In the year of the upset in the NHL playoffs, the Boston Bruins have stood firm against the trend.
The defending champion Washington Capitals are gone. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who had a record-tying 62 wins, were swept in the first round. The New York Islanders, the league’s top goals-against team, were swept in the second round.
But the Bruins, who finished third overall this season, have continued to take care of business in the postseason. Everyone was talking about the Columbus Blue Jackets after they swept the Lightning. But the Bruins used a memorable 39-save shutout from Tuukka Rask to defeat them 3-0 in Game 6 to earn the right to play the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had a big Game 6 in a 3-0, series-clinching victory. (Photo: Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports)
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While other top teams were falling, the Bruins simply got the job done. After having an earlier goal waved off for goalie interference, they needed a big goal in the second period, and got it from David Krejci.
That’s no different from their approach all season.
Everyone was talking about Lightning’s offense or the Islanders’ about-face under coach Barry Trotz. Even in these playoffs, the story in the East has been the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes.
The Blue Jackets have been playing with molten intensity. They outhit the Bruins 43-19 in Game 6. Fiery Columbus coach John Tortorella always draws plenty of attention.
The Hurricanes are garnering notice as the team nicknamed a “Bunch of Jerks.” They are the lovable underdogs.
Meanwhile, the Bruins, without much fanfare, keep doing what needs to be done in order to get to the Stanley Cup Final.
Consistency is the key for the Bruins. Showing the will in every game, concentrating on the details. Making the right plays at the right times.
They beat the Blue Jackets because Rask was just a bit better than Sergei Bobrovsky, who played well enough to win. The scoring was opportunistic, also a hallmark of a championship-caliber team. The defense kept the front of the net clear. When the Bruins weren’t at their best in one game, they were always better the next game. Rask has been at his best. His positioning has been superb.
The Bruins had their share of breaks, like in Game 6 when Charlie McAvoy only received a minor penalty for a blatant blow to Josh Anderson’s chin.
McAvoy only gets two minutes for this. Wow. pic.twitter.com/5c1XtSetR4
Replays showed the head was the target. It could have been, or should have been, a major penalty. Would the game have ended differently if it would have been a major penalty?
We will never know. But what we do know is that the Bruins figured out ways to win four times against a team that was playing with a high degree energy and drive.
In the year of the upset, the Bruins are dedicated to not letting it happen to them. Instead of wilting in the face of the face of the pressure of a 1-0 game entering the third period, the Bruins managed to get goals by Marcus Johansson and David Backes to take command.
Because so many top teams were toppled, the path to the Stanley Cup is less cluttered than usual. But that doesn’t matter at all unless you can take advantage of that.
The Bruins seem determined to do that.
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