By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Stuck in an even-strength scoring rut (by their standards) as a line, the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line took Wednesday morning to sit down and address their drought.
But instead of going over their second-round evisceration of the Blue Jackets, or all the big goals they scored over the course of an absolute wrecking ball of a regular season, the trio instead looked towards Boston's fourth line.
"They sorted through some of the stuff that I thought the Kuraly Line did well against this team," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said following Boston's 4-0 victory at PNC Arena. "[The Hurricanes] press up a lot. Their D wanna be in your face, so you gotta play behind them and skate on pucks. If you get stubborn and don’t do that, start playing east-west, then they reload so well and got good sticks and you have no success, you spend the whole day in your own end."
In a series full of takeovers -- the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead strong nights from Charlie Coyle's line and Kuraly's line was as consistent as can be throughout the series -- the Bruins were still waiting for that patented five-on-five domination from the top of their forward group.
The Kuraly-esque adjustments worked, to say the least, as Bergeron's line accounted for all four of Boston's goal in a dominant Game 4 closeout final at PNC Arena that successfully punched the Bruins' ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
A downright nuisance of a line, it was the Kuraly line that got the Bruins going in Game 3, and consistently forced Carolina's once-vaunted defense corps to look over their shoulder and double-check their passing lines throughout the night. Bergeron's line looked every bit like that group, too, with quick zone exits and enough pressure to eventually break Curtis McElhinney despite an opening 20 that featured a game that was a little too pass-heavy given the pure scoring talent on that line.
And Cassidy noted that the discussion -- which frequently features assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo and Joe Sacco -- is not so much a tutorial for the best line in hockey, but rather a reminder of what they're capable of accomplishing as an unstoppable three-headed monster.
"When they start to look out of sync because they have such good chemistry, that’s when you usually know they need to dial it back in," Cassidy noted. "When they’re a little out of sorts in the neutral zone, not making plays to each other, not supporting the puck, it turns almost into three individuals opposed to a line."
Communication was the least of the trifecta's issues on Thursday, with constant chats between the three on the bench, and with the poise to truly take this game over. That on-ice connection truly broke this game open, too, as Pastrnak fed Marchand with a perfect tape-to-tape pass for a clean power-play zone entry, and then Pastrnak (somehow) gained inside positioning on a Carolina defender to win a race to the front of McElhinney's net for an easy tap-in strike.
“90 percent of the league doesn’t make that pass," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said.
It was perhaps Brind'Amour's greatest fear throughout this series, too, as the first-year coach saw this kind of offensive explosion coming. Brind'Amour at one point straight-up said that he wished that the Bergeron Line was going off against his club, because he knew it was indeed going to come at some point because they're simply that good.
But I'm not sure not even he could have predicted it coming with the help of Boston's fourth line.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-0 final at PNC Arena...
No Chara, no problem
It was around noon that word began to spread that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara could miss Game 4 due to an undisclosed injury. Confirmation from a second source became beyond tricky, though, as the Bruins had already wrapped up their morning skate availability and hopped on the bus out of PNC Arena. The Bruins, meanwhile, would not confirm or deny that the 42-year-old captain was going to miss the potential series-clinching contest. But when it was Bergeron leading the B's off the team bus when they arrived back at PNC before puck drop, you knew something was up.
And sure enough, warmups (and the game) went on without the towering Boston defender.
But it really wasn't a problem for the Bruins.
Torey Krug shouldered the load for the Black and Gold with a team-leading 27:00 of time on ice, and those numbers were not skewed by power-play minutes (he logged just 1:37 of time on the man advantage). And fellow left-side defender Matt Grzelcyk was also solid with 16:10 of ice-time. The Boston defense answered the bell on both the left and right side, however, as the team finished Game 4 with a combined 11 blocked shots from their six-man defensive grouping.
On the Chara injury front, though, it feels worth mentioning that the early word is that Chara will be fine and should be ready to go for Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
Off-day comparisons to 2010 were proven to be completely absurd
We're slaves to content. There's simply too many outlets and too many reporters and not enough access to fill everyone's stomach. And after training camp, 82 regular season games and then the third round, everybody's hopelessly lifting any and every rock in an attempt to find a new story. It's how it is. And sometimes it's actually worth it.
But one of the sillier stories to come out of the break between Games 3 and 4 was the reminder that the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead in 2010. As if it had literally any sort of bearing on 2019. Or as if the Bruins didn't already smash this narrative to smithereens in 2011 against the Flyers (the same team they gagged that lead away to back then) and again 2013.
And lastly, a take on Carolina Hockey
You heard all the tired jokes before the series even started: Carolina's Bunch of Jerks were playing in a non-traditional wasteland, their fans were front running frauds, North Carolina hockey is a joke, all that crap. It was impossible to act like an authority on that from my perch Boston, yeah, but I do admit to absolutely falling asleep to some Bruins-Hurricanes games in Raleigh in years past when watching on TV because the atmosphere had that of a closed library.
But I gotta admit: After being down here, the truth is that Carolina Hockey fandom is as legit as it gets.
First of all, holy smokes, is PNC Arena loud. Game 3 may have been the loudest arena I've experienced in since the deafening juice that came with Boston's Game 6 victory in 2011 Stanley Cup Final. That was legitimate noise, too. Talking to a few Bruins after Game 3, even they admitted that the noise was a little surprising. And they knew it was coming, too.
Secondly, the fans care. They do. Period.
It's like anything else in this life of sports: You spend your money and strain your vocal cords when it's worth it. I think Boston fans -- especially Bruins fans -- should understand that, too. I mean, it was back in 2005-06 and 2006-07 that you could get into TD Garden for a grand total of $10 to watch the Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, and everybody else for that matter come into Boston and kick your favorite team's ass. (But you probably didn't, unless you're somebody like me who apparently liked to punish yourself while also trying to truly believe that Hannu Toivonen was the future.
And last but not least, being able to tailgate outside a hockey game seems like the coolest thing in the world.
Up next: The Stanley Cup Final, baby.