And suddenly, it’s Stanley Cup or bust for the Bruins
Buzzsaw, thy name is Bruins.
The Maple Leafs never had a chance, not against the hottest team in hockey.
And suddenly, it’s Stanley Cup or bust.
After witnessing what the Bruins did Saturday night, after feeling the thrum, hum, passion, and promise pulsing inside this sold-out arena, after watching a first period so utterly lopsided the visiting goalie barely made it past the halfway point, there is no other conclusion. These Bruins have it all — depth, talent, experience, youth — and they showed it all against the overmatched Maple Leafs, a 7-3 win in Game 2 of their opening-round playoff series sending them up to Toronto with a 2-0 series lead and confidence beyond measure.
Forget the notion that a series doesn’t start until the home team loses a game. This series is over, buried by the falling lumber left in the buzzsaw’s dust. No matter how much the hometown players tried to insist otherwise, promising they have to get better after allowing the Maple Leafs (gasp) a glimmer of momentum across the second and third periods Saturday, these two games have left absolutely no doubt about which is the better team.
What were the Leafs to do? They came out so ready for Game 2, fulfilling every promise made in the aftermath of Game 1’s 5-1 blowout loss that this would be different, flying around the ice, forcing us all to heed those cautious postgame warnings that the opening-night dominance would be near impossible to duplicate. But the flurry quickly melted under the heat of a relentless Bruins machine, an unstoppable force undeterred by mistake or misfortune.
Watch Rick Nash sail a breakaway point-blank shot wide left not two minutes into the game? No problem. Just give it a few more minutes — about another two — and watch 21-year-old David Pastrnak turn a beautiful spin move in front of the net into a pass to himself, and watch him put it past Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen for a 1-0 lead. Watch him blow a kiss to the rafters and cup his ear to the fans who’d been only bursting to break out their seat-dances and towel-waves, their sounds of celebration starting a party that wouldn’t end.
Because watch Toronto unravel in the aftermath, a power play goal by Jake DeBrusk, who was somehow left alone in front of the net (ouch, three-game Nazem Kadri suspension) making it 2-0 at 9:46. Just 2½ minutes later it was Kevan Miller throwing a puck in front of the net only to see it carom off the stick of Andersen, off the back of a Toronto defender, and into the goal. Then watch Andersen’s lonely skate of shame down the tunnel toward his locker room, pulled in favor of Curtis McElhinney, pushed to the rear after surrendering three goals on five shots.
Anyone in Toronto have the number for that accountant from Chicago?
Because the ugliness was far from over. Listen to the crowd erupt once again, the late-period introduction of Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly, complete with video replays of the brawl Kelly had ignited only a few nights earlier in Fenway Park, sending the fans into near delirium, their hollers for this new favorite son eclipsed only by their well-rehearsed verses of “Yankees Suck.”
But baseball season is only beginning; hockey is just hitting its stride. Take the ride to the five-minute mark of the period, listen as the PA announcer is still reciting details of another penalty against Toronto and watch Nash make it all come full circle, whipping a backhand shot into the goal for a 4-0 lead.
What couldn’t the Bruins do? When David Krejci joined the goal-scoring party with a wrist flick he made appear ridiculously easy, when he quickly erased any hint of angst caused by Toronto’s early second-period goal and pushed the advantage to 5-1, it marked the second straight game the Bruins would boast five different goal scorers. Otherwise known as concrete evidence of the quality of their depth and legitimacy of their talent.
“It’s probably not going to happen every night and we know that, it’s hard to score in this league,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We do have different guys we believe can score for us, even when a lot of it is from the top line. We’ve had secondary scoring on our second and third lines. It’s in the room. Obviously to score five and seven [goals] in the playoffs, it’s not going to happen every night. We can’t go into Toronto thinking it’s going to happen. But guys believe they can pitch in, from 1 to 12.”
Who says it can’t happen? This is team chemistry at its best. There’s youth: Pastrnak and DeBrusk are 21 years old, defenseman Charlie McAvoy is 20, and newly elevated rookie Ryan Donato is 22. There’s experience: defenseman Zdeno Chara is 41 and recent Olympic signee Brian Gionta is 39. And there’s the in betweens: trade-deadline acquisition Nash is 33, 2011 Cup winner Patrice Bergeron is 32, Brad Marchand is 29, and goalie Tuuka Rask is 31.
It’s all there — and not just because of the star wattage found in those individual names, but in what they have shown themselves to be collectively, the way they play together, the way they fight for each other, the way they handle the distribution of minutes and value the wisdom of their coach. Those are the hallmarks of championship teams.
By the time Pastrnak put the final exclamation point on this one, completing a hat trick with two third-period goals and tying a franchise playoff record with six points (he also had three assists), he was the maestro leading his orchestra in the clearest chant of all.
“We want the Cup, we want the Cup!”
After 12 goals in two games, after 20 total points from the top line, after two indoor hockey parties that show no sign of ending, who would deny them?