Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Mar 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Garnet Hathaway (21) is congratulated by center Jakub Lauko (94) and left wing Tomas Nosek (92) after scoring a goal during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

To the average late-season standings watcher, a Saturday afternoon tilt between the Bruins and Lightning at TD Garden didn’t mean much of anything.

The Bruins’ clinching of the Atlantic Division, which became official by way of their 2-1 victory, was a mere inevitability and had been for some time now. The Lightning, meanwhile, have been locked into a first-round showdown with the Maple Leafs for close to three months now thanks to this nonsensical playoff format, and their recent slide by all means locked them into the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic bracket.

So for these teams — one the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference kings and the other on a historic run and perhaps the greatest threat to Tampa’s crown — this was a game that was always and only going to be about statements and sent messages.

And it didn’t take long for the Bruins’ recently acquired message senders to answer the bell.

  • Beginning with opening faceoff jawing between Patrick Maroon and Garnet Hathaway, things exploded just nine seconds in when Jakub Lauko and Ross Colton found themselves tangled up.

    But when Maroon tried to insert himself into that situation between Colton and the 22-year-old Lauko, Hathaway came calling. In a spirited bout in front of the Tampa Bay bench, Hathaway told Maroon that there would no BS in this one and that this wasn’t last year, or 2019-20 for that matter.

    A year ago, that task is left to the always-smiling Curtis Lazar or a less than 100 percent Nick Foligno. The latter’s resume and past indicates that he would’ve been more than willing, of course.

    But with Hathaway, the odds felt even.

    “We had an inkling that Tampa Bay was going to want to play a very energetic, emotional game, but we didn’t know it was going to happen that quick,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after the win. “[Hathaway]’s a guy who builds your team game in all three zones, and he understands momentum, he understands when the other team’s trying to impose their will, and he does a great job of imposing our will.

    I think it’s why we were so excited when we acquired him.”

  • This wasn’t Hathaway’s first chat-and-dance with Maroon.

    That happened earlier this year when Hathaway was with the Capitals.

    And this wasn’t the first time that the Maine native stepped up for his team and his line. Not since joining the Bruins a month ago, and not even in Saturday’s game alone, for that matter.

    Hathaway’s greatest impact came in the second period, actually, when he camped out in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s net and banged home the goal that held as the game-winning tally in a 2-1 final.

    The goal was a product of relentlessly forechecking from Hathaway and his linemates Tomas Nosek and Jakub Lauko, which forced the Lightning to turn and play below their goal line and opened things up for a path to the net. That forechecking has been a constant for that fourth line this season, but especially since the Bruins added Hathaway to their fourth line, as a 200-foot focus on pace and pressure has become the line’s M.O. when rolling.

    It’s essentially delivering body shot after body shot, and tenderizing the opponent. To the point where the ice opens up for chances (and goals) that simply deflate the opposition.

    “He’s bringing a lot of physicality, and I think it’s important,” Dmitry Orlov, who came to the Bruins with Hathaway in last month’s trade, said of his longtime teammate. “Sometimes when you get hit two to three times as a defenseman when you get the puck, [it’s hard] because you know you’re going to get smashed again.

    “He’s obviously a strong guy, and it’s always sticking in your mind as a defenseman. And you sometimes just try to maybe go stick-on-puck and you lose it in a moment when you actually should try to make a play and take a hit, you know, and it’s not easy to play against these guys.”

  • No matter who skates to the left of Nosek and Hathaway — the Bruins have a notable in-house competition between A.J. Greer and Jakub Lauko underway while Foligno recovers from his knee injury — this is a line that the Bruins are going to lean on as an identity line come the playoffs.

    That’s nothing new for a fourth line, and its new centerpiece reminds Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron of some of his old teammates who skated in similar roles.

    “Obviously, [Shawn Thornton] was one of those guys that came in and set the identity,” Bergeron said when asked about any ex-teammate comps to Hathaway. “And it was hard to play [against] that whole line [with] Gregory Campbell. You know, there’s a few guys throughout the years, but I think he brings that element of a guy that’s hard to play against who plays the right way and who is physical.”

    The biggest difference, as the Bruins have seen and learned throughout his brief time here, is that Hathaway also has some offensive chops and intangibles to be a three-zone threat.

    “He has a knack of finding the areas around the net and he has a scoring touch,” Bergeron noted. “It’s been great to see and really a nice addition for us.

    “I’ve always liked his game. You don’t like it playing against him, but he’s very efficient [and] very good for his team. He came in and fit in nicely on that line, but also even off the ice, he’s a great guy and seems to be a character guy. He’s leading in his in his own way and leading by example, and I can’t say enough about him and the impact he’s had so far.”

  • The same be said for fellow Capital-turned-Bruin Dmitry Orlov.

    Already one of the most successful trade deadline additions in recent memory in pure offensive production alone, the 31-year-old Orlov was a must-watch from start to finish in this contest. Paired with Connor Clifton on Boston’s third pairing, Orlov finished with a team-high six hits and logged 23:42 (second to only Hampus Lindholm’s team-leading 24:11 of time on ice).

    The Bruins also out-attempted the Lightning by a 15-11 mark during Orlov’s 14 minutes and change of five-on-five, giving him a 57.69 corsi-for pecentage, which ranked sixth-best among all Bruins.

  • Mar 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) checks Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) checks Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) during the second period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Orlov’s best work in this contest came in the second period, too, and with the Bruins down a man and then down another man. With Brandon Carlo in the box for a tripping penalty, and Charlie McAvoy sent to the box just 50 seconds later for a high-sticking infraction, the Bruins leaned on Orlov to be a rock for the entirety of Carlo’s penalty. The Bruins then gave Orlov a 30-second breather on the bench, and turned right back to him to kill off the rest of the McAvoy penalty. It was a segment that saw Orlov deployed for almost three and a half minutes of what was a 3:53 segment spent almost entirely in Boston’s end.

    The end result: Absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G for the Lightning on their man advantage, without even a notable attempt on the side of the ice Orlov was responsible for covering.

    Orlov also became just the third Bruins defenseman since the start of the 2010-11 season to log at least four minutes on the power play and at least four minutes on the penalty kill in the same game, joining a list that includes Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, and Charlie McAvoy.

    “Well, it’s just another dominant player back there,” Montgomery said of Orlov’s presence. “And I mean, you talk about someone who imposes his will, too, he took a couple of big runs at players and that’s noticeable on both benches.

    “And it’s just nice when you see your team respond. The other team starts out hard and we come back harder, and it was great. It was a great game.”

    Led by two players the Bruins acquired for games and situations exactly like the one that ended with the Bruins skating off with another two points banked away, and a message sent.

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