Tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven playoff series versus the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins were in a fortunate position Saturday night, and they knew that. Prior to the Game five tussle back at the Garden, the first line of David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic had disappeared since the start of the second round series, a troubling sign for the Bruins and their fans.
The lack of consistency from Krejci and Lucic has sparked injury concerns, while others ponder whether Iginla’s age is catching up to him. Posts or not, regardless of their scoring chances, the line is making uncharacteristic mistakes, and if the play continues many doubt the Bruins can achieve their ultimate goal.
On Saturday, in the biggest must-win of the series, the Bruins depth once again served as a catalyst, saving their bacon en route to a crucial victory. Despite an Iginla power play tally, some of the first line’s struggles ensued, but that Boston depth, what was often considered the difference maker in the East, once again came through in a big way.
“They put a lot of pressure and throw a lot of pucks at the net,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of his third line postgame. “They do their job extremely well that way, but Carl Soderberg’s line has arguably been our best line so far in this series. They make things happen, so got to give them a lot of credit. It certainly takes a lot of pressure off the other lines.”
It started early with the new fan favorite Carl Soderberg.
Soderberg, who assisted on Matt Fraser’s game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4, and has carried arguably Boston’s best line of late, scored 13:20 into the first period to get the Bruins the start they wanted.
“Well, we knew he was a great player. I think he led the scoring in the league in Sweden there before he came to us, so we knew he had that skill,” Julien said. “A couple of things you noticed is that he needed to be in better shape, which he did this year — got himself in great shape — and the experience he got throughout the year. Eventually he just kind of found his game, and he’s fitting in extremely well. He’s a big, strong centerman and seems to make great play sand seems to be all over the puck all the time.”
Then, the power play finally regained their regular-season form. First Dougie Hamilton found Reilly Smith’s skate with a slap-pass from the point, and the puck deflected through Carey Price and into the net. Just moments later, Brian Gionta lost Iginla in front of the net, and a nifty Torey Krug backhanded pass set up the future Hall-of-Famer for the critical third goal of the game for the Bruins.
“It was nice,” a smiling Jarome Iginla recalled postgame. “It was a great goal that Smitty [Reilly Smith] scored. It wasn’t just the goal but it was again how they moved it around and were able to create and then be able to score at the end of the nice plays, that’s a big boost for a power play. At the start of a period was nice and then to be able to get another power play and follow that up, it felt good all the way around.”
The Bruins, looking much more like their dominant regular-season selves in Saturday night’s affair, went into cruise control from that point forward, sealing Game five with a 4-2 victory and giving themselves a chance to clinch an Eastern Conference Final birth on Monday night in Montreal.
With the play of the first line dwindling, although they had their moments on Saturday, the much-discussed depth of the Bruins has really shined in this series. If they can continue to exploit the Hab’s bottom pairings with their above-average bottom-six forwards, they should be able to take this series in six or seven.
Winning a Cup without a your true top trio producing would be a mighty tall task, but as we learned in 2011, anything is possible with this Boston club.
“I think everybody who knows and who has followed our team noticed that,” Julien said of his group’s identity. “I think it was more — we seemed more in control, we seemed to be putting pucks in the right areas, we seemed to be in sync, and I thought we were focused for the whole 60 minutes. It was a great effort on our part, and as I said earlier, there’s a lot tougher times coming and we’ve got to be ready for the next one.”
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