The Boston left-winger picked the right player to catch him because Marchand wouldn’t have had a chance for his heroics 39 seconds into overtime, and the Bruins wouldn’t have had the opportunity to win the game 3-2 and tie their first-round series with Washington 1-1, if it wasn’t for Hall carrying them toward the finish line.
It was Hall, the zone-entry machine, who began the game-tying sequence by leaving John Carlson waiting for a bus at the Washington blue line. After throwing the puck to the front for Craig Smith to play target practice with goalie Craig Anderson’s pad, it was Hall who came out from behind the goal and whacked the puck past Anderson to tie the game 2-2 with 2:49 remaining in regulation.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 18, 2021
It was the type of moment Hall was acquired to provide a Bruins team that too often the past several years relied on Marchand and his linemates to both tie and win games in the playoffs.
“It’s a greasy goal for sure,” Hall said.
More than greasy, it was monumental because it proved that the Bruins might not be a one-line team these playoffs. Sure Hall had eight goals in 16 games after trading in his Sabres sweater for a spoked B, but most of those games weren’t played anywhere near playoff intensity.
For Hall to be a successful deadline acquisition, he’s going to have to produce when the stakes are highest. He shunned the notion that he was coming to Boston to be a savior immediately after the trade deadline, but he’s a No. 1 overall pick, a $7 million man and he wasn’t going to get to be just another Drew Stafford or even Marcus Johansson once he entered the fray.
Hall looked pedestrian in Boston’s Game 1 loss. He drew a couple penalties, but landed just two shots on net, got blown up a couple of times by the Capitals’ physical play and showed little of that “second effort” coach Bruce Cassidy likes to talk about.
For much of Game 2, that continued for Hall. But somewhere around the second period, he flipped a switch. His goal was one of seven shots on net and was a product of what one might’ve called a third or fourth effort.
“He didn’t go for a flyby,” Cassidy explained.
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David Pastrnak is still AWOL, and Marchand, despite the game-winner, has had trouble staying out of the penalty box and creating space to operate in the offensive zone. Through two games on home ice, Washington was able to bottle up the Bruins’ top line. That might not continue in Boston, but we’ve seen it happen, despite the notion that that line is perfect.
Hall, along with Smith doing his best power forward impression, and David Krejci doing his usual remarkable things in the playoffs, could be on the verge of creating a nickname for themselves. They saved the Bruins with time winding down in Game 2, and they might just be scratching the surface of what they can do.
At least Hall expects more of himself.
“It wasn’t a perfect game for me,” Hall said. “I still think I have another level to get to personally. But as a team we came together and won a game, and that’s all you can ask for.”
No player or line on the Bruins is perfect. Hall, though, can make them balanced if he has the type of postseason Boston foresaw for him at the trade deadline. That could lead to a perfect ending to this postseason.