There’ll be no need for a controversial tweet from NHL “superagent” Allan Walsh.
After Jaroslav Halak, yet another goalie client of Walsh’s, stopped 35 shots in a 3-2 Bruins wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series in the Toronto bubble, it was apparent not even a sword could break through the Bruins’ team defense, let alone wound Halak.
Walsh famously caused the distraction heard around the hockey world this weekend when his tweet of Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury getting gauged by a sword with the name DeBoer etched on it made a shocking public statement about how the Golden Knights goalie might be feeling about losing his starting job to Robin Lehner.
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If his clients haven’t requested he refrain from tweeting, Walsh would have nothing but positives to share with his social media audience. Neither coach Bruce Cassidy’s coaching nor the Bruins’ play in front of Halak did anything to deter the 35-year-old goalie from summoning his 2010 self and leading the Bruins to a 1-0 series lead.
Despite the high shot total and the close score, Halak didn’t do all the work. There was yeoman’s play from the Bruins’ defense corps, led by Zdeno Chara. There’s no telling what the two back-to-backs in this series might do to the 43-year-old, but after a few days off before Game 1 a well-rested Chara logged 3:36 of shorthanded ice time for Boston’s perfect (3-for-3) penalty kill, and amazingly was on the ice for 23 defensive-zone faceoffs. All told the high-powered Lightning had just five of their 11 high-danger scoring chances during Chara’s 21:57 of ice time.
Are you kidding me? pic.twitter.com/scto6PnENS
— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) August 24, 2020
It wasn’t just the captain who helped keep the Lightning at bay. Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk each played well in the defensive zone and made sure to keep the Lightning on the defensive, as reflected by their Corsi For percentages of around 70 each. Brandon Carlo actually logged a few more shorthanded seconds than Chara, helping to extend Tampa Bay’s postseason power play drought to 0-for-13.
The forwards did their part as well, backchecking hard to make sure the fourth and fifth attackers didn’t get great looks. They helped clog the lanes with nine of Boston’s 20 blocked shots coming from forwards.
But, of course, Halak was there at most turns when the Lightning were able to get their chances. Both Tampa Bay goals, one 6-on-5, deflected off Charlie McAvoy in front. Halak made 18 saves on 18 shots in the second period, when Tampa Bay could’ve taken command of the game. He stopped all 10 high-danger shots on net he faced 5-on-5 in the game.
“He shut the door (in the second),” said Bruins center Charlie Coyle, who scored one of Boston’s three goals.
So far worries that the Bruins wouldn’t survive without Tuukka Rask have been unfounded. Halak now has a .936 save percentage in three games since Rask left the bubble. The Bruins were both strong in front of him, but also confident enough to take some risks to put offensive pressure on the Lightning. That’s the only way they’re going to get past the Lightning, who you’d expect will be better all-around and will play that way for more of the game when the series resumes Tuesday.