Is everybody done talking about the round robin now?
The Bruins went out and showed on Wednesday that they indeed saved their real live bullets for the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 4-3 double overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Toronto Bubble at Scotiabank Arena.
After being held scoreless in each of the three round-robin losses, the Perfection Line exploded for a pair of goals, including the double overtime game-winner from Patrice Bergeron and a nifty first period face-off play where all three forwards touched the puck before David Pastrnak finished things off.
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Bergeron, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand clearly weren't at their all-time best as Marchand finished with just a single shot on net and the four turnovers from Pasta was a result of being far too casual with the puck. And the top power play unit featuring all three forwards was once again a train wreck and is now 0-for-13 in the Toronto bubble while also falling victim to a shorthanded goal against Carolina.
But Boston's three amigos also once again demonstrated pretty clearly that the Carolina defense isn't going to be able to do much to stop them.
Carolina's best shutdown D-man Jaccob Slavin was on ice for both of the top line's goals and Slavin made a crucial mistake turning his back to the face-off play that Pastrnak finished off at the net right in front of his face. That left both Slavin and Dougie Hamilton as a minus-2 for the game, and Slavin is now a minus-5 in five playoff games against the Bruins over the last two postseasons.
It really doesn't bode well for the Hurricanes if their best shutdown players can't effectively slow down Boston's best offensive players in the least.
After it was over, Bruce Cassidy didn't exactly say "I told you so," but stressed that he wasn't worried about his best forwards showing up now that the Stanley Cup Playoff bell has really been rung.
"These guys are battle tested. Certainly Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and Marchy [Brad Marchand], and Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been through it - not as much as those guys. We've got a lot of trust in those guys. We have discussions. Where is your game at?" said Bruce Cassidy. "Don't forget that Pasta missed what a lot of teams went through - the training camp. Even though they've played together a long time, it's been four months and change. Now you're coming into a part of the season that is high stakes.
"We knew there would be a little bit of… I don't know if rust is the right word. We would take some time for them to make some little plays. Overtime is them. The faceoff play was them. They missed a little bit of that in the round robin. Tonight, they know that there is a little more at stake as well. Put those two things together, those two factors together and we knew they'd be there and competing, and competing at a high level. When they do that, they're so talented and smart that they know things are going to happen for them - and they did."
Certainly, the top guys for the Bruins weren't alone in operating at a high level against the Hurricanes in Game 1. David Krejci scored on a nifty play where Ondrej Kase set up a rebound by firing a puck from his knees, and Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork crashed the net to disrupt Petr Mrazek and score a very important second period goal.
The secondary scoring was there in this one, but the scoring was bookended by two goals from a healthy, rested Perfection Line that is just getting started this postseason.
"We were confident. We're a confident group, confident line. I think we got better as we went on in the round robin. Obviously, you want to keep getting better and taking the next step, especially we thought that [Game 1] was a really important game, starting round one," said Bergeron. "So we had to put whatever was behind us in the past and get some rhythm going. I thought [David Krejci's] line and [Sean Kuraly's] line, they got some momentum for us, they got us going and I thought we followed up.
"When things are going well at times you [can] get complacent and you don't work on things you need to work on. Obviously, you want things to go well all the time, that's a perfect scenario. [But] we were able to look at video and look at the areas that we can get better at. I thought as a team we did that throughout the round robin and now it's behind us. We're focused on Game 2. That's all I can really tell you. I think that's how we were trying to approach it."
The Bruins' top guys really don't need to explain anything to anybody after they went out and played like the stars that they are at the start of the real postseason. Now the trick is going to be sustaining it, staying healthy and continuing to up everybody across the board as the competition and intensity level raises with each game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the Perfection Line served notice in Game 1 that they are back, well past the meaningless round robin and intent on taking care of the unfinished business from last year's heartbreaking postseason.