By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
For the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, let’s get into some “Backchecks”. Not the hockey term – well, yes the hockey term, but in a sense of checking back on thoughts from the game. And the Bruins’ 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 certainly had plenty to take away from it.
We’ve already covered the highlights of the game. If you want to read about Nazem Kadri’s hit on Tommy Wingels, you can head here. And there’s more on Brad Marchand’s dominant performance. These go a little deeper into the details. Thoughts and observations to think about ahead of Game 2 on Saturday.
So without further ado – and in honor of Friday the 13th – here are 13 big takeaways from the Bruins’ win in Game 1.
1. This game showed the importance of momentum in playoff hockey. The B’s absolutely overwhelmed the Leafs for the majority of the first period. They had all the momentum. But then Toronto’s Zach Hyman zoomed past David Krejci and Charlie McAvoy, and for the next 15 minutes or so, the Leafs were off to the races.
However, you could feel the ice tilt back in the Bruins’ favor even before they went up 2-1. Rick Nash and a penalty on the Leafs drew the TD Garden crowd back into the game (and holy mackerel were they LOUD), with this sequence of hard-nosed play from the Bruins’ trade deadline acquisition:
Loved this sequence by Rick Nash. This and the resulting power play were the momentum-shifting moments in Game 1. Was still tied at this point. pic.twitter.com/xhXfRRS0VO— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) April 13, 2018
Nash spoke about the nature of momentum in hockey when he spoke to reporters after the game.
“You know it’s a funny thing how momentum happens in a shift, in a period, in a game, in a series and you know they definitely had it coming into the second but the power play came through big when we needed it to,” said Nash.
2. Speaking of Nash, he was a beast. Nash didn’t light the lamp, but he made his presence felt whenever he was on the ice. He protected the puck well, created scoring chances for his linemates, and brought a physical edge as well. He most certainly did not look like a guy who had any lingering effects from a concussion. His best highlight may have been when he absolutely laid out Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly behind the net, then gathered the puck and set up Krejci in front for a scoring chance.
3. David Krejci mind-bleeped the Leafs on the Backes goal. Krejci froze the entire Toronto penalty kill by simply standing and waiting, watching the play develop. Situated in the corner, he could have gone for the cross-ice pass to Danton Heinen. But instead, he softly slipped the puck to the front of the net, where Backes won the battle and hammered it home to put the Bruins back on top.
Krejci didn’t have a perfect night, which we’ll get to – but if the one-time playoff scoring leader can pace the offense like he did on Thursday, the Eastern Conference should be scared.
4. Matt Grzelcyk made a big play on the Backes goal that doesn’t show up on the score sheet. Pardon the cliche, but Grzelcyk’s play to keep the puck in the offensive zone made Backes’ momentum-shifting goal possible. Grzelcyk’s sneaky skills and smarts popped up all over the ice on Thursday, but no play was bigger for him than that.
5. The Bruins stifled the Leafs with solid team defense. More on Grzelcyk … the below sequence shows how well the Bruins played defense as a unit for most of the game. Even when the Leafs were able to gain entry into the Bruins’ zone, the B’s blue liners did a good job keeping them to the outside and the forwards did a good job backing them up.
This is a great example of how the Bruins played solid team defense against the Leafs for most of the game. Perfect angle by Matt Grzelcyk, then when Kapanen turns back up ice, there’s Sean Kuraly to smother him. pic.twitter.com/eLJE7ylw89— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) April 13, 2018
6. Tuukka Rask added to his strong resume of Game 1’s. Yes, it was important for Rask and the Bruins to get off to a good start. The team in front of Rask no doubt did that, and the goalie was mostly there to make the saves he needed to make. He made a particularly strong stop on Patrick Marleau, which at the time preserved a 1-0 lead in the first period:
7. The biggest save of the night, however, came from Adam McQuaid. He saved the Bruins’ bacon on this rebound chance for Tyler Bozak. McQuaid got his stick in the way and deflected the puck away from danger. Could’ve been an easy goal if Bozak had no resistance.
HUGE play from Adam McQuaid. Game was still tied 1-1 at this point. Saved the Bruins’ bacon by getting his stick in the way of Tyler Bozak here. No telling what Bozak could’ve done with a clean opportunity. pic.twitter.com/uRfnl8BAdT— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) April 13, 2018
8. At the other end of the ice, Frederik Andersen was putrid. Clearly, if the Leafs want to win this series, they’re going to need Andersen to step up like he has over the course of the season and occasionally shut down a barrage of Bruins shots. There wasn’t much he could do on the first two Bruins goals. But David Pastrnak’s score, despite being a hell of a shot, was still stoppable. And on Krejci’s final dagger in the third period, he pretty much gave up. Not that the game was close at that point, but the effort was pathetic.
9. Speaking of sucking, where was Auston Matthews? Besides a handful of mediocre opportunities on the power play, Matthews was practically invisible for the Leafs. They have plenty of skill up front, but it’s Matthews who should rise above them all. He needs to be a force, which he most certainly wasn’t on Thursday. The Bruins’ top line did an incredible job limiting his chances.
10. Zdeno Chara didn’t suck, but he made a mistake on the Leafs’ lone goal. It obviously didn’t hurt the B’s in the end, but Chara tried to pinch in and keep the puck in the offensive zone. Instead, it squeaked by him. And from there it was a footrace between Zach Hyman and the never-was-that-fast Krejci. Hyman’s going to win that one every time. His goal was an outstanding individual effort on a night where the Leafs didn’t get many of those at all.
11. The officiating was less-than-optimal. They did let a lot of borderline plays go, for sure. The right call was made to boot Nazem Kadri for his hit on Tommy Wingels. But the calls they did make were not the kind of calls you’d expect to be made in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ideally, just about all the penalties that were called were not.
Krejci got called for a hook on Kadri, and while he did have his stick near Kadri’s skates, it’s pretty clear that Kadri took a dive. This slashing call on Danton Heinen was ticky-tack as well. The B’s limited the damage with some strong penalty-killing.
12. Marchand and Patrice Bergeron mostly had their way with the Leafs. This particular play could’ve done the Leafs in right then and there if they scored on it. Just clowning them.
Marchand had a pretty hilarious reaction to whatever the hell he was doing to Leo Komarov.
“He keeps trying to get close to me,” said Marchand. “I don’t know if he has a thing for me or what. He’s cute.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.