In mid March, when Joe Corvo couldn’t find his way out of a suit and tie, Claude Julien was quick to note that the defenseman would be called upon again. The Bruins coach was correct.
Corvo was in the Game 1 lineup Thursday night at TD Garden. With Adam McQuaid (eye/head) sidelined indefinitely, Corvo got the nod for the stay-at-home defenseman’s position on the third pairing alongside Greg Zanon. He finished with 19 minutes 10 seconds of work in the Bruins’ 1-0 overtime win.
During the regular season, Corvo didn’t play at the consistent level the Bruins hoped he would. In 75 games, he had 4 goals and 21 assists. Corvo’s 25 points were second among Bruins defensemen after Zdeno Chara (12-40-52). But he didn’t deliver the offensive pop his bosses were seeking on the power play. On the man advantage, Corvo had 1 goal and 8 assists.
Corvo’s most troublesome area was his own zone. He especially struggled with his down-low coverage, both in the corners and in front of the net.
All of that, however, has been forgotten.
“I feel very confident,’’ Julien said before the game. “Everyone that we have here is very capable of playing. We’ve got one guy that’s going to be out for sure tonight in McQuaid. But the other seven, we can put any one of them in there. They’ve done a great job. If anything, I feel extremely confident.’’
Corvo proved his coach correct. In overtime, Corvo made a critical play to initiate the game-winning play. After Tim Thomas kicked out Marcus Johansson’s shot, Corvo collected the puck and rapped it off the right-side boards. Two passes later - Brian Rolston to Benoit Pouliot, Pouliot to Chris Kelly - the Bruins were enjoying a 1-0 OT win.
“Very happy,’’ Corvo said of seeing Kelly’s goal. “It’s one of those games that kind of scares you because they’re hanging in there, hanging in there. Their goalie’s playing well. You just don’t want to let them steal the first one. It was a relief.’’
Corvo is also more familiar with the Capitals than his teammates. On March 3, 2010, Washington acquired Corvo from Carolina for Brian Pothier, Oskar Osala, and a 2011 second-round pick. Corvo appeared in seven playoff games for the Capitals that year.
“They’ve always been a fast team and a skilled team,’’ Corvo said. “That hasn’t changed.’’
Depending on McQuaid’s situation, Corvo could fill the role played by Tomas Kaberle last year. Kaberle, paired mostly with McQuaid, saw plenty of time on the power play. But the coaches were careful to keep Kaberle away from dangerous matchups. Kaberle didn’t play on the penalty kill.
Corvo could be in a similar position. During practices leading up to Game 1, Corvo was on the point on the No. 1 power-play unit alongside Chara.
During the three regular-season games he played against the Bruins, Alex Ovechkin went head-to-head with Chara and Johnny Boychuk. In Game 1, Ovechkin battled Dennis Seidenberg for the first time this year. In the second period, Seidenberg and Ovechkin came together in one of the most jarring smashes of 2011-12.
Seidenberg isn’t as punishing a hitter as Boychuk, but he was just as thorough as Chara during last year’s postseason run. Seidenberg’s toughness, positioning, and big-game capabilities make him a natural to play against Washington’s most potent sharpshooter. Chara and Seidenberg also got assistance from Patrice Bergeron, who was used in a matchup role.
In 17:34 of ice time, Ovechkin had just one shot. It came on the power play, when he teed up one of his trademark one-timers from the left circle. Thomas followed the play well and kicked out Ovechkin’s shot with his right pad.
“It’s two big, strong defensemen he has to go through, and probably one of the best two-way centermen in the league in Bergy,’’ said Julien. “He was good, but our guys were better tonight. We did a good job of minimizing that. He’s a big part of their offense.’’
Power play misfires
The Bruins went 0 for 4 on the power play. In the second period, during four-on-four play (David Krejci and John Carlson were sent off for roughing), the Bruins got a four-on-three man-advantage after Braden Holtby was whistled for roughing. Even with more space, the Bruins couldn’t find a weakness in Washington’s penalty kill.
“Our guys weren’t seeing much tonight,’’ said Julien. “There were some openings we could have used. We were dusting the puck a little too much versus shooting it. When we made some of those passes, some of those guys should have ripped a shot right away. Instead, we stopped and started looking for another play.’’
The Bruins went 0 for 21 on the power play in last year’s first round against Montreal.
Boychuk good to go
Boychuk shook off his left knee sprain and dressed for Game 1. He has been using a knee brace along with a heavy tape job. add Boychuk had one shot, two hits, and three blocked shots in 17:58 of ice time . . . At the end of the game, Krejci was hit by a pane of glass knocked loose by celebrating fans. Krejci fell to the ice, but got up and skated off on his own . . . Mike Mottau and Jordan Caron were Boston’s healthy scratches . . . Bergeron won 18 of 25 faceoffs (72 percent).