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So What Do We Make of the Bruins Now?

The Bruins players congratulate Tim Thomas after a victory in NY.

After being shut down by Cam Ward, beaten to almost every loose puck and simply being out-worked and out-played by the Carolina Hurricanes, the Boston Bruins entered Sunday at the brink of elimination. But they did exactly what they needed to do in game 5, deliver an all-around performance and give Carolina no chance to win.

But what to make of this team now? They looked lost and confused in games 2-4, including a shutout at home in game 2. Ward has looked like the Conn Smythe winner he was in 2006, and the Hurricanes have played much better than  a No.6-seed. So in a sense, it’s no surprise that they put the Bruins in this position.

But the No.1-seeded Bruins let it be known Sunday that they would not go down without putting up a fight, and in game 5 they made the Hurricanes look like the inferior squad they were perceived to be entering the series. The 4-0 victory was about as good an all-around performance we’ve seen from the Bruins this year, but it pains New England that the Eastern Conference’s top seed had to do just that to stave off elimination.

Boston fans would obviously be more satisfied to have seen that game give the Bruins the series lead, rather than take them one step toward a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

Still, there were plenty of things to like about the game from the Bruins. Tim Thomas earned his first career postseason shutout, although he only faced 19 shots. At the same time, the Bruins peppered Ward with 40 shots, ten of which came from Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman. Phil Kessel scored twice after not scoring a single goal all series. They also out-hit the Hurricanes 25-15 and edged them out in the faceoff battle, 29-27.

That the Bruins have made it this far in the series with minimal production from Kessel is a testament to their depth and ability to get scoring from all four lines. Michael Ryder has stepped up huge for them, with 11 points in nine postseason games. Marc Savard is picking up right where he left off at the end of the regular season. Milan Lucic has played as expected with his hard-nosed style, but has surprised many with being an unexpected offensive force (four points in the series).

As a team, they held Eric Staal to three shots on goal and a -3 rating. The huge shots-on-goal differential is indicative of how efficient the Bruins were at both ends of the ice.

Yes, there is plenty to like about how the Bruins played game 5. But they are still down 3-2 in the series, and despite their game 5 effort being about as good as one can hope for, they still need to take the next game in Carolina to stay alive. The Hurricanes ought to be expected to come out with the same type of urgency and intensity with which the Bruins came out at the start of game 5. Surely, the Hurricanes do not want this series to come down to a game 7 in Boston.

But all the pressure will still be on the Bruins. They are the ones in a must-win situation. They showed what they can do at home in a win-or-go-home scenario, and they will need to repeat that performance in game 6, if not player better. I said before game 5 that the Bruins will need to dominate game 5 to have a chance in the series. They did just that, and now they have a chance. But it’s still only a fighting chance.

The Hurricanes took a beating in game 5, but we can all be rest assured that won’t happen again in game 6 on their home ice. This time, they will be the ones who come out swinging. It will be up to the Bruins to be the first team to swing back.

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May 11, 2009 - Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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