BostonBruins.com — Three games into the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, four members of the Bruins have scored their first career playoff goals.
And arguably, those four goals have been the most important of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Red Wings.
After Tuesday night’s 3-0 blanking of Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, Brad Marchand said that you know it’s playoff time when a team’s role players are winning games for you. Nobody has demonstrated that better than the Bruins over the last two games of this series.
In Game 2 — painted as a must-win after the B’s suffered a 1-0 shutout at home in Game 1 — it was Justin Florek and Reilly Smith that came up with the big goals for the Bruins. In Game 3, Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron got the job done for Boston.
“In order to get through this, sometimes you need secondary scoring,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “That was a big part of our win tonight, was getting Hamilton on that rush and Caron scoring that goal. And I thought that line still had a couple other good looks, so we need that, and again, probably a big reason why were able to win here tonight.”
Heading into the 2014 playoffs, fans probably expected to see the usual suspects’ names on the score sheet every night. While those players have certainly made their presence known during this series, it’s a new year, which means an opportunity for new players to establish themselves as postseason heroes.
Last year, the Bruins saw Torey Krug fill that role when he stepped off the Providence Bruins’ bus and into a brand-new role as a top-six defenseman for the big club.
This year, it’s anyone’s game, and plenty of candidates are stepping up to fill that role — not for the accolades, but simply because they know that’s what it takes to win in the playoffs.
“You need everyone to step up and play at another level, and normally, it’s the role players who step up on teams that do well and play well and get big goals for the team,” Marchand said. “Normally, our games are low-scoring like they have been, and we need guys like Jordy and Florek and Dougie and Smitty to step up and continue to do the same thing.”
“They’ve been playing great, and it’s always great when you have an extra weapon there like we do.”
The Bruins came into Game 3 knowing it could represent a huge momentum shift for whichever team managed to come out on top. They also knew how important it was to get off to a good start in an arena that has given them plenty of trouble over the last several years.
“It’s something we’ve talked about even before the game,” said Patrice Bergeron. “That doesn’t mean the next one isn’t [important] — it’s always about that next game — but we said the third game was huge for us.”
Therefore, when Boston got its first power play opportunity nine minutes into the first period, they knew they had to take advantage, and they did. Hamilton took the puck all the way up the ice, beat three Red Wings defenders and sniped the puck past Jimmy Howard up high on the glove side to give Boston the 1-0 lead.
“Obviously, we knew it was their home ice and they were going to come out hard,” Hamilton said. “We wanted to match that and put it back on them, and we did that.”
The goal was about more than continuing to attack Detroit’s penalty kill, which struggled mightily in Game 2. It was about seizing the momentum in a huge game, on the road, and never letting it go. It was about the Bruins imposing their will early on, before the Red Wings had a chance to settle into a groove and get their own game going.
With about four minutes remaining in the period, Caron put the Wings even further behind. He was sitting on the boards, waiting for a line change, and as Detroit made an ill-advised change of their own, he sprang onto the ice and into the Bruins’ rush, crashing the net and putting home Shawn Thornton’s rebound for his first career playoff goal.
For a 13th forward who is consistently praised for his positive attitude and hard work — and who has spent all season patiently waiting for an opportunity to shine — the goal could not have come at a better time.
“It’s huge,” Bergeron said of the goal. “It speaks a lot about our depth, but also the character he’s shown all year to stay with it and to keep getting better, working hard in practices. He got his chance, and now he’s taken it and he’s playing well and he scored a big goal for us.”
As this series progresses, it is likely that Boston’s big guns will find their way onto the score sheet. But the playoffs are a grind, and the longer they last, the more important it is for every player in the lineup to prove that they can be relied upon to come up big in crunch time.
Goals are nice, but so does the confidence that comes along with scoring them.
“I think it’s part of the playoffs — everyone’s got to chip in offensively, and it’s playoff hockey,” Caron said. “Everyone’s playing really hard and putting their body on the line every shift, and it’s nice when your fourth line gets some offensive rewards like that.”