Thursday, May 06, 2010
CINCO DE TUUKKA
Everybody'd been saying (including myself), that despite being up 2-0, the Bruins could very easily be down 2-0. But was this really true? The Flyers may have had victory in their sights, but they've never been close to having it within their grasps. In other words, while the Flyers barely lost Games 1 and 2, they never came that close to winning them, either. In the nearly 200 minutes of hockey played in this series, the Flyers have led for 99 seconds.
I didn't see the game live last night, which might be why I'm alive today. I had to work, so I DVRed it, got updates via text, so when I watched it, I knew the Bruins had won 4-1. And thank God I knew that, because otherwise I may have died of a heart attack.
The Flyers got 35 shots on net. 21 more shots were blocked by the Bruins, including 5 by Boychuk alone.
Tuukka Rask was unreal. His balance of poise combined with spry athleticism was perfectly epitomized in a first period save he made on van Riemsdyk (you know you watch a lot of hockey when you can correctly spell that name on your first try). He made an excellent read on the puck, positioned himself perfectly, but was also able to burst across the crease and stop the shot. He's got Wes Welker moves in an even more confined space.
But it is a team game, and while Rask has carried a great deal of the burden, he's not alone. The Bruins function as a team, deploying multiple layers on offense and defense. A great demonstration of this came early in the 2nd. Hunwick pinched in an effort to extend an offensive possession, but it wound up giving the puck to Philly, and keying a 3-on-2 breakaway. But Boychuk defended one pass, and Satan speedily lodged himself in between Flyers to defend against the 2nd pass. So Dan Carcillo was left with one option: the wide angle shot. Rask read the play, and not only stopped the puck, he steered the rebound in a ricochet toward the other side of the ice, instead of letting it bounce into the stampede of Flyers bearing down on him.
He straddles and adheres to those two posts like a stripper.
Rask was also the best penalty-killer. The Bruins killed all 4 of Philly's power plays. An excellent PK unit is a huge asset in the playoffs. It allows you to be aggressive, like when Ference cross-checked Carcillo in the 1st. It allows you to make mistakes without paying dearly for them, like the two delay of game penalties in the 3rd.
The Bruins have killed 30 of their opponents' 32 power plays. That's 93.4%.
Rask wasn't alone on the PK. The Four Horsemen (Chara, Wideman, Boychuk, Hunwick) had stellar nights. Chara was voted 1st star by the Philadelphia press box. Wideman seemed to be all over the place. Boychuk had those 5 blocks. And Hunwick was no slouch. Neither was Andrew Ference,
It was Ference who was partially to blame for Philly's 1st goal. Adam McQuaid lost the puck at the offensive blue-line, Arron Asham and Claude Giroux broke 2-on-1 against Ference, who failed to do anything to disturb Giroux's pass to Asham. 1-0 Philly.
But that lead, their first of the series, lasted for 99 seconds.
Most goals are scored by luck. A good bounce, a juicy rebound, a fortunate placement of a stick or even a skate. But while the end is lucky, they all start off with good play, which creates a scene in which a lucky bounce can result in a goal.
The Bruins' first goal was conceived when Wideman and Hunwick were able to win some battles behind their own net, then key a breakout. They brought the puck up, then Lucic and Satan were able to forecheck and force a faceoff in the offensive zone. After a faceoff loss, the Bruins got control, and Ryder shot at Boucher, who gloved it at his feet. Another faceoff, and another loss. But Savard was able to find the loose puck, skated toward the corner, creating an ideal passing lane with Hunwick on the other side of the ice and at the blue-line. Hunwick couldn't shoot straight on net as a Flyer would have blocked it, so he shot intentionally wide. Wheeler was able to get his stick on it, and angle the puck into the net.
The Bruins soon scored again, and would lead for 54 minutes and 15 seconds. That's 3,255 seconds.
Richards dropped the boom on David Krejci near center ice. But the puck drifted forward. Lucic won a race to it, crossed the offensive blue-line, then turned inward, allowing a streaking Satan to storm into the zone, already past two Flyers. Satan devilishly dragged the puck and slipped a backhanded shot by Boucher.
The B's 3rd goal was also a lucky finish with an effort-based birth. Hunwick drew a tripping penalty because of his hustle and skating ability exercised while attempting to touch-up on a would-be-icing call. Chara blasted a shot, then the rebound pinballed off Pronger, then Wheeler, then dropped at the heel of Recchi's stick. Easy goal. A garbage goal, perhaps, but it still smelled so very sweet.
Unfortunately, Richards' clean yet brutal hit on Krejci knocked him out of the game, and eventually into the hospital. Krejci skated off under his own power, but nobody outside the Bruins' inner-sanctum has any idea what the injury might be, let alone how long Krejci might be out. Krejci has 4 goals and 4 assists in these playoffs, has registered a point every game this series, and has a 4 game point streak.
The Bruins also lost defenseman Adam McQuaid. The loss of Krejci hurts more, but there's very little left in the well at defenseman for the Bruins. Boychuk and Wideman were both played over 28 minutes last night. Chara over 25. Hunwick over 22.
So the big picture, great news is that the Bruins are up 3-0 over the Flyers. Only twice in NHL history ('42 Maple Leafs, '75 Islanders) and thrice in all sports history ('04 Red Sox) has a team comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. So while the Flyers aren't dead, their coffins are being assembled.
Game 4, Friday night.