By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
The first round of the National Hockey League playoffs is underway, and as opponents have begun to compete in eight different best-of-seven series, it is starting to become clear as to which teams are be poised for a long postseason run.
Favorites heading into the first round of action ranged from the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators in the Western Conference, to the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the East. Each of these teams has lived up to expectations early on in the first round, as all four teams are leading their respective match-ups through three games.
However, one of these teams stands out among the rest.
No other team has managed to put forth an on-ice performance equal to that of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins won Games 1 and 2 of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs by scores of 5-1 and 7-3 respectively.
In Game 2, 21-year-old Boston winger David Pastrnak recorded a point in six of his team’s seven goals, capping off the night with a hat trick and three assists.
Also in Game 2, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made huge saves to keep the Maple Leafs from mounting a comeback, stopping 30 of 33 shots en route to victory.
While Rask’s save percentage of .917 and goals against average of 2.36 appear to be, well, average over three games, the quality of the big saves he does make at key times in games is a large part of the reason why Boston finds themselves up 2-1 in the series heading into Game 5 Thursday.
Toronto is notoriously a high-powered offensive team lead by generational talent Auston Matthews. It speaks volumes that it took Matthews until Game 3 to record his first point; a goal that ended up becoming a game-winner in the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 victory Monday night.
While the Bruins took a step back in their third meeting with the Leafs, it is important to notice that the other Stanley Cup favorites that rival Boston have struggled as well.
After winning Games 1 and 2 of their series, Winnipeg traveled to Minnesota only to drop Game 3 by a score of 6-2. The Jets had only allowed three goals to the Wild in their first two games.
Nashville defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 and 5-4 at home before traveling to the Mile High City to lose 5-3 to an Avalanche team that only managed to qualify for the playoffs in their final game of the regular season.
After it looked as though Tampa Bay would cruise to an easy series win over the New Jersey Devils, taking the first two games of the series by scores of 5-2 and 5-3, the Eastern Conference Champions, the Lightning traveled to Newark only to surrender four third period goals en route to a 5-2 Devils win.
Boston arguably has the hardest match-up of any of the powerhouse teams mentioned above, yet they have managed to score in big numbers, while maintaining reliable goaltending at the other end of the ice.
If the Bruins are able to sustain a steady scoring pace, and at the same time remain sound on the back end, then they should be a shoe-in to win the Stanley Cup regardless of their opponent.