The Bruins had to be flying high already after their four-goal eruption earned them a 4-3 win in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with Carolina, just the 11th time Boston has come back from a multiple-goal deficit in the third period to win a playoff game.
To top off Boston’s joyous evening, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour tossed a verbal bouquet in the Bruins’ direction.
“You know we just sat back and we let them take it to us, and you know that’s what championship teams do, they take it to you. So you know we got to learn from that for sure but this one is going to sting for a while,” said Brind’Amour, a Stanley Cup champion from his playing days with Carolina in 2006, after the Bruins grabbed a 3-1 series lead.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Brind’Amour isn’t in charge of handing out the Cup and it’s going to take 13 more wins to grab it from commissioner Gary Bettman. But what Brind’Amour, his players, and the rest of us witnessed in the third period Monday might’ve been a sign of things to come in the days and weeks ahead.
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After three round-robin games and three games against the Hurricanes, the Bruins had their positive moments but never looked like the juggernaut they were in the days when we could all eat in a restaurant together. But what we saw in the third period of Game 4 was the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy prior to the NHL’s coronavirus pause. If you wanted offense, there was Jake DeBrusk using his speed to score two goals, including a great hookup with his new linemate Ondrej Kase. Brad Marchand, in shooter mode with David Pastrnak out of the lineup, buried one of his five shots on net on the night. And even Connor Clifton got in on the barrage that turned 2-0 Hurricanes into 4-2 Boston before Teuvo Teravainen scored a late goal 6-on-5.
There was defense, which suffocated Carolina with no shots on net until Teravainen scored at the 18:23 mark. There was discipline, with the Bruins taking just one first-period minor penalty.
And, of course, the Bruins brought physicality. Charlie McAvoy crushed Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal inside the Carolina blue line just before the midway point of the third. Staal left the game and didn’t return. The rest of the Hurricanes played as though he took them with him.
“He’s got a lot of meat over there,” DeBrusk said of McAvoy.
Imagine “Rocky” but with the hanging meat beating the snot out of the title character. That was the Bruins running over the Hurricanes.
— Full Press NHL (@FullPressNHL) August 18, 2020
The only part of the Bruins’ game that didn’t seem championship caliber was the part that had been fine until Monday. Jaroslav Halak’s second game as Tuukka Rask’s playoff replacement was one to forget, with two perimeter goals beating him clean. He’ll have to get his act together because he can’t count on the Bruins to hold opponents to two shots a period.
So now comes the most difficult part, one that the Bruins mastered last season. Up 3-2 on Columbus in the 2019 second round, Boston closed out without a Game 7. Up 3-0 on Carolina in the next round, the Bruins completed the sweep. Game 7 of the Cup final aside, the Bruins have proven their mettle as closers.
It’d be unfair to expect them to duplicate their Game 4 third period every time out, but it’ll take something close to that to put away the desperate Hurricanes. Some level between how they played in their most recent third period and how they grinded their way through the first three games of this series should be enough to get them one step closer to making Brind’Amour’s early coronation of them a reality.