Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Apr 8, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (59) and right wing David Pastrnak (88) celebrate a goal by center Pavel Zacha (18) during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing quite like playoff hockey, and there’s nothing quite like playoff hockey in Boston.

After an 82-game run that came with countless records smashed — and a reminder, be it from your own internal monologue or externally from the talking heads, or even the Bruins themselves that it all meant ‘nothing’ without postseason success — the Bruins’ quest for 16 more victories began Monday night in Boston with a 3-1 Game 1 win over the Panthers.

And in what was an electric affair, the Bruins jumped on the Panthers early with a goal just 5:58 into the game, and weathered storms from a Florida attack that seemed determined to strike on a bad-angle, deflating kind of goal.

The Panthers got that from Matthew Tkachuk after a Dmitry Orlov giveaway, but it didn’t matter, as the Bruins continued to hammer Alex Lyon, making his first career playoff appearance, and did more than enough to slam the door shut on the Panthers in the third period of play.

Here are the 98.5 The Sports Hub (dot com) 3 Stars of the Game from a series-opening victory at TD Garden…

  • No. 3 Star: Pavel Zacha

    Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18) passes the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period of game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Bruins center Pavel Zacha (18) passes the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period of game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Nobody is going to truly replace Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins, especially in the postseason. But Pavel Zacha, who continued what’s been an excellent Year 1 as the B’s Swiss Czech army knife, did about as well as you could’ve asked with his promotion up to the top line between wingers Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand.

    Deployed for 14:30 of time on ice in the win, Zacha’s big contribution on the scoresheet in Game 1 came with an assist on DeBrusk’s second-period marker to make it 3-1. Perhaps it wasn’t a ‘true’ assist in the sense that he didn’t hit DeBrusk with a perfect tape-to-tape feed, but it didn’t come as a result of some downright delightful chaos in front of the Panthers’ Alex Lyon, and was a gigantic gut-punch to the Panthers after they had made it a one-goal game.

    The point was the first Stanley Cup Playoff point of Zacha’s NHL career.

    The 26-year-old also won 10 of his 17 battles at the dot, continuing what’s been a strong run on that front, as Zacha ended his regular season with 50 percent or better on that front in four of his final six regular-season contests.

    “We’re very confident with [Pavel] Zacha in the middle and we know in the future he’s going to be an excellent top two center for us, and he showed that tonight,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery.

  • No. 2 Star: Linus Ullmark

    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins tends goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game One of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on April 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins won 3-1. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – APRIL 17: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins tends goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on April 17, 2023 in Boston. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

  • Well, any worries you had about Linus Ullmark — be it about his health, effectiveness, or whether or not he was ‘ready’ for this moment — were put to rest last night thanks to a 31-of-32 performance in net.

    Back in goal for the first time since a lower-body injury knocked him out of the penultimate game of the regular season, the 6-foot-5 Ullmark was absolutely dynamite in this contest. And he had to be for a Bruins team that was struggling to find their A (or even B) game for large chunks of play.

    Ullmark was especially strong early, and put forth a much-needed first-period effort that saw him stop all 15 Florida shots thrown his way. It was simply just another night of Ullmark giving shooters almost nothing.

  • “I thought he was excellent,” Montgomery said of Ullmark’s performance. “I thought he was cool, calm, just real confident, seeing the puck really well, steering rebounds. It looked like there was a lot of chaos at our net, they took a lot of shots at bad angles and he’s just great at steering pucks to bad areas or smothering them up.

    “It really provides us a lot of confidence, allows us to control the chaos, so to speak.”

    Think about it: Ullmark got beat just once in this game, and it took Orlov giving the puck to Tkachuk (one of the most dangerous players in the league) on a brutal defensive-zone giveaway to make that happen. This has been the book on Ullmark throughout his regular season, really, as he’s rarely been beat outright or given up an ugly goal. The Bruins had no doubt that would be the case, but it was great to see it translate to the playoffs after Ullmark got just two starts (both losses) in Carolina last year before the B’s made the switch to Jeremy Swayman for the remainder of the series.

    “Those questions are always hard, because you can’t really put a finger on it,” Ullmark said of the starts in 2022 compared to the one Monday night. “It was nice to get the first game here at the Garden. It was a little bit more pleasant than starting away for your first one. So, yeah, I felt a little more comfortable playing in this one.”

    Ullmark also knows a strong start doesn’t mean much for this team.

    “Now we’ve just got to get 15 more,” said Ullmark.

  • No. 1 Star: Tyler Bertuzzi

    Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Florida Panthers goaltender Alex Lyon (34) makes a save on a shot from Boston Bruins left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (59) during the first period of game one of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Panthers goaltender Alex Lyon (34) makes a save on a shot from Bruins left wing Tyler Bertuzzi (59) during the first period of Game 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Deadline addition Tyler Bertuzzi had never skated in a Stanley Cup Playoff game prior to Monday’s Game 1 against the Panthers. But with Bertuzzi having won the Calder Cup MVP the last time he skated in postseason play (2017 with the Grand Rapids Griffins), the Bruins felt that his game would make a fine adjustment to the rigors of such a war.

    Naiiiiiiled it.

    Boston’s only multi-point scorer in Game 1, Bertuzzi finished his playoff debut with two helpers, including an absolutely gorgeous no-look, backhanded dish to David Pastrnak to open up the scoring in this game.

  • “I think you can see that he’s a playoff performer,” Montgomery said of Bertuzzi. “That play on the power play goal… [it’s] his hockey sense, he has real elite poise in and around the net. A lot of guys would have taken that and tried to stuff it in the net on the back hand, and he just pops it over for an empty net goal.

    “When we acquired him, we thought he was a guy that was made for the playoffs, and I thought his first shift, he laid out two huge hits and he just kept on making plays. The puck seems to follow him, and he makes plays and makes real good decisions with it.”

    Bertuzzi also has no issues getting in the mud of playoff hockey, clearly, and even decided to take Nick Cousins’ stick to the Boston bench as a souvenir when Cousins tried giving him a little jab in the neutral zone.

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