BOSTON – Well, the Bruins dominated pretty much every aspect of Wednesday’s Game 1 victory. Their offense exposed Toronto’s suspect defense for 40 shots and four goals. Their defense kept the Leafs’ big guns quiet, limiting Toronto to 20 shots for the game. And they stayed disciplined even as emotions started to boil over in the third period. Let’s get to some more thoughts on the Bruins’ win.
-As he has been more often than not against the Bruins, Phil Kessel was invisible in Game 1. He played just 13:51 and attempted only one shot. Most of the time he was on the ice, the Bruins countered with not only the shutdown pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, but with reigning Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron as well. If all that defense wasn’t enough for Kessel to deal with, he also had Brad Marchand, agitator extraordinaire, in his ear all night. Chara, Seidenberg and Bergeron deserve a ton of credit, but Kessel needs to find a way to be much better if Toronto’s going to have a chance in this series.
-Speaking of invisible, the Leafs’ second-leading scorer, Nazem Kadri, also had just one shot attempt. He went up against the Bruins’ third and fourth lines most of the night, and those two lines did a great job against him all night. If the Bruins can continue to shut down Kadri without taking any of their top defenders off Kessel, they’d obviously be thrilled. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Randy Carlyle move Kadri back to the second line between Nikolai Kulemin and Joffrey Lupul. He needs to do something to try to create a spark.
-The Bruins’ top two lines finally looked like, well, top two lines. The Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton line combined for two goals and four assists, led by Krejci’s goal and two assists. The Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line didn’t score, but they did combine for 14 shots on goal. They had several shifts when they spent the whole time in the offensive zone buzzing around the net. If they keep pressuring like that, they won’t be held off the scoresheet for long.
-It’s hard to question any of Claude Julien’s lineup choices after such a dominant win, but I still think Rich Peverley and Dougie Hamilton should be playing over Kaspars Daugavins and Adam McQuaid, respectively. Daugavins did have one great backcheck to break up a Tyler Bozak breakaway, but he ended up playing just 9:52. I just think that with Jaromir Jagr on that third line, you want to give him guys that can score. Although Peverley has had a disappointing season, he still brings more offense to the table than Daugavins. And it’s not like Peverley is a slouch on defense, either.
As for McQuaid, he played the fewest minutes of any Bruins defenseman. Although he looked solid and didn’t make any noticeable mistakes, I think Hamilton would bring more to that spot. The Bruins got some big offensive contributions from Wade Redden and Johnny Boychuk on Wednesday, but I don’t think it would hurt to have Hamilton and his offensive skill set in there as well. If he’s only going to play 13 or 14 minutes, you can live with the fact that he might not be quite as good in his own end as McQuaid.
-Of course, there might be room in the lineup for both McQuaid and Hamilton in Saturday’s Game 2. That’s because Andrew Ference could be facing a suspension for elbowing Mikhail Grabovski in the head in the first period. There was no penalty called on the play, but replay shows clear contact to the head. Ference has a hearing with the league at 2 p.m. on Thursday, and I’d expect him to get at least one game.
-The other incident that has everyone talking is James van Riemsdyk’s butt-end to Brad Marchand’s groin in the third period. It was a cheap play, but he didn’t use a whole lot of force. I’d expect a warning and maybe even a fine, but I’d be surprised if he got suspended. It would be a huge loss for the Leafs if he was, considering that van Riemsdyk was the only Toronto forward who actually did anything in Game 1.
-Johnny Boychuk’s goal was one of the hardest shots I’ve ever seen. I’m sure everyone watching thought the same thing, but I just felt the need to mention it anyway.