By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
I want to make this clear: If Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour coached the Bruins, we’d probably love him.
And I get why they love him in Carolina on and off the ice. He’s a former franchise great who lives and dies with the organization, speaks his mind, and isn’t too far removed from being one of the boys in the locker room. He’s highly, highly relatable. He also demands his team plays like he did, which if you watched RBA at all, can only be described as relentlessly determined. Annoyingly so, in fact. Again, love him to death if you’re in Raleigh.
But listening to his postgame rant against the officiating and the review process that put his team down 2-1 in a game that ultimately favored the Bruins by a 4-3 final in double-overtime, I couldn’t help but think of what happened 14 months ago.
It was back then that Blues head coach Craig Berube, with his team down two games to one in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, decided to openly bitch about the officiating. He (incorrectly) claimed that the Blues were the least penalized team through the first three rounds of the 2019 postseason, and insinuated that they were getting a raw deal. From there, the whistles absolutely were swallowed whole, culminating in one of the greatest missed calls in NHL history.
And when that happened, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy couldn’t bite his tongue any longer.
“The narrative changed after Game 3,” a visibly frustrated Cassidy admitted after that Game 5 loss in 2019. “There was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition and it just seems to have changed everything.”
So, it’s worth wondering aloud if Brind’Amour, who absolutely did bring up some valid points (and not exactly foreign) in his criticism of the league’s review process, is trying something similar off the bat.
I mean, if the Bergeron line and Krejci line are indeed fully alive and kicking, it’s worth a try, right?
The NHL, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem all that receptive to a potential narrative change from Brind’Amour. The league hit him with a $25,000 not even three hours after those comments, and hit him with an additional, conditional $25,000 fine should he go on a similar tirade between now and Aug. 12, 2021. (A whole-ass year!)
But that doesn’t mean the referees can’t be influenced.
We’ve seen how often referees are goosed by whining through the media. We’ve seen it a billion times in the last decade alone. They’re basically the droids from the Star Wars prequels when it comes to convincing their mentality to change on a dime.
Perhaps Thursday’s threshold may have been changed as a result of Brind’Amour criticizing the clarity of their message, and maybe the next goal or play reviewed on a four-inch iPad, as if they’ve never made iPads bigger at any point in history, goes Carolina’s way. (We’ve come to learn that it’s a coin-flip regardless, but maybe this next one will say Carolina on both sides.)
We won’t know until the puck drops on Game 2, and throughout the rest of this first-round series. And we won’t know Brind’Amour’s true intentions behind such a rant. It wouldn’t shock me if he was looking to plant a seed to help his team, or if it was just a seriously pissed off coach exploding after a frustrating night. They seem equally likely.
But that potential play to swing for less five-on-five time, where the B’s dominated Game 1, personifies the kind of hate-to-play-against, love-him-on-your-side determination you’d expect from a player — and now coach — like Brind’Amour.
Here are some other leftover thoughts and notes from a 4-3 double-overtime win over the Hurricanes…
How ’bout that Krejci line?
Game 1 came with a massive, massive boost to the Bruins: The Return of Playoff Krejci.
And though it was just one game, holy smokes was this line cooking.
On the ice together for a team-best 14:01 of five-on-five play, the Bruins outshot the Hurricanes 13-1 with the DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase trio on the ice, and it was Kase who set up Krejci with a fantastic dish for Boston’s third goal of the afternoon.
“If they can do that every night, we’re going to be a very dangerous hockey club,” Cassidy remarked after the victory. “That’s the formula we’d like, I’m not going to lie to you. I’d love to replicate that every night with those guys.”
“Some nights, I think the puck follows you. You work for it and you get it back. Other nights you work your butt off and it doesn’t seem to bounce your way or find it, you have to stick with it,” said Cassidy. “I thought Jake from the first shift on, second effort [was there], Krech was going. Good in the circle. Solid, solid with the puck and away from the puck to get it back.”
To be honest, this was probably the first time we’ve seen a strong showing from Boston’s second line in back-to-back games at any point this season. I mean, the line has just been such a revolving door, from its right-side threat to DeBrusk’s struggles, it’s just been in a constant state of flux. But for the second game in a row, the Bruins had real, tangible production and looks from that grouping.
But Krejci will try to keep things in context with Game 2 already upon the clubs.
“Playoff momentum changes pretty quickly,” Krejci admitted. “Like they always say, never too high, never too low, correct some mistakes, look at some positives, improve on those and move on.”
Sidenote: The Brady Skjei-Joel Edmundson pairing is going to continue to absolutely drown against this line if the Hurricanes don’t make a change. It’s just a bad matchup for them, and was a complete reversal from their dominant showings against the Rangers in Carolina’s three-game sweep of the Blueshirts in the play-in round.
Charlie McAvoy brings poise, swagger to Game 1 effort
I think we’ve graduated to an incredibly important time in the Charlie McAvoy Era.
Watching this game, and the majority of B’s games this season for that matter, there’s a sense of certainty when it comes to McAvoy’s game. You just always feel confident. Each shift, each d-zone play, there’s just a steadying presence that seems to come with No. 73 matched up against the opponent’s best. I found this to be especially true on Wednesday.
But one thing really stood out to me in this one. It’s the third period of a tied game and the Bruins win an offensive-zone draw. The puck goes back to McAvoy and he tries to tee up a shot, but is blocked by Ryan Dzingel and Dzingel goes down in some discomfort. And what does McAvoy do? He skates over and says something that clearly bothered Dzingel.
Given that reaction, I’d assume that it wasn’t a, “Hey man, nice block. Good effort! Way to show up!” kind of pep talk.
And that’s straight-up ballsy, man.
That’s that kind of swagger that can come back to bite you if you’re not confident at both ends of the rink, but McAvoy was that guy. All night and through four periods and change of hockey, logging a team-leading 29 minutes of five-on-five play.
Is this a Nick Ritchie series?
The Bruins acquired Nick Ritchie with the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in mind.
But to be honest, I’m not really sure it was with a series against the Hurricanes in mind.
On the left side of a third line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork, Ritchie played a very, well, Ritchie game. The big-bodied wing provided the net-front jam that helped get Coyle on the board in the second period, and finished with four hits in 12:50 of action. He also failed to land either one of his two shot attempts on goal, and either lost a battle or didn’t compete hard enough in the battle on two Carolina goals scored, including Haydn Fleury’s third-period game-tying strike.
The latter could be a problem if this series goes deep.
To make it in this lineup, it feels obvious that gotta be able to play a little bit of defense and/or skate well. (See: Ryan Donato, Matt Beleskey.) And if you can’t do both, you damn well better overcompensate with one. That was noticeably lacking on Wednesday, and against a quicker Carolina team with an active defense corps, failing to adjust to that will spell trouble.
Should the Bruins immediately pull the plug on Ritchie in this series? Of course not. It’s one game and you won.
But this is something worth watching as the series progresses, because there’s simply no room out there for a flat-footed, d-zone liability should this series continue to be played close-and-tied, and should the Bruins advance to the second round. And likely against an opponent with a style that better suits Ritchie’s heavy, Pacific Division born-and-bred game, no less.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.