It felt like it was crumbling a bit for the Boston Bruins.
Here’s this dominant regular-season team anchored by a veteran core that always seems to build and build and build over the course of the weeks and months of a season. If any team was to be disadvantaged by the fact that the NHL was restarting its season in the middle of summer following a four-and-a-half month pause triggered by a pandemic, it seemed the Bruins might be the one to suffer. And this was even before a few key contributors failed to report for full duties at training camp.
This seemed to be true through the low-stakes seeding round. Boston lost all three games by an aggregate score of 9-4, tumbling from the top seed to the four-hole to match up with the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes. Clashing with arguably the most talented and dangerous team to emerge from the qualification round, the Bruins had thrown out much of the progress made through their Presidents’ Trophy season over the course of three games.
Then, the Bruins’ top goal-scorer and one of the players that wasn’t on time for training camp, David Pastrnak, picked up an injury, before it was determined after three weeks in the bubble that Tuukka Rask was needed back home, and the starting netminder made the decision to exit the Toronto bubble and return to his family.
It all added up to a real sense of vulnerability around the Bruins.
And now they’ve put all that to bed.
It was a vintage Bruins performance in the third period versus the Hurricanes on Monday night in Game 4 of their opening-round series. Down 2-0 entering the final frame, and in danger of allowing their opponents in the Eastern Conference Final last season to draw level in the series, the Bruins scored four consecutive goals in under seven minutes to steal a 4-3 victory.
Jake DeBrusk scored the first goal as well as the eventual game winner, while Connor Clifton and Brad Marchand registered the other two strikes in a period that seemed to revitalize a sleeping giant, or at least one that was a little drowsy.
The Bruins are pouring it on.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 18, 2020
DeBrusk's second goal of the night makes it 4-2 Boston. pic.twitter.com/Wd67bjOoqi
It was one-way traffic for Boston as it chased and eventually seized the lead in the third. The Bruins registered 16 shots on 27 total attempts, while at the same time allowing not a single shot on target until the Hurricanes had already pulled their netminder. Remarkably, the Hurricanes scored on that first attempt, but the Bruins had already done enough damage in the period to render the six-on-five goal from Teuvo Teravainen meaningless.
It was a comeback befitting of these Bruins, who have made a habit of shocking teams with late-game scoring surges. And while it was the four goals that ultimately mattered most, what seemed to galvanize the Bruins and really spur along the comeback — even more so than the individual effort from DeBrusk on his icebreaker — was a perfectly-timed and soul-stealing open-ice hit from Charlie McAvoy on Jordan Staal. The bench immediately energized, Clifton and Marchand’s goals came just moments after McAvoy removed the Hurricanes’ top checking centre from the contest.
It may be true, that the Bruins didn’t bring the same level of preparation to the bubble as compared to other teams in the NHL’s restart. Maybe they did need time to build.
And yet, they are up 3-1 in their series, while only seeming to be just settling in.
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