It’s fun to be proven wrong in the best way possible when it comes to the Boston Bruins. After wheezing and limping to the end of the regular season and then vowing to do better in the postseason, they kicked off the playoffs with a rousing 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It may be too early yet to declare the boys are back–they need to have a few more good games, please–but this was a huge improvement in so many areas, including some of the ones I targeted for needed improvement.
But the game didn’t begin too auspiciously when Patrice Bergeron was called for quite a silly penalty pretty much right away and then Toronto scored while on the power play. Fans had good reason to dread how the Bruins would bounce back from that start, but this was a different sort of squad. Sure, the first period was often frustrating, but again, this was different and Wade Redden proved that when he scored his first of the game, followed a few minutes later by firing the puck towards the net, where Nathan Horton tipped it in to increase the lead right before the end of the first.
Again, another reason to be worried: a two-goal lead, the hardest hockey lead to keep, regardless of team. It’s been especially difficult, though, for the Bruins, as the CNBC announcers gleefully reminded viewers when discussing the team’s penchant for blowing leads.
That’s why watching David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk double the lead within five minutes of the third period was so satisfying. They quite nearly made it 5-1 and that’s what the score should have read. Bergeron was done wrong when everyone thought he had scored, but the refs blew the call because they claimed they had intent to blow the whistle and deaden the play as James Reimer kindasorta had the puck covered. Of course, there were times when Tuukka Rask was ridden like a hobby horse down at the other end, but the whistles, or the intent to whistle, didn’t come so quickly for him.
Speaking of Rask, he stayed sharp throughout the game, occasionally really needing to be very strong and deny Leafs on breakaways or rushes. He was doing a pretty darn good job against the team that drafted him back in the day. (I had also forgotten to mention that Shawn Thornton was a Toronto draftee. Just for the record!)
Now, this series could start to pick up in physicality and tempo. Brad Marchand stirred the pot a few times and then after the game, he told media that James van Riemsdyk had speared him in the gentlemen’s area. Boychuk put a big hit on Mikhail Grabovski that got him tangled up in a scuffle along with Andrew Ference. But the most unusual thing was seeing Leo Komarov hit and fight Chris Kelly after the final whistle. Kelly is not exactly known for his pugilistic strengths, but he will answer the bell if need be.
What’s the new item of clothing to reward the player of the game, who was Krejci tonight? An Army Rangers camouflage jacket. Once again, this was Ference’s brainchild because he has friends who are Rangers. The guys also continue wearing caps for local police forces.
So here it is, game one over and done. We have to wait until Saturday night for game two–here’s hoping the Bruins keep up the good work in that one!