Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL playoffs. The Eastern Conference Final began with the Boston Bruins' 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden on Thursday:
What We Learned
Here are some takeaways from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final
Rask still at top of his game for Bruins
Tuukka Rask was perhaps the biggest reason the Bruins moved on from the second round to the Eastern Conference Final, especially his 39-save shutout in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. Though Rask allowed two goals to the Hurricanes on Thursday, he kept the Bruins in the game when it threatened to spiral out of control in the second period, when the Hurricanes outshot Boston 15-10. Rask's teammates credited their goalie for the win even though they had scored five goals. When Rask is at his best, he can pull the Bruins along with him -- and right now, he continues to play at his best.
Video: Rask's performance instrumental in Bruins' Game 1 win
Bruins' makeshift defense does enough
Losing Charlie McAvoy -- arguably Boston's best defenseman through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- to suspension for Game 1 was a big obstacle for the Bruins. But they managed, getting a good effort from rookie Connor Clifton (17:05 of ice time), who was on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara, and 30-year-old Steven Kampfer (13:41), who scored the opening goal of the series in the second playoff game of his NHL career. The Bruins have sustained injuries to their defensemen all season -- including to Kevan Miller (lower body), who has yet to play in the postseason -- but they've continually found ways to win. On Thursday, it was more of the same. That should bode well for Game 2, when McAvoy returns.
Hurricanes need to convert more chances
The Hurricanes' forecheck gave the Bruins trouble at times, particularly in the second period when they were able to generate sustained pressure in the offensive zone and outshot Boston 15-10. Greg McKegg's goal off a left-wing rush gave Carolina a 2-1 lead at 9:18 of the second, but that period was probably a wasted opportunity because the Hurricanes were not able to convert on more of their scoring chances. After the Bruins grabbed a 3-2 lead with power-play goals by Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron in the opening 2:54 of the third period, the Hurricanes were unable to create many scoring opportunities at even strength.
Aho heating up for Hurricanes
Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho has scored goals in three straight games and is tied with rookie forward Warren Foegele for the Carolina lead with five in the playoffs. After five days off, Aho had extra jump in his skating and looked like the dynamic player who led Carolina with 30 goals and 83 points during the regular season. His line with rookie Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen created several good scoring chances and held its own against the Boston's top line of Brad Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Video: CAR@BOS, Gm1: Aho tips in Svechnikov's shot for PPG
Game 1 quick links
-- The Bruins woke up in the third period to pull out the Game 1 win, writes NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin.
-- The Hurricanes didn't have to look hard to find the turning point in their Game 1 loss, writes NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti
-- Petr Mrazek's joy at making a return from injury for the Hurricanes in Game 1 was short-lived, writes NHL.com senior director of editorial Shawn P. Roarke
For the first time since the playoffs started on April 10, there are no games scheduled; Friday is an off day before the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues begin the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Here is what you need to know about the Sharks-Blues series.
-- The Blues and Sharks will see plenty of familiar faces when they meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, writes NHL.com correspondent Louie Korac.
-- NHL.com staff writer David Satriano previews the Western Conference Final.
-- The battle between Jordan Binnington of the Blues and Martin Jones of the Sharks could determine which team reaches the Stanley Cup Final. NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley looks at the goalie matchup.
-- The Blues are in the conference final for the first time since 2016, but they still have plenty of work to do, according to GM Doug Armstrong, who talked with NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger.
Video: Sharks, Blues meet in rematch of 2016 West Final
Listen: New episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast