Bruins Shuffle Their Way to Second Round

Bruins Shuffle Their Way to Second Round

When the 2009-10 NHL season began, there was considerable buzz around the Boston Bruins. They were coming off a season where they were the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season and were an overtime away from advancing to the conference final. There was reason to believe that the B’s would keep up that pace and stay at the upper echelon of the NHL.

Plenty of Reasons to Celebrate for the B's

However, around February, the Bruins were just hoping to make the playoffs. The team was in a battle with four other teams to find a seat at the table in pursuit of Lord Stanley, and was entering that fracas without its best scorer and any semblance of an offense.

However, this team did not wilt and instead pushed forward. After one of the most embarrassing games in team history in a 2-0 listless loss to Pittsburgh, the Bruins went 7-3-1 to finish the season, not only making the playoffs but securing the sixth seed in the process.

For their efforts, the B’s would match up against long-time division foe Buffalo. Rather than squeak in and take on Washington or New Jersey, the Bruin worked their way to a pairing with a team they had a 4-2 advantage over in the regular season. With the way the Black and Gold were playing and the confidence they had in regards to playing Buffalo, there was no reason the B’s should have felt like underdogs.

And they didn’t. The Bruins did almost everything a good playoff teams needs to do in order to win, sending the Sabres to the showers in six games. The Bruins winning in six games? I have heard that somewhere before … Oh yea, I said it before the series began.

“As for a prediction, I see no reason why the Bruins cannot win this series. It will not be easy and if Olympics Ryan Miller shows up all bets are off. But, the Bruins have been playing what amounts to playoff hockey for the last month or so and have done well. They are primed and ready to show they are still a commendable hockey squad. Many pundits are saying this series goes seven games, but I say the Bruins win in 6. The B’s will split out in Buffalo before winning both in the Garden to take a commanding 3-1 lead, finally clinching on home ice.”

For once, I was right. And I am glad it was with regards to this series and not the Olympics. As predicted here, the B’s salvaged a split in Buffalo, came back home and swept both games in the Garden and captured the series in Game 6 on home ice. It was not easy. Until last night, the B’s did not score first all series. In Game 2, they had to come back from a two-goal deficit. They did the same thing in Game 4 to force overtime. A bumbling effort in Game 5 gave Buffalo life and made last night an important game for the B’s.

And the B’s took the Buffalo by the horns last night, opening up a two-goal lead and hanging on for the clinching win, 4-3. With the victory, the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second consecutive year. Their opponent is yet to be determined, but it will be a Pennsylvania team. If the Capitals hang on to beat the Canadiens in Game 7 tomorrow night, the Bruins will head to Pittsburgh to take on the defending champions. If The Habs pull the upset, the Bruins will have home ice against the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. We will get into matchups once the opponent is set, but each have juicy storylines. If the B’s take on the Penguins, there is the fact that Marc Savard will return against the Penguins and Matt Cooke. If it is the Flyers, an old rivalry will be renewed in the playoffs and two rough and feisty teams will be looking to keep on saving their seasons which started with so much promise.

Anyways, back to last night and the series which just ended. Let’s hand out some awards…

Most Valuable Player: A no-brainer, this award goes to Tuukka Rask. He outplayed Ryan Miller, doing what was needed to give the Bruins a chance to advance. His 2.18 GAA is fourth in the playoffs as is his .927 save percentage.

Tuukka Time was the Right Time

His performance in game four is something that minstrels will write songs about. His diving lunge to stone Mike Grier reminds me of Reggie Lemelin’s diving stop against the New Jersey Devils in 1988. As Kevin Paul DuPont said in today’s Globe, Rask ended the season of two Vezina Trophy winners – taking the starting job from Tim Thomas in Beantown and sending Miller to the golf course in the playoffs.

Least Valuable Player: A tie between Marco Sturm of the Bruins and Tim Connolly of the Sabres. Between the two of them there was one assist (Connolly in game three). At least Connolly was dealing with injuries and had not played the final two weeks of the regular season. Sturm, on the other hand, was 0-0-0 over the six games and has only scored one goal since March 11 (two total points). He was pretty much dead weight with David Krejci and Miroslav Satan who had a monster series.

Play of the Series: Hard to argue against any of the saves made in overtime of Game 4 by both goalies as they were all game-changers and possible series-changers. There is no question that if Tuukka Rask doesn’t stand on his head for a period and a half in overtime the Bruins most likely do not win this series. Also, you can’t overlook Johnny Boychuk’s bombastic hit on Matt Ellis in Game 3. In a 1-1 game and series, that was a big turning point. However, the play of the series was unquestionably Miro Satan’s overtime goal in Game 4. Capitalizing on a power play (thanks to a too many men on the ice call in Boston’s favor this time), Satan sped in from the bench and collected a Michael Ryder pass. After patiently stickhandling around Miller, Satan slipped the puck in and sent the Garden into a frenzy. Buffalo never recovered.

Awesome Development of the Series: “Miro the Hero” and his Slovakian Dance of Joy. After scoring Boston’s fourth goal on the clincher, Miro Satan broke out in dance while waiting for teammates to crowd around him. What proved to be the game-winner came on a nice give and go with Dennis Wideman late in the third period. After corralling the puck and slipping it past Miller, Satan started hoping around and shaking his arms in some fantastical combination of Frank the Tank’s machine guns in Old School and something you would see on Dancing With the Stars. Already it has generated many You Tube tributes including these two beauties.

Player on Buffalo I Hope is on Boston Next Year of the Series: Is there anyone more destined to finish his career in Boston than Mike Grier? He grew up in Boston, went to high school in Boston and won a NCAA Championship in Boston. He is up there in age, turning 35 this year, but he still plays a very important role on a hockey team. He is as defensively sound as it gets, kills penalties, gets physical and has a knack for a big goal. He loves it in Buffalo and the organization value shim greatly. But, if there is any way the B’s can sign him for a year or two and let him ride on a third line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, they should make it happen.

The Bruins will know Wednesday who they have in the second round. There are no easy matchups this time of year, but you have to think Philadelphia is the desired opponent. The Flyers are without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne up front and are holding things together in goal with Brian Boucher. The Fly Guys destroyed New Jersey in the first round, and are well-rested. Still, the B’s were 2-1-1 against the Flyers in the regular season and have much more depth up front. Plus, a date with the Flyers means home ice advantage for the B’s, something that means a lot when the crowd is as amped as it has been so far in the playoffs.

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