By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
“Next man up.”
It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to actually do it. The Bruins have consistently done the latter this postseason, too. Whether it was David Backes stepping into the lineup in both the first and second rounds, Chris Wagner’s in-and-out stylings on the fourth line, or Connor Clifton filling in for the injured Kevan Miller, the B’s have had their share of fill-in heroes.
And Thursday night just happened to be 30-year-old, eighth defenseman Steve Kampfer’s turn in the rotation.
In action for the suspended Charlie McAvoy, Kampfer welcomed himself to the Eastern Conference finals with the first goal of the series, scored with an o-zone activation and snipe on Mrazek just 2:55 into the first period.
“It’s good for the group,” Cassidy said of Kampfer’s contributions. “I mean, obviously, the individual is happy, don’t get me wrong. But the whole bench—the way our team is constructed and the way those guys want to play for one another.”
“Outstanding for a player that’s been out of the lineup for quite some time,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of Kampfer’s jump into the lineup. “I’ve been talking about him a couple days ago, he’s always in a positive mindset and he works hard.
“It’s not easy to come into a playoff game, for a guy like that who’s been out of the lineup for four or five weeks he did a hell of a job and obviously a big goal for us and yeah he played a strong game.”
“I think it means just as much to the rest of guys to say, ‘Hey, this guy hasn’t played in a while, he’s ready, he’s on time, he catches the pass, he’s not flustered, he zips it in a good spot,’ so it just tells you, preparation and maturity, too, to be able to jump into that spot, not get flustered,” said Cassidy. “But I think it means just as much, like I said, for the group to know, ‘next man up.’ I mean the expression around Boston has been here for a while, and we’re certainly going into it.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-2 final at TDG…
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo have fine night as Bruce Cassidy’s go-to pair
Things got a little too scary for the Bruins in a McAvoy-less Game 1, as Zdeno Chara departed down the tunnel and did not return by the first period’s end following a blocked shot off his right ankle on a (successful) penalty kill. That by all means made the Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo pairing your de facto top defensive unit for a hot minute.
They actually killed it in such a role.
In 10:37 of five-on-five play together, the Krug-Carlo pairing posted a 72.22 Corsi-For percentage and outshot Carolina 7-2. And they did while while matched up primarily against the Sebastian Aho line.
“I thought they were pretty good,” Cassidy said of the Krug-Carlo pairing. “The analytics will dictate it, I guess. I thought we might have had a slight edge, in general. I don’t remember them making a lot of plays, that [Carolina] line. I know there was a stretch in the third there. I want to say five, six, four minutes, something like that. They had some pressure on us. They might have had an off-net chance, and then one from the slot, obviously they scored the goal, but they got open.
“But they did a very good job on it. I think it’s a good matchup for Brandon. He’s long, he can skate, so those taller left-wingers he can handle, or he can the smaller guys. Torey’s done it all playoffs. He’s done a really good job, played truly the number four hole, the second pair, so he’s usually seeing a really good line. So, good for them. We needed it.”
Brad Marchand turns over new leaf, prevents Connor Clifton from getting into trouble
Up by a goal in the third period, Jordan Staal decided to turn his brain off and board Bruins winger Chris Wagner. It was perhaps the dumbest penalty in a game full of nonsensical calls and dumb penalties. But it was a penalty that clearly bothered B’s defenseman Connor Clifton, as the first-year NHLer tried to introduce Staal to some Cliffy Hockey.
…That was until Brad Marchand stepped in and pulled him out of the danger that likely would have negated the power-play chance that was set to come Boston’s way.
Brad Marchand just saved Jordan Staal's life.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 10, 2019
(Actually a good heads-up play to prevent coincidental minors). pic.twitter.com/6NMfrMmQOl
“He’s turning over a new leaf, eh?” Cassidy cracked. “Listen, he’s been in these big games. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, so he understands maybe a little more than meets the eye sometimes. There’s a time and a place where you really have to be disciplined. I mean, you have to be disciplined at all times, but there’s certainly other times where you really have to put yourself in check, so it was great for him to do that.”
Do ‘Canes stick with Petr Mrazek?
This is more of a me thinking out loud here, but should the Hurricanes stick with Petr Mrazek in Game 2? Now, Mrazek wasn’t necessarily horrible in the losing effort, as he finished with stops on 23 of the 27 shots thrown his way. But he didn’t make the difference in a night that frequently saw the ‘Canes under significant pressure from The Bergeron Line.
“[Mrazek] was fine,” Brind’Amour offered after the loss. “We left him out to dry there at the end but I thought he was solid.”
The problem is that I’m honestly not sure ‘fine’ is going to do it this series.
With Tuukka Rask playing as well as he has been since Game 4 of Boston’s first-round series against the Leafs (Rask is 8-3 with a .940 save percentage since then), the Hurricanes need somebody who can legitimately come close to matching him. And between Brind’Amour’s options, and just looking at their recent performances, Curtis McElhinney is significantly closer to being that guy. Again, maybe Mrazek isn’t the problem, and this was his first game back in action since a lower-body injury knocked him out of Game 2 against the Islanders, but he was a little too leaky for comfort on Thursday night.
McElhinney, meanwhile, has a 3-0 record and .947 save percentage in three games this spring.
Now, If Brind’Amour sticks with Mrazek for another game and the results don’t improve, and you head to Raleigh down two games to none for the second time in three rounds, then you’ve really backed yourself into a corner.