. So, we’ve got our hands full. I think it’ll be a good match up for us. The teams are similarly built, so it should be a good series.” Bottom line, the Blue Jackets will be a ‘fitting’ opponent (pun intended) for the hungry Bruins. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday, with the start time still to be determined.
Probably the most important of the recent playoff outcomes is that the Bruins now own home ice advantage all the way through their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Toronto series once again solidified how ‘spot on’ Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was with the additions of Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle to the lineup. Both players have contributed offensively and defensively, plus Sweeney’s ability to bring up players from Providence to provide depth when needed.
SLAPSHOTS: Honorary Banner Captains for Game 7 were Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and Special Olympics athlete Meghan Colby. Also in attendance was Toronto (Stratford) native and disappointed Maple Leafs fan, singer/songwriter Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey.