Charlie McAvoy stole the show in game one for the Bruins in their game one victory against the Ottawa Senators, but he was not the reason they won. Tuukka Rask won the game for Boston. “Stole” would be the correct verb for what Rask did, but not in the armed robbery, hijacking, sense of the word. Rather, Tuukka Rask committed slow, white collar type theft eventually swiping an entire game from the Senators. Rask’s fundamentally sound, positionally aware style of play resulted in 26 saves on 27 shots. Rask made a number of crucial, challenging saves, from the slot and even point blank range. Though he wasn’t flashy, Rask’s best-looking saves saw him sliding from his right to his left to stone Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan. (Numbers 3 and 1 in this link )
Rask’s saves never looked miraculous or acrobatic, like his predecessor, Tim Thomas, but they were equally effective. Without Rask, the Bruins would not have won that game. Though Charlie McAvoy helped reinforce the Bruins defense and even helped Boston score their winning goal, Tuukka Rask anchored the Bruins in a game where, as the Senators’ twitter couldn’t wait to point out, the Bruins did not manage a shot on goal in the second period. How’d that work out for you?
The Senators, on the other hand, managed many opportunities from the slot. Their goal was a direct result of Adam McQuaid’s failed attempt to corral a bouncing clear attempt and Zdeno Chara’s poor decision on a two on one. Bobby Ryan picked McQuaid’s pocket and blew by him, for a chance at point blank range. Chara tried to cut off the pass option, but he couldn’t clear the rebound attempt after Rask’s initial save. If the Bruins want to win this series, they need their younger, speedier defensemen to match up with Ottawa’s skilled forwards. Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins youngest defenseman was and will be crucial to plug the leaks caused by the Bruins older, slower blue-liners. While Tuukka stole the game for the Bruins, Charlie McAvoy drove the getaway car. In his first career NHL game, with the stakes close to their highest, Charlie McAvoy had an impact. After a shaky first shift, McAvoy looked like the franchise defenseman he has forecasted to be. McAvoy made smart, accurate passes as the quarterback on the power play. He took a calculated risk on the Bruins game winning goal but I’ll touch on that in a second. The Bruins struggled mightily with the Senators 1-3-1, however, when Boston was given opportunities with a man advantage, as in the first period they managed shots and penetrated the Senators zone for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, the Bruins struggled with the 1-3-1 at even strength. In the second period, they only had a single power play opportunity versus three in the opening period. When Boston attempted to rush the puck through the neutral zone, inevitably, the Senators forced turnovers and counterattacked. If the Bruins used the dump and chase method, they failed to force turnovers on the forecheck and generate chances inside the dots. Most of the Bruins even strength shots came from the points, and their forwards struggled to access rebounds and score on second chances. Coach Bruce Cassidy touched on the frustration of the Bruins second period struggles. “it seemed like we were just getting it out of our end, changing if possible, so we were always defending, it’s discouraging is the answer when you can’t get some action around their net.” The Bruins couldn’t manage even strength, quality chances until Ottawa became careless in their offensive zone. Goal One Boston scored the tying goal with 15:05 remaining in the third period. The Bruins entered the Senators’ zone with a dump-in by Adam McQuaid. At that point Ottawa’s players lost their composure. They tried on four separate occasions, to clear the puck by ringing it around the boards and out of the zone. The Bruins intercepted these attempts on all four occasions, resulting in extended offensive zone time and tired legs for Ottawa’s defenders. The dam finally broke when Riley Nash picked up another clearing attempt in the high slot and made a quick lateral pass to Frank Vatrano who wired a puck through Craig Anderson’s five hole for the tying goal. In the highlight below, you can see the final clearing attempt at 2:39.
The Bruins game winning goal resulted from the same careless clearing attempts (and composed play from wunderkind Charlie McAvoy). With three and a half minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy collected a regrouping pass from Patrice Bergeron and methodically skated the puck towards the Senators trap. He waited patiently for Bergeron to wheel around the neutral zone and made a sharp pass which Bergeron bobbled. The puck floated into the Senators zone where Cody Ceci made another careless clearing attempt that was intercepted. For the next full minute, the Bruins held the puck in the Senators’ zone as Ottawa again attempted three or four half-assed breakouts. McAvoy made a calculated risk and pinched to keep the puck in the zone and once again, a gassed Senators team broke down. The Senators stood around like pylons when Marchand scored, look how exhausted they are after the goal. (Skip to 3:25)
Though the McAvoy play did play a key role in the game-winning goal, the Senators committed close to ten crucial errors combined between the Bruins two goals. Senators coach Guy Boucher rightfully sounded frustrated by this in his post game interview saying, "Clearly there were two shifts where we just gave it to them," said Boucher. "The two goals they're just giveaway, after giveaway, after giveaway." Each goal resulted from numerous giveaways along the boards, that resulted in extended offensive zone time for the Bruins, which tired out the Senators. This fatigue allowed the Bruins to access the slot and “dirty areas” for higher percentage shots and rebound attempts, where both goals originated from. The Senators had done an excellent job in the first two periods completely shutting down the Bruins in front of Craig Anderson. Boston’s even strength shots all came from the points and were cleared from the front of the net quickly. The Senators were largely mistake free when they broke the puck out of their own end effectively. The 1-3-1 made this possible because it gave their defensemen time to make a smart breakout decision. When they committed errors Boston capitalized, but the mistakes were not forced by the Bruins, they were carelessly committed by the Senators. This style of success is not sustainable for an entire series, the Bruins need to make some adjustments to keep winning. Keys To Victory: 1. The Bruins need to find a way to defeat the 1-3-1 at even strength without dumping the puck so often. The dump and chase method, as I mentioned above, give the Senators more time to break the puck out. Entering the zone with speed and puck possession leads to better chances and the ability to forecheck more aggressively. But how can they do this? This duty falls largely on the Bruins skilled players. Brad Marchand, David Pasternak, Patrice Bergeron, and hopefully David Krejci need to maintain control of the puck with speed through the neutral zone. Quick accurate passes and an emphasis on small 2-1 situations will help this effort. This is difficult in such a small space, but that’s why they earn their paychecks. Once they enter the zone with speed and control of the puck, they can generate more chances from deeper in the zone. 2. Draw more penalties and capitalize on them. The Bruins had the league’s seventh-best power play in the regular season and with the addition of Charlie McAvoy, should be even more lethal. The Bruins drew four power play chances and scored on none. If there is one way to defeat the 1-3-1, it’s a man advantage. The Bruins have a better power play than Ottawa and they can’t employ their frustrating 1-3-1 on the penalty kill. 3. Tuukka Rask needs to maintain his level of play. If the Senators continue to frustrate Boston with the 1-3-1, they will create more scoring chances and shots than the Bruins. Tuukka needs to enter freak mode and steal the series if this happens. The next game of the series is on Saturday at 3pm eastern.