The Boston Bruins have won seven straight games after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday to complete a sweep and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.
They've come a long way since they needed seven games to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round. After falling behind the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round, the Bruins closed them out in six and then followed that by sweeping the Hurricanes.
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]
"I think we're realizing how to win," defenseman Torey Krug said. "Maybe in that first series [against Toronto] we were trying to do too much because we figured we'd have to score some goals to beat a high-powered offense. And then eventually we figured out the best way to do that was to put the puck behind their D and go to work, grind out goals and grind out zone time."
Here are 5 reasons the Bruins advanced:
Video: Bruins sweep Hurricanes, clinch Cup Final berth
1. Rask on a roll
All you need to do to measure goalie Tuukka Rask's value to Boston in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is look at his save percentage: .942.
He had his best series of the postseason against Carolina, with a .956 save percentage and a shutout in Game 4. When the Hurricanes were trying to get back into the series in the first period of Game 3, Rask stopped all 20 shots that made it through to him.
Some would say Rask was in the zone in the conference final, but he said he felt there was more to it than that.
"I've felt good for many, many months," he said. "It's just the way when you're seeing the puck, when you feel comfortable. It's about timing and patience and all that. I think experience helps that. … The way I usually want to play, I want to play calm and make myself look big and maybe even tough chances, try to make it look easy, kind of."
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said, "He's been dialed in. He's been excellent. He really hasn't had a poor night."
Video: Rask amongst the greats for most playoff shutouts
2. Something special
Boston went 0-for-3 on the power play in Games 5 and 6 against Columbus. That trend did not continue in the conference final.
Capped by a 2-for-3 performance in Game 4, the Bruins went 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) on the man-advantage against the Hurricanes. Boston has the top-ranked power play in the playoffs at 17-for-50 (34 percent).
Not to be outdone, the Bruins penalty kill went 13-for-14 (92.9 percent) against Carolina, including 2-for-2 in Game 4. Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was called for tripping 1:18 into the first period of Game 4, which could have shifted the momentum. But the Bruins held the Hurricanes to one shot during that penalty and completed their shutdown of the Hurricanes power play.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Marchand, Pastrnak combine for PPG
3. Deflating Carolina's defense
In their first 11 playoff games, the Hurricanes got 30 points (four goals, 26 assists) from their defensemen. Against Boston, Justin Faulk had two assists and Calvin de Haan scored the only Carolina goal in Game 3. That's it, three points.
"They're a low-to-high team. Their D is a big part of their offense," Cassidy said. "So when it goes low to high, we've really tried to build in how we're going to cover the three forwards from there and try to block shots and clear out so Tuukka can see it. And I thought we did a good job of that for the most part."
The Bruins blocked 23 shots in Game 4 and 60 in the series.
4. Depth charged
When the Bruins were looking for offense in the second period of Game 3, forward Chris Wagner scored his second goal of the postseason after an excellent shift by Boston's fourth line. The Bruins have gotten used to getting production from everyone in their lineup -- 19 players have scored goals in the playoffs -- and the Hurricanes had no answer for Boston's depth.
Twelve players scored goals for Boston against Carolina, led by center Patrice Bergeron with three.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm3: Wagner redirects home opening tally
5. No Chara, no problem
Zdeno Chara has been the Bruins captain and defensive backbone since 2007 and is second on the Bruins in ice time at 22:32 in the postseason. Losing him in Game 4 because of an undisclosed injury provided a stiff challenge, but the Boston defense, with John Moore entering the lineup in Chara's place, limited Carolina to 24 shots on net and helped Rask get a shutout.
"We talk about how just because we have guys out … we don't need any superheroes back there to step in," Krug said. "It's just about playing good, solid hockey and our systems will take over and we'll eventually win. We had a great goaltender that backstops us, gives us a lot of confidence, so … no superheroes, just good, solid plays, and we'll be OK."
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