The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maples Leafs, two original six rivals, met for the first game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup. Last time they faced off against each other in the playoffs, it was a stunning seven-game series, that saw the Bruins come back to win and advance to the next round.
While it is only the first game, the way it ended gives a feeling that this one may not go the distance, with the Bruins jumping out to a 1-0 series lead after winning the game by the score of 5-1.
With very few stoppages early on, the two teams traded chances early on, with Boston controlling the majority of the action. Just a bit after the five-minute mark of the opening frame, James Van Riemsdyk was called for hooking, giving the Bruins the first power play of the game.
On an odd-man rush, Torey Krug set up Brad Marchand with a beautiful area pass that started with the defenseman passing the puck through the legs of Maple Leafs’ defender Roman Polak. Stuck in no man’s land, Polak had no chance in chasing down Marchand who had a clear path in on Frederik Andersen, opening the scoring and giving the Bruins the lead.
The teams continued to exchange chances, even while Toronto had the man advantage. After a shot from the point was put aside but not out of danger by Tuukka Rask, Patrick Marleau had a couple of chances at the puck but couldn’t finish.
That was followed by two consecutive chances created by Marchand and Patrice Bergeron while shorthanded. Once again showing why they are one of the best tandems in the league, they nearly gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
For as much as the Bruins controlled the first half of the period, the tide started to turn later, as the Maple Leafs nearly tied it after Jake Gardiner stole the puck at the blue line and was able to set up and unleash a slap shot that rung off the post.
Toronto was able to tie it up after Connor Brown chipped the puck past Zdeno Chara - who pinched in the offensive zone - and Zach Hyman was able to win a foot race to get possession, skate past everyone and put a backhander past Rask.
The Maple Leafs were able to carry their late momentum from the first period into the second frame, and after Chara was called for holding, got their second power play. Despite moving the puck strongly, and getting some chances the Bruins were able to hold off Toronto to keep the game tied.
With most of the action taking place in their own end, Boston was finally able to answer and get some chances of their own. Led by their top line, the Bruins applied some pressure the other way after Toronto fired off the first five shots of the period.
After Boston bent but didn’t break on another penalty kill, it was their turn to get the man advantage, and they capitalized, with David Backes scoring in front of the net to make it 2-1.
A great keep-in by Matt Grzelcyk kept the play alive, and after David Krejci got the puck down low, he fired the puck towards the net, seeing that Backes was there, and on the second attempt was able to score.
Another great showing of the chemistry that has emerged between Bergeron and Marchand, with David Pastrnak the one reaping the benefits. With Marchand's work along the boards, Pastrnak found an open lane to receive a pass, and after the first attempt was stopped, a second shot found it’s way past Andersen to make it 3-1.
While the game wasn’t completely out of hand, Nazem Kadri did his best to prevent the Maple Leafs from mounting any comeback attempt.
Kadri took two penalties, both boarding and against Tommy Wingels, the second of which earned him a game misconduct, and after Drew Doughty was suspended earlier in the day, the sequence of events that unfolded in the third should draw another one.
Wingels had his back turned on both instances, and Kadri had plenty of time to adjust but drove his opponent into the boards both times.
Two-goal leads can be among the most dangerous in the game, but when you put your team short-handed so much, it is all for naught. Toronto surrendered another power play goal, and spent almost half of the period shorthanded, forcing players like Auston Matthews to wait on the bench.
Their best player, Matthews played just 4:07 in the third, and barely over 15 minutes overall due to the team being short-handed so much.
Sean Kuraly and Krejci found the back of the net for the Bruins in the third, to stretch the lead to 5-1, with the game later ending by the same score.
With the Bruins taking Game 1, eyes will be on Saturday night when the two teams play again. If by some chance Kadri plays, it will be interesting to see how the Bruins react, and if they can avoid taking too many runs at him so that they can prevent being in the same hole as the Leafs.
Game 2 will be Saturday night, in Boston with a start time of 8 pm ET. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.
With such a wide margin of victory in Game 1, is this the Bruins’ series to lose? How many games should Kadri be suspended for? Let us know in the comment section below.