Steven Kampfer

Bruins scoring first; secondary scoring shining

It makes for quite the concoction.

Scoring first always puts the conceding team on the back foot. The Carolina Hurricanes know all about that — they’re 4-0 in this postseason when they pot the first goal of the game.

But the Boston Bruins have been able to pip their opponents to that first marker during a four-game winning streak that’s seen them see off the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games and now take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final into Game 2 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

And in three of those wins, that first goal has come from someone outside the ‘Big Three’ on forward.

David Pastrnak got that all-important strike in Game 4 against the Blue Jackets, a goal that proved pivot in the Bruins turning around a 2-1 deficit in that series. David Krejci then went on to score first in each of the next two games and Steven Kampfer gave Boston an early lead in Game 1 against the Hurricanes last Thursday.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Secondary scoring played a big part in Game 6 for the Bruins, where Krejci was on point in the second, followed by goals from Marcus Johansson and David Backes in a 3-0 shutout win to send Columbus out.

In Game 1, Johansson was once again on point, scoring the tying goal in the third. After Patrice Bergeron‘s goal to take a 3-2 lead, Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner each found twine to put that game out of reach.

Side note: Johannson’s emergence with two goals in this past two games has been a welcomed sight after he was picked up at the trade deadline. 

The harmony between top-line production and secondary scoring has been well in sync during this streak. Carolina has to devote a lot to shutting down Bergeron, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. It doesn’t feel like feast or famine right now for the Bruins and their top trio. They’re dangerous, and the secondary guys are picking up the scraps when offered.

The last time the Bruins won five straight came in 2013 — coincidentally, the last time they reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Boston has led for 155:54 and trailed for 13:08 during their streak

“Sometimes we get in a little bit of a passive mode, but we play a layered system where we try to make sure we’re in front of them towards the net, so they have to go through multiple bodies to get there and try to limit turnovers as well,” Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk told NHL.com. “Just try to play a simple game. It’s not necessarily the most fun game to watch, but it’s winning hockey this time of year.”

The Bruins weather a second-period storm where they were outshot 15-10 in Game 1 and when they grabbed the lead in the third, they made sure Carolina’s possession game couldn’t do just that.

The Hurricanes don’t give up many goals — some of the least in the postseason and the regular season. So the Bruins can take confidence in the fact they tucked five past them in Game 1.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• PHT roundtable
• Hurricanes/Bruins series preview
• PHT Conference Finals predictions


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Playoff Buzzer: Bruins’ power play turns Game 1 vs. Hurricanes

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• Bruins take a 1-0 series lead with a 5-2 win in Game 1.
• Johansson, Bergeron score 28 seconds apart on the power play in third period.
• Fourth straight win for Boston. Hurricanes’ six-game winning streak comes to an end.

Bruins 5, Hurricanes 2 (Boston lead series 1-0)

A 2-1 Carolina lead in the third period was quickly erased by a pair of power play goals 28 seconds apart by the Bruins en route to a 5-2 Game 1 victory. Penalties by Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton put Boston on the power play twice and both times the Bruins capitalized as Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron scored to quickly change the complexion of the game. The Bruins’ power play is now at a 31% success rate this postseason after going 2-for-5 Thursday night.

Game 2 from TD Garden is Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

THREE STARS

1. Marcus Johansson: The February acquisition helped the Bruins open the scoring by assisting on Steven Kampfer‘s goal 2:55 into the first period. His picked up his second point of Game 1 by scoring the game-tying goal 2:26 into the third period.

2. Patrice Bergeron: Bergeron’s fifth power play goal of the postseason stood as the game-winner and came 28 seconds after Johansson’s tying marker early in the third period. The veteran forward now has 12 career postseason goals with the man advantage.

3. Tuukka RaskThe netminder made 29 saves on the night, including 14 in the second period to stave off the Hurricanes in Game 1.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT

• It was the Johansson and Bergeron show early in the third period:

Chris Wagner scored the Bruins’ fifth and final goal of Game 1 with a pretty move against Petr Mrazek:

• J.R. meets Hamilton the pig:

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

FACTOIDS OF THE NIGHT

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 1: St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions
Conference Finals roundtable

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Penalties crush Hurricanes as Bruins storm back in Game 1

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The Carolina Hurricanes had their moments in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, but penalties ended up being their Achilles’ heel in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins got on the board quickly thanks to Steven Kampfer, who was only in the game in the first place because Charlie McAvoy was serving a suspension. That lead was erased quickly though when Andrei Svechnikov‘s shot was deflected by Sebastian Aho just three seconds into a Hurricanes power play. Just like that, the score was 1-1 a mere 3:42 minutes into the contest.

Things calmed down after that until Greg McKegg charged hard into the net midway through the second period. Replays showed that he scored before colliding with Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Bruins ultimately didn’t challenge the call, giving the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.

Carolina’s edge wouldn’t hold though and it was largely due to a lack of discipline. Micheal Ferland was charged with interface late in the third and while the Hurricanes killed off that penalty, they weren’t so fortunate in the third. First Jordan Staal boarded Chris Wagner just 49 seconds into the frame. There might have been coincidental minors there as rookie defenseman Connor Clifton took exception to what Staal did, but Brad Marchand pulled Clifton back before the situation escalated.

That certainly isn’t a role Marchand is known for, but that wasn’t his only contribution in the period. He helped set up Marcus Johansson‘s game-tying goal on the ensuing power-play. When Dougie Hamilton took a roughing penalty at 2:41 of the third to put the Hurricanes in the box yet again, Marchand got another power-play assist, this time feeding the puck to Patrice Bergeron.

That said, the player who deserves the most credit on the Bergeron goal is arguably Jake DeBrusk, who collected the puck on his knees and got up while making the pass to Marchand to get that sequence going.

Hamilton took yet another penalty at 5:29 of the third, just to make life a little harder for the Hurricanes, but at least Carolina killed off that one. From there, the Hurricanes could not battle back. Brandon Carlo got an empty netter at 17:47 and Chris Wagner got one by Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek at 17:58.

Carolina can look back at this game as a missed opportunity to take one early in Boston. The silver lining for the Hurricanes is that this series has only begun.

Hurricanes-Bruins Game 2 from TD Garden will be Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Bruins’ playoff plan calls for Rask, rookies in Game 1

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If the Round 1 series lives up to the hype, Maple Leafs – Bruins could very well come down to supporting cast members moving the needle while big stars duke it out.

With that in mind, the Bruins made some interesting lineup decisions heading into Game 1 (airing on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN – live stream here).

In a sense, Bruce Cassidy’s calls come down to opting for one forward, defenseman, and starting goalie over three similar options. While Cassidy might quibble with that, let’s boil it down to those three decisions, especially since Cassidy might zig and zag depending upon how the series goes.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Choice 1: Tuukka Rask over Jaroslav Halak.

This one, obviously, is the most explicit. It’s also the most important, and one that could provide the most debate — at least, if the Bruins are willing to turn to Halak if Rask stumbles, which is plausible considering the sheer firepower of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Not to mention how great Frederik Andersen can be when everything’s clicking.)

In 46 games this season, Rask went 27-13-5 with a .912 save percentage. He’s enjoyed some considerable highs during his Bruins career, yet the returns have been more modest as the 32-year-old’s shown his age a bit. Since 2015-16, his save percentage has been at .917 or below. That’s not terrible by any stretch, yet there have been spans that prompted people to question Rask’s status as the No. 1 goalie.

Strong pushes from backups in recent years account for those debates as much as anything Rask’s done, and that’s been especially true with Halak in 2018-19. The often-underrated goalie sported a fantastic .922 save percentage while compiling a 22-11-4 record, and his 2010 run with the Canadiens was among the most memorable recent runs for a playoff goalie.

The good news is that, really, the Bruins have two viable choices. The bad news is that, if Rask falters, people will really second-guess this decision, especially if there are prolonged struggles.

[Toronto’s perspective: now is time for Babcock, Leafs.]

Choice 2: Karson Kuhlman instead of David Backes.

Through the first 11 games of his NHL career, Kuhlman scored three goals and two assists for five points. If the 23-year-old can keep up, Kuhlman could really help Boston push for depth beyond their deadly, possibly league-best top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Kuhlman fitting with the effective duo of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk would allow the Bruins to try to hang with Toronto’s considerable third-line depth by keeping Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen together.

It’s a small sample size, but Kuhlman’s been a strong possession player so far for Boston, so this might just work.

Really, if Backes draws back into the lineup, maybe it would be for a forward other than Kuhlman, anyway?

Choice 3: Connor Clifton plays, Steven Kampfer scratched.

Like Kuhlman, Clifton is only 23, and hasn’t been in that many games, as Clifton appeared in 19 during the 2018-19 season. (Less relevant yet fun: both of their names are also alliterative.)

On one hand, Clifton failed to score a goal and only generated one assist during those 19 games. On the other hand, he handled his 17:42 TOI pretty well, with possession stats that grade out nicely. Now, it certainly couldn’t have hurt his numbers to be paired most often with Torey Krug, but it’s better to look solid than to flounder in such a situation.

So far, the Bruins’ plan appears to be partnering Clifton with Matt Grzelcyk on the third pairing, which would likely ease some of the concerns regarding throwing a rookie into a pressure-packed situation against a dangerous opponent.

Kampfer could be a threat to bump Clifton out of the lineup, and the same can be said for John Moore if he can return from an injury. It’s possible that, inexperience and all, Clifton might be the best option of the three. Early on, Cassidy certainly seems to prefer Clifton to Kampfer.

Maple Leafs – Bruins Game 1 from TD Garden takes place on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. (livestream)

For more on these two teams, check out the series preview. Get a rundown of Thursday’s full slate of Game 1 action with The Wraparound.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Question for Bruins (again): How long can Chara keep going?

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BOSTON (AP) — How much longer can Zdeno Chara keep this up?

The Boston Bruins defenseman – and leader in ice time – will turn 42 this season, and sooner or later the window will close on his opportunity to skate around the ice again with the Stanley Cup. For his teammates, that means focusing on this season as their best and possibly last chance to win with him.

”The older you get, it’s just about winning,” said David Krejci, one of five holdovers from the franchise’s last title, in 2011. ”We know that we’re not going to be playing in the league for 10 more years, but we have maybe three, four, five years left, who knows, but this is it. We worked really, really hard this summer to get the job done this year.”

Chara was already an eight-year veteran and two-time All-Star when he signed with Boston a dozen years ago, and the Bruins built a contender around him that went to the Stanley Cup finals twice in three years. (They lost to Chicago in 2013.)

Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand and David Krejci are the only other players remaining from the 2011 champs. Bergeron is 33, Rask and Krejci will turn 32 during the playoffs, and Marchand will turn 31. (Steven Kampfer was traded away in 2012 and rejoined the Bruins this summer; he just turned 30.)

Charlie McAvoy, the 20-year-old defenseman paired with Chara for most of his career, has seen players come and go and values the stability brought by the core.

”As long as we have those veteran guys the culture will always be the same, I really believe that,” he said. ”I really think it could be another special year. You bring back all these guys, the veterans, it could be an awesome year and I’m really excited to get it going.”

Here are some other things to look for from the Bruins this season:

SOPHOMORES

Helping to take some of the pressure off the aging core is a group with about one year of experience, led by McAvoy. Also among the sophomores are Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk, and Sean Kuraly.

”None of us are forecasting a setback, I call tell you that,” McAvoy said. ”Something about the experience of having a full season, playing a few playoff series now, seeing that element. I can use all those things to allow me to come in and play great hockey from the start. That’s my goal.”

Those five combined to score 151 points (48 goals, 103 assists) last season.

MORE NEW BLOOD

Joining the youth movement are players in their first full season like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork. Brandon Carlo has two years behind him but is still just 21.

”You need those young guys,” Krejci said. ”And our young guys are fast, they’re good, they’re smart, they make plays. They deserved to make the team last year and I’m looking forward to what they’ll bring again this year, one year under their belts.”

IN NET

Rask returns for his 12th season but he has a new backup.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year contract to come to Boston from the Islanders, where he started 49 games last season and had a 3.19 goals-against average. He replaces Anton Khudobin, who had been the backup for two years and started last season 7-0-2 filling in while Rask had a concussion.

The fast start led fans to call for him to replace Rask, when he won just three of his first 13 games. But the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner did not lose a game in regulation from Nov. 26 until Feb. 10, finishing with a 34-14-15 record and a GAA of 2.36.

LONG TRIPS

The Bruins played two exhibition games in China against the Calgary Flames, with Cassidy and half the squad heading over to Shenzhen and Beijing for a week while the rest of the team stayed back in Boston. The split squad wasn’t ideal, but the Bruins started the 2010-11 regular season with two games in Prague and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Cassidy said that would be a nice precedent to follow.

”Well if it’s a repeat of ’11, yes,” he said. ”I’d love that to happen, trust me.”

AP freelancer Matt Kalman contributed to this report.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule