BOSTON – The Bruins knew after Game 1 had concluded that they truly didn’t show up the way they needed to for a playoff brand of hockey, and that all changed with the drop of the puck on Saturday night. The B’s were hitting up and down their lineup with usual skill guys like David Krejci, David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk throwing around the body, and they brought back a physical element that was so successful to last spring’s seven-game playoff triumph over the Maple Leafs.
It certainly got the Bruins players, and the TD Garden crowd, into the proceedings in an eventual 4-1 win for the Black and Gold over the Leafs, and it also alternately frustrated and exposed a Toronto crew that clearly didn’t want to play that kind of game. When it was all said and done the B’s had evened the series heading up to Toronto, they may not have to face Nazem Kadri anymore as he’s facing a lengthy suspension for cross-checking Jake DeBrusk to the face and it finally feels like a Stanley Cup playoff series after an uncharacteristic Game 1 performance.
Perhaps the best part is that adding a little physical play didn’t do anything to take away from Boston’s overall game plan, and instead enhanced what the Bruins were doing offensively and defensively to control the 60 minutes of hockey.
“We knew that we didn’t play to our identity in Game 1. We’re aware of it and we want to move past it and have a good response game. How do you respond? You’re physical, win the puck battles, control momentum in the first period, attack when you have the chance, puck possession,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a lot of checklists. Basically, let them know how we’re going to play and kind of tilt it in our favor after that.
“Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak had some great hits. Pasta’s first hit he got called for [charging], but I thought it was a good hockey hit, so good for him. He’s a leader. He does that. He’s been through these playoff battles, so he did his job and then some tonight. We needed it. We were lacking it on Thursday. I don’t want to look back and say would’ve, should’ve and could’ve. [We] addressed that as a staff, we didn’t do a good enough job on Thursday. I thought we corrected some of those things today, and the players executed much better.”
Certainly they did with the Bruins racking up 44 hits at the end of the playoff game, and every player on the Bruins roster finishing with at least one registered hit against a Toronto team that wasn’t nearly as feisty as they were in Game 1. It all made one wonder why the Bruins were so preoccupied with keeping up with Toronto’s speed game to start the series when slowing them down with a good, old-fashioned playoff beating was exactly what was needed after it clearly made the Maple Leafs uncomfortable last postseason.
Some of it was certainly about 34-year-old forward David Bakes entering the physical fray after being a healthy scratch on Thursday night, but more of it was about a team-wide response to things not being close to good enough the first time around.
“We had guys dialed in tonight. I think game one was a slap in the face, a little wake up call, and guys responded excellently tonight. Even with some of the shenanigans going on, we were focused on what we needed on our next opportunity. We got out there and we did it,” said Backes, who threw a team-high seven hits and assisted on Boston’s first goal of the game. “Tuukka [Rask] was solid in net, and we had different guys [step up]. JD [Jake DeBrusk] and Pasta [David Pastrnak] and guys that, you know, maybe are known for flying up the wing and scoring a goal that are laying the body, taking hits when they need to and playing through some gnarly stuff.
“That’s team building and that’s what we’re looking for, and I think it was a great response by us. But it’s one game. We’ve got to go in their building and we’ve got work to do after they took Game 1 from us here.”
Certainly it was reaffirming to see the real Bruins team show up on Saturday night after such an uncharacteristic opening loss in the series against Toronto. After showing they can get to that level in Game 2, the challenge is going to be to keep the intensity, effort, energy and execution up to Saturday night’s standards as the series shifts Toronto for the next couple of games.
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