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“I liked the way they handled that frenzy”–Peter Chiarelli, Bruins GM

April 28, 2011

Nathan Horton slaps home the game-winner, Milan Lucic congratulates, the crowd roars.

The Bruins have won the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs in a stunning game seven, overtime victory against the Candiens. They did not score once on the power-play once over seven games (more on this later), but they won three games in overtime. Based on that fact alone, this is not the same hockey club as last season. This is a calmer, more poised team. The jitters in games one and two were severe, in Thomas in particular. But once they found their groove, once they dominated in the Bell Centre, it seemed everything clicked. Their smaller, faster and less deep opponent was fierce, unrelenting, and could have easily won the game. But a game seven win in overtime doesn’t get any sweeter, or any more nerve-wracking, as a fan.

The Canadiens demonstrated their resilience by coming back after the Bruins scored twice in the first and again when the Bruins ratcheted to 3-2 with Chris Kelly jamming the puck in. And then with the phantom penalty by Bergeron on Wisniewski, the Habs capitalized with PK Subban’s slapper. Wisniewski did what he had to in order to embellish the high-stick, and Bergeron acknowledged as much. I can only imagine a guy like Patrice Bergeron’s frustration with the call and the result. The level of stress, pressure, for all parties.

During overtime it appeared as if the Bruins may have had the upper-hand. And Horton, who’d have known what a clutch player he’d be, showed once again why he’s a top-line winger. A great victory. A great gift. It’s difficult to even grasp how the Philadelphia series will develop, as it starts Saturday, 3pm. It’s nearly too much to project at the moment. The Bruins made huge progress last night, and the alternative, thinking of that, is too much to bear.

But some thoughts:

What’s up in the face-off dot? But, no, really? Montreal players were being thrown out left and right, but so were Bruins. I don’t know if the linesmen are extra strict during the playoffs or what’s happening. Luckily, when the second or third lines are on the ice, Recchi and Kelly are good back-ups to have on hand. But it may be a problem going forward.

Power-play. It’s clear now that the extraordinary sense of urgency and pressure to score, finally, is harming the power-play. There’s no real way to avoid this. The longer the team goes without scoring, the worse it will be. Until they get one home. The puck movement is looking better and better. Once they are able to set up and get in the cycle, the Bruins show sparks or life and potential. It’s when the other team steals the puck or knocks it into neutral ice, just once, early in the power-play, generally, that the Bruins are left to struggle. They need a full and sustained two minutes to work themselves up. They also had a way of taking penalties during the 5-on-4 in the series, reducing it to a 4-on-4 that didn’t help matters much at all (the Bruins scored just once 4-on-4 in the regular season). I think it’s a matter of practice and I realize it’s priority number one. They’ll get there. It will be glorious when they do.

Flyers’ goalie merry-go-round. Huge advantage for the Bruins. Many know how to beat Brian Boucher (whom I like and give huge props to). Michael Leighton, when he replaced Boucher in the series last year after Miro Satan crushed Boucher’s legs, just played his lights out and his team woke up. But having Boucher, or Bobrovsky, in net, can only be positive for the Bruins. And if Mike Richards doesn’t destroy Krejci’s wrist again, that would be a big plus. Let’s pray it doesn’t happen.

Tyler Seguin. Only with injury, suspension or a three game deficit (maybe) will he see action. Case closed.

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