By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
In an interview on the Dale and Keefe show on WEEI on Thursday, former Bruins star center Marc Savard proved prescient when he spoke about the opening tilt of the Bruins and Maple Leafs first-round playoff matchup that was to take place at TD Garden that evening.
“I think Game 1 of this series will be one of the biggest Game 1s out of all the [opening round] series,” said the silky-smooth former pivot as he spoke with the only sports radio show in Boston that is worth listening to talk hockey in this town.
“If they happen to beat the Bruins tonight – they have some demons in their heads, don’t kid yourself all of Toronto does and I’ve listened to those the last two months (Savard makes his home in the Toronto suburb of Peterborough, and is greatly underused as an NHL analyst in his current role with Sportsnet in Canada.) – that would be the worst thing for the Bruins to lose Game 1. So I think this game is the biggest game of the series tonight.”
Following the uninspired effort after taking a 1-0 lead on the Toronto club who has seemingly been tormented in every big game that they have played in the barn on Causeway Street for the better part of this decade, BSD caught up with the former Bruin – who for some unknown reason hasn’t found a regular gig on the B’s broadcasts on NESN over some of the talking suits who have long ago lost their fastball – Savard spoke about why he was a voice in the wilderness when it came to the importance of the opening salvo of what now looks to be a long series.
When asked whether or not he played a lottery ticket last night seeing that his concerns about the Bruins loss to the Leafs on Thursday that were proven to be spot on, Savard chuckled and said, “No, I wish I did. That was probably the biggest game for [Toronto] having gone through the demons of seasons past, I think that is going to make them a confident group.
“But again, this is going to be a long series. This might just be what the Bruins needed, a little wakeup call to let them know that this is going to be tough. They need to play some harder hockey.”
Brad Marchand: “I think maybe we thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was out there."
— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) April 12, 2019
Regarding B’s forward Brad Marchand telling NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin that the Black and Gold might have thought going into the game that “it was going to be a little bit easier than it was out there,” Savard clearly agreed.
“I said that, and that’s the one thing that I was scared about is that they were going to take this team lightly. I’ve watched the Leafs all season and they are a team that can score goals. They proved that last night when they got opportunities…they have so many skilled forwards that the worst thing the Bruins could do was take them lightly.
“They didn’t do that out of the gate. I thought the Bruins were flying and the looked like the better team. And then they score that goal [Patrice Bergeron’s power-play goal that made it 1-0 in the first period] and that seemed to help Toronto,” added the former B’s playmaker.
“It just looked like the Leafs said, “Ok, let’s just play hockey,” while the Bruins just sat back. The other thing is I don’t think you want to play with the speed of the Leafs, you want to play your game. I can see Backes coming back in the lineup and trying a bit of that power down low and adding strength to their game, instead of worrying about that speed matchup.”
When questioned about whether the Bruins – from head coach Bruce Cassidy, on down – were looking past the first-round series towards the potential second-round matchup against Tampa Bay, Savard wasn’t buying it.
“This is a great veteran group that has been in a lot of tough situations and always come out on top. Especially this season, they have had so many injuries – faced a lot of adversity – so I don’t expect anything different. I think you will see a calm, comfortable team that will come out strong in Game 2.
“I think you might see a lot rougher game – meaning more hits, especially from the Bruins – I think it is just a ‘let’s get a win and head to Toronto’ mindset they will have.”
And when it comes to the belief that his former team will prevail in this series, Savard didn’t waiver. “Game 2, like Game 1 for Toronto, is now the biggest game for the Bruins. The [Game 1] win was the biggest for the Leafs in a while here. Their focus on the whole series was clearly on winning the first game in Boston.
“I knew that this was going to be a long series, but I will stick with the Bruins in 6 or 7 games. The only worry was that they would take the Leafs lightly. They just have to get back to playing a 60-minute game and they will be fine.”
As it always is in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, no game is more important than the next. Whether the Bruins recognize this could be the difference between and lengthy run in hockey’s second season this spring, or an early summer vacation full of regrets.
The second act of this likely seven piece of the best championship tournament in professional sports takes place tomorrow at the Garden. Something tells me it might be a little different than the sleepwalking performance Cassidy’s crew put together on Thursday night.
That’s why they play the games, right?