By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Grit and balls; that is what it was going to take for the Bruins to take game five against the Senators in Ottawa, and that’s exactly what this bruised and battered B’s team displayed Friday night in Ottawa. Spotting the Sens a lead once again – this time 2-0, courtesy of two Bruins mishaps that led to a pair breakaways on Tuukka Rask – interim head coach Bruce Cassidy’s bunch stormed back with a vengeance in the second period.
In what has been a hell of a series – minus some long stretches of neutral zone trapping by Ottawa – it is only appropriate that the Bruins have a chance to even the series in game six in the Garden on Sunday afternoon, in front of a national audience on NBC.
And as if spotting the 1-2-1 Guy Boucher led specialists a two-goal lead in their own building wasn’t bad enough, the B’s lost the recently returned David Krejci, on a knee on knee hit by Ottawa defenseman Chris Wideman; a hit that can only be described as dirty. Krejci’s loss only emphasized the importance of Sean Kuraly, who suited up in place of a nearly invisible Ryan Spooner; who was mercifully given a seat in the press box for game five.
Kuraly, of course, would emerge as the game’s hero, scoring the game-tying goal in the second, and the game-winning goal in the second overtime. Kuraly almost had a game winning assist in the first extra frame, when Noel Acciari banged home a rebound of a shot on Ottawa’s goaltender Craig Anderson. However- like seemingly everything else in professional sports these days – the play was reviewed, and it was determined that there was goalie interference, which erased the marker from the scoreboard.
Call me crazy, but this Bruins team is beginning to remind me of the 2007/08 squad that, under then first-year head coach Claude Julien, put a heck of a scare on the then top-seeded Montreal Canadiens. That B’s squad was very much a team in transition – much as this crew currently is – and that experience in the seven-game series that they would ultimately lose in game seven at the Bell Centre, forged the foundation of a team that would go on and win the Stanley Cup just three seasons later.
This current rendition of the Black and Gold is built a bit differently – there has been no huge free-agent signing the likes of Zdeno Chara or Marc Savard – but B’s fans have to be elated at the potential that some of the kids have shown, thus far.
David Pastrnak – the most polished of the fresh faces – has had a breakout season, scoring 34 goals and notching 70 points as a 20-year-old. He was the one who got the Bruins off the snide in the second, ending nearly five and a half periods of scoreless play.
The fresh from Boston University, Charlie McAvoy has been a godsend; playing top-pairing minutes on the B’s blue-line, while rarely looking like a rookie whose introduction to the NHL has come in the playoffs. It was McAvoy’s shot from the point that ricocheted off Erik Karlsson’s skate, that resulted in the rebound Kuraly deposited in the Ottawa goal for the game-winner in the second extra frame.
Emerging defenseman Brandon Carlo has yet to see the ice in this series due to a concussion, and the pipeline of potential continues both on and off the current roster; with the likes of Frank Vatrano, Acciari, Kuraly, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik, Anders Bjork, Austin Czarnik, Zach Senyshyn, Jesse Gabrielle and a handful of others too numerous to mention, slated to get a crack at making the big club – if they haven’t already – in the near future.
There is no amount of scouting that can tell you how a player will perform under the spotlight of the NHL’s second season. That is why these playoffs are so important in terms of growth, for the younger part of the Bruins roster. Playing in games with their season on the line, is a trial by fire that you just can’t duplicate. Win or lose, the players who are experiencing the playoffs for the first time will be better for it, no matter what.
For the first time in three years, there is a buzz in Boston over playoff hockey. The heavyweight fight this series has become has delivered beyond expectations. Due to the massive amount of injuries they have sustained, there is no guessing what the Bruins line up will look like on Sunday when they suit up for game six against the Sens.
Nevertheless, based on everything we have seen since Cassidy took over the team in February, you can rest assured that whoever does takes the ice will fight. And, you never know; we just might be witnessing the beginning of something special starting on Causeway Street, that could continue well past this spring.