Despite being some of the better teams in the NHL, to say the least, the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights both entered their respective second round series with more than their fair share of doubters.
The Bruins matched up against a bitter rival in the Tampa Bay Lightning. Were facing off against the league’s best offensive squad not a daunting enough task, they were forced to do so while still trying to shake the stigma of falling from first to fourth, and under the media scrutiny left in the wake of Tuukka Rask’s departure.
The Golden Knights, on the other hand, are by no means the underdogs in their series. They’ve looked strong from the Return to Play’s outset, but after drawing a red-hot, hungry Vancouver Canucks team, while mired in a goalie controversy sparked by Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent, Vegas looked to put the focus back on their stellar on-ice performance.
Both teams succeeded.
Eastern Conference - R2, Game 1: Boston Bruins: 3 @ Tampa Bay Lightning: 2 Bruins lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Staring down their toughest test of the season, the Boston Bruins turned in their best game since landing in Toronto.
The Bruins got the offence they needed from their top guys, roaring out to a 3-0 on the back of goals from Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand, while stifling a late Tampa rally to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. Victor Hedman tallied both markers for the Bolts.
Jaroslav Halak was stellar, not really having a chance on either of the Lightning goals late in the third, and stopping 35 of 37 shots. After a rough start to his postseason, upon being hurled head-first into surprise duty, he’s really begun to look steadier between the pipes. The Bruins will need that to keep up if they want to make a run without Rask.
The top line for Boston were the true stars of the contest, as they so often are. Marchand and Pastrnak ended the night with a goal and an assist each, while Patrice Bergeron finished with two helpers of his own.
The Lightning, despite outshooting the Bruins 37-31, looked visibly frustrated, and one should expect a strong response in Game 2.
Western Conference - R2 Game 1: Vancouver Canucks: 0 @ Vegas Golden Knights: 5 Golden Knights lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Under the looming tent of a media circus, the Vegas Golden Knights emphatically showed everyone that the show is over.
The Golden Knights got goals from five different scorers - Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, and Max Pacioretty - while Robin Lehner earned a 26 save shutout, to down the upstart Vancouver Canucks by a final score of 5-0. Vegas was in control from the opening puck drop, serving a painful lesson to a Canucks team on the rise.
Like the Lightning, there was some visible frustration from Vancouver. A furious Quinn Hughes looked ready to burst into tears at one point, before being calmed by teammates, and Antoine Roussel was sucked into a third-period misconduct by the verbal barbs from Ryan Reaves.
Despite all this, and being outshot 39-26, the Canucks have the makings of a team that can make this a competitive series. It’s likely that letting in five was at least aprtially due to an off night from the rock-solid Jacob Markstrom, and you can only contain Vancouver’s talent for so long without them breaking through for at least one.
Something to monitor: Brock Boeser got tied up with Nick Cousins in the second, and appeared to bend his knee awkwardly upon falling to the ice. He was able to continue, but we’ll have to see what the next couple days bring.
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