For fans it’s the most exhilarating time of the season. For players it’s one shift, one period, one game closer to the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. The first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs is often the most exciting and exhausting weeks in hockey, on Wednesday night the Boston Bruins faced off for Game 1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Playoff games garner high expectations, but for Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, the expectations aren’t for what Toronto brings to the ice.
“I think it’s more about what I expect from our team. I don’t care what they do, what I care [about] is what we do.”
Heading into a series, it’s often easy to predict who has the edge. The Bruins came into the game with all but four players having playoff experience under their belt, combining for 1,273 postseason games and a staggering 22 Championship rings. The Bruins claimed the Stanley Cup in 2011 and they want to bring it back to Boston. But the Leafs haven’t seen the playoffs since 2004 and it is the thrill of finally making the playoffs that might make Toronto an unexpected driven rival.
Despite the recent struggles for the team, Bruins Tuukka Rask has proven that he’s ready for the quest. Looking to prove his continued worth for the Leafs, young goaltender James Reimer got the nod to open the series.
The downfall for Boston as of late has been the penalty kill. That proved to be the case when Patrice Bergeron went off for tripping, James Van Riemsdyk put his Leafs up 1-0 at 1:54, (Assists Bozak, Franson). Boston took full advantage of their power play opportunity shortly thereafter with attempts, although none made it through.
Physicality was the name of the game. Players on both teams opted not to shy away from using their bodies, it is playoff hockey after all.
Wade Redden netted his worth, literally when he made it a 1-1 game, (assists: Campbell, Paille, 16:20). The goal was accompanied but a surge of energy for Boston that lead to a power play opportunity off a Toronto slashing call (Dion Phaneuf, 17:55). Bruins had the added benefit of James Reimer losing his stick for a good 20 seconds, but the Leafs goalie held his own. It was after a blocked shot on the opposing end of the ice that Boston’s Nathan Horton skated in for the kill, making it 2-1, ( 19:48, assists Redden, Krejci).
The second period kept the Bruins spirits high early on when Toronto native, Tyler Seguin had appeared to make it 3-1. After going under review, it was stated that the puck hit e crossbar, effectively keeping Toronto in the game. A continued effort by Milan Lucic helped David Krejci get to the net at 10:25, putting Boston up 3-1. It became an ever frustrating period for Toronto as Johnny Boychuk led his team to a 4-1 (15:44, assists Lucic, Krejci) lead.
Toronto began the third period with desperation setting in, upping their game in a physical way, goading Boston to react. The method failed as the Bruins went on a power play early in the period, ultimately unable to capitalize. Fans cheered with excitement when they thought Patrice Bergeron made it 5-1 but the goal was ruled no goal.
Boston took Game 1 and leads the series over Toronto 1-0. The two teams are back in action for Game 2 in Boston on Saturday night.