Well, I didn’t see this coming.
I knew all along the Bruins were the better hockey team, like I said in my previous article. However, not many people usually see a four-game sweep in the third round of any playoff series. These were supposed to be the two best teams left in the East, and it seemed like Boston was playing an AHL squad at times.
It amazes me how this same Hurricanes team just came off of a four-game sweep of a very tough New York Islanders team, and it honestly had me scared. But, it seems as they went through the same scenario the Blue Jackets did when they were entering round two: cold feet and no chance to get back up. The Bruins came into this series playing dominant, downhill hockey and it seemed that the Hurricanes just weren’t ready after such a long break.
Boston started off with two dominant wins, where they tallied five goals in each game. The offense was clicking, and even more importantly, Carolina’s goalie, Petr Mrazek, was not. I don’t know what changed with him when this series began, but he looked like he should’ve been playing with the Charlotte Checkers (the Hurricane’s AHL affiliate). He just clearly was not ready for playoff hockey of this magnitude, and Boston was.
This series (and playoff) MVP was without a doubt the man between the pipes for Boston, Tuukka Rask. In all seriousness, I’ve never in my life seen this man, or many other goalies in general, for that matter, playing so well. Rask posted a clean 4-0 record this series, with a 1.25 GAA and 0.956 SV%, with the series-clinching shutout in game four. He is even putting up numbers miles better than 2011 Conn Smythe Winner Tim Thomas, the last time Boston hoisted Lord Stanley. Over Boston’s 2011 run, Thomas posted a 2.29 GAA and 0.929SV%, which are still amazing numbers. However, Tuukka Rask has managed to make them look mediocre. I’ll be the first to admit that I was never easy on Rask in previous seasons, as I really questioned his ability to bring a team far into a playoff run. I now admit with pride that I was 110% wrong, whether the Bruins come out of this next series victorious or not. If the Bruins manage to lose the next series, it’s not going to be Rask’s fault regardless, because, without him, they would be on the golf course right now.
What scares me though is history repeating itself for Boston. Like Carolina and Columbus, we have seen that coming into a series after a sweep spells disaster for at least the first game or two, so I think those games will be the most important for Boston to win. If they can manage to get in the W column for at least one of the first two games, I really like their chances to win the Stanley Cup. A question that also needs to be answered is the status of Boston’s sixth defenseman. If we end up with John Moore in the tail end of the lineup, we’re in for some serious trouble (5 games, 0 points, -4 +/-). Last updated May 7th, Kevan Miller was not ruled out by GM Don Sweeney for the playoffs, even though he didn’t make it for the ECF. If he comes back, I think the Bruins have an even better chance of winning than they do already.