The Bruins took it to the Tampa Bay Lightning for much of the 60-minute run time in Thursday's 4-2 win. They did it with both their sticks and their fists. But a single 45-second sequence in the third period epitomized the high-end skating, skill, and team game that they show when they're at their best. You may not see a better series of plays string together all year.
It happened with just under nine minutes in the third frame, and resulted in Patrice Bergeron's 28th goal of the season to put the B's up 3-1. The goal itself was an absolute beauty, but the brilliance started before that.
First, Tuukka Rask made a clutch save as he lunged to his left to stop a wrap-around attempt by Tampa's Nikita Kucherov. Rask is known for his anticipation and sound positioning, but he wasn't quite in the right spot to make an easy save. Facing one of the league's top scorers, this was a hard stop to make for any goalie. And as NESN's Jack Edwards pointed out, he made it on pure instinct and agility. Like Rask's tussle with Cory Conacher, the play showed how engaged the goalie was in the game:
Rask's stop kept the clock moving, so the Bruins had to make a line change. The Lightning then tried to gain the zone against the Bruins, but Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were there to gather the puck. And that's when Carlo took a return pass and showed off his sneaky-good skating ability.
His play also spoke to the team's confidence in each other; Carlo sensed that Brad Marchand would be there to cover for him from behind and then take the puck when called upon. Watch as Carlo snakes through the neutral zone and chip the puck forward and into the zone before carrying it all the way to the other end, then passing it off to Marchand (sorry for the potato quality):
— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) March 30, 2018
And finally, the goal itself. It's really just a simple triangle with Marchand, Bergeron, and Torey Krug, but executed so smoothly that it popped off the screen. The Bruins offense looked a step ahead of Tampa for most of the game, and this is perhaps the prime example:
63 ➡️ 47 ➡️ 37 ???? pic.twitter.com/L9Jh5TD5xa
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 30, 2018
Even Bergeron was in awe of his team's passing on the play, as he appeared to exclaim "Oh my god!" after burying the scoring chance.
If the Bruins' top line can keep playing like that against top competition, if Carlo can keep up the level of play he's shown in recent games, and if Rask can be as locked in as he looked for much of that game ... then the Bruins really are going to be as dangerous in the playoffs as they've been for the balance of the regular season. As long as they execute at the level they did in this sequence, they're going to be hard for anyone to stop.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].