The Boston Bruins will head back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013 and for the third time in the past eight years after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Bruins once again rode impregnable goaltending, an unstoppable power play and the best trio in the NHL in Game 4 on Thursday night in Raleigh, ending the storm surge for good in a 4-0 win.
And so the Bruins, who struggled through the first few gears in the first half of the regular season before slamming it into sixth in the second half, will contend for their seventh Stanley Cup in their 95-year history.
Brad Marchand knew the stakes long before the puck was dropped in Thursday’s Game 4.
Despite being up 3-0 in the series, allowing the Hurricanes to pick up some windspeed could have made things a little bit more interesting. Few teams ever recover from such a deficit, but Marchand and the Bruins weren’t about to tempt fate.
Both teams battled to a nil-nil draw after 20 minutes — this, despite putting up a combined 24 shots. The Hurricanes even killed off a Bruins power play, if you can believe it.
That sight for sore eyes didn’t age well, however.
The Hurricanes took two penalties that could have been avoided — a too many men call and a goaltender interference infraction.
What happened in the resulting power plays for Boston sealed Carolina’s fate.
In the first instance in the second, Marchand provided an authoritative pass to David Pastrnak, who needed only to get his stick on the ice as the Bruins went up 1-0.
Their second session of the period had a similar yield. This time, Pastrnak was the set-up man and Patrice Bergeron was the beneficiary. Boston led 2-0.
The top trio came as advertised in this series, combining for 14 points:
- Pastrnak: 1G, 3A
- Bergeron: 3G, 2A
- Marchand: 2G, 3A
Those three have combined for 22 of the Bruins 57 goals in some fashion in the playoffs now, better than one-third of their total offense.
A big reason for that, of course, has been Boston’s power-play prowess.
Boston went a stellar 7-for-15 in the series with the man-advantage. Carolina? Well, they were just 1-for-14 over the four games and were a paltry 5-for-52 in the playoffs. A power play operating at under 10 percent in the playoffs will only get you so far.
And then there’s Tuukka Rask.
A shutout in Game 4 put the icing on the cake for Boston’s No. 1.
It was Tuukka Time all of the time. Rask faced 114 shots in the series and stop 109 of them. Five goals allowed in four games, a .956 save percentage.
The obituary for the Hurricanes will hold a story of not being able to find their stride in the series.
They were thrown a lifeline prior to the game as Zdeno Chara was ruled out with an undisclosed injury, but it amounted to nothing tangible on the ice.
Still, these ‘Bunch of Jerks’ deserve a whole heck of a lot of credit for what they’ve accomplished.
Sure, they couldn’t beat a playoff-hardened team like the Bruins, but for a young squad whose window is only opening, to knock out the defending Stanley Cup champs and to sweep the New York Islanders is a massive step in the right direction.
Carolina is a good team that is only going to get better from this experience. They’ve found a coach that resonates in the room. They inspired their fanbase and, above all, have some solid talent on the ice.