To be fair, through much of the first two periods of Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs it did look like perhaps the Leafs would advance. However, that was an outsider’s look. The players in the Bruins locker room knew they could come back from being down one goal as the puck dropped on the third period. There is a determination within those who don the Spoked-B that almost thrives on having their backs against the wall while simultaneously taking years off the lives of their fans.
Perhaps if the first two games of the series hadn’t been such absolute blowouts in favor of the Bruins, people might have realized how tight a series it really was. While Frederik Andersen struggled in games 1 and 2, Tuukka Rask had his moment in Game 5 where he just couldn’t seem to stop the puck—although the players in front of him weren’t helping him much.
The Bruins top line was stymied after the first two games and it showed on the score sheet. But it is at those times that a player truly proves his worth. He moves past that and gets back to doing what worked. Such was the case for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who all got goals in the seventh game. Bergeron’s at the end of the first was important because it was the first time in the game where Boston led. It was short-lived as Toronto tied it 2:07 into the second and then Kasperi Kapanen won a puck battle against Marchand, froze Rask and put the Leafs up 4-3 with a shorthander at 6:05 of that middle twenty. And that’s where the score stood as the buzzer signaled the end of that period.
“That was asked this morning: Are they getting frustrated?” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of his top line after the game. “I think there’s always a certain level of that when you’re used to getting production, and they got it back tonight. [Bergeron] got a big goal there to get us going again, and obviously, [Pastrnak’s] was just a great forecheck, smart hockey play behind their D when you have a lead. A goal that they can score and sometimes a skilled group will get away from, they won’t want to chip and chase it and win a puck on the forecheck, they’ll want to make plays. I think that’s where they got away from their game a little bit. They wanted to make plays; they got back to their nuts and bolts and how they can play.”
Just 1:10 into the third during a four-on-four, Torey Krug tied things up and TD Garden erupted in a deafening cheer that even Bergeron said rivals other times in his memory. However, it was Jake DeBrusk with his second of the game, despite losing an edge and being hounded from behind as he shot the puck, who got the Bruins the lead again and they showed that determination by not letting the Leafs back into the game.
Throughout the series, whether it was giving hits, taking hits, or getting goals, DeBrusk showed that though just a rookie, he wasn’t fazed by the playoff atmosphere. It was clear that he knew he had a job to do. You could see it on his face on every shift. And that made the smile on his face all the better after each of his five goals in that first-round series. While some will still suggest otherwise, his effort shows what a valuable draft pick he was back in 2015.
“No, and he scored going to the net, dirty areas,” Cassidy said of DeBrusk’s not looking like a rookie. “He had some chances tonight. He didn’t score on going there. So, that’s always the first thing: get into the inside, play inside, be willing to get hit, fight for your space, and that’s playoff hockey. It’s a little more difficult to get there. So, they weren’t freebies, all of his goals. He’s around the net. He got a shot through the other night in Toronto, but the other ones here, he’s been real greasy, as advertised. And he had his legs the whole series.”
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles that the team overcame in that third period was not allowing Toronto to regain the momentum. Too frequently in the previous three games, just after Boston scored a goal, the Maple Leafs would respond in kind. The most recent example of that being in Game 6 in Toronto, when it took all of 35 seconds for Toronto to score and tilt the ice in their favor.
For today the Bruins can rest and decompress, but then it will be off to Tampa Bay on Friday in preparation for their 3:00pm game on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when the fight to command another best of seven series moves on—one game at a time.