So! Round one is over for the B’s, and a convincing 5 game series win is in the bank! But before we look ahead towards Round 2, let’s take a minute to give the players who made this even possible their proper credit!
And let’s be clear, everyone will have a different version of this list, this one is just one of many that people will be publishing about Round One, if you think a player deserves an accolade, given how the series panned out? You’re probably right! I just want to give special kudos to players I believe deserve it, and you can use the comments to sound off for yours. And with that, let’s begin!
Best player by the fancy numbers: David Pastrnak
Pasta had a weird season this year; one could argue he had become a more complete player, but had a very disappointing regular season goal total. And then this post-season he went ahead and reminded everybody why he’s as legendary as they come, becoming the team lead in points by the end of Game 5; tallying 2 goals, 4 goals, and 6 points by the end of it, and leading the team in every relevant offense category: Shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and Expected Goals.
I think the David Pastrnak we’re used to is back. Beware, Islanders/Pens.
Iron Man Player: Charlie McAvoy for all situations, Mike Reilly for even strength
We really haven’t been doing our due diligence on just how much the Bruins depend on Charlie Mac and how he should probably be a Norris finalist, so we’ll use his performance this round to do it.
Okay...Charlie McAvoy is an actual, factual freak of nature and should be given the Norris Trophy immediately before he swallows the earth whole. The Bruins and Caps played a total of 331:07 minutes over five games, which includes all overtime play, penalty kill and power play. Charlie McAvoy was on the ice for about 135:49 of those minutes, almost 41% of all situations of Bruins hockey spent being an impactful player, even if goals weren’t his forte, he was more than happy to help in the assist column to get things going, having 5 over the course of the series. And his defense? While the series showed that the B’s backcheck is still pretty on point...
Round 1: Bruins at Caps— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) May 24, 2021
Capitals could not get close to the net at 5v5 at all. pic.twitter.com/HcKxkYJy7j
...Given how much time he spent on the ice? I’m more than willing to say he had a big hand in this. Exploding stick or no.
But what about the Bruins deadline acquisition at the blueline? Mike Reilly has been growing his fans in Boston by being an unbelievable passing machine, creating goals in ways many B’s defenseman of the past could only dream of, punctuating it with a 2 point primary assist night in Game 5, and clocking in with the most ice time of any Bruin at even strength, with 91:43 logged over 5 games. It’s wild that he’s gone this long in his NHL Career without getting to play in the playoffs and really show his stuff, and now that he’s without a contract next year...y’know...
...Boston sure can get pretty in the summer, can’t it? Wine and dine him, Don. Keep him in Black and Gold. I think he and his wife would love that place in the North End. You know the one.
Narrative Busting Player: Taylor Hall
While there is one player who seems to need this yearly, I feel like the only way to actively do that is if the Bruins do the damn thing already.
So in lieu of that, I feel like it’s time to put another narrative that’s been plaguing one player unfairly for years: That Taylor Hall cannot be an impact player for an NHL team during the playoffs. He got this reputation playing for Oilers teams constructed by a gibbon, and up until yesterday had been unable to shake it, as for the first time in his career, he will be advancing to the second round of the playoffs after years of struggle.
Taylor Hall continues to impress in all 3 zones pic.twitter.com/bVwv0mC849— Bruins Diehards (@BruinsDiehards) May 24, 2021
As it turns out, impactful players can be especially impactful if they play with other impact players! Who’da thought, right? He was also a net positive for the team over the series in possession, but was overshadowed by the first line going all out. Hopefully the next series gives him more of an opportunity to shine!
This particular goal is important later, as it also involves one particular player who arguably made this all happen. And that player is...
“Turning Point” Player: Craig Smith, Game 3
The “Turning Point” of the series can be a million little things, but it is always an event. A save, a goal, a big hit, and a struggling player suddenly coming to life to be the critical nail in the coffin for the series, at least in retrospect.
And there are a lot of good ones! Charlie McAvoy’s 5 assists, Jake DeBrusk coming to life in Game 1, Mike Reilly’s incredible game, Tuukka Rask’s 40 save night, or Bergeron’s turnover steal to put the B’s up 3-1 in Game 5, Brad Marchand’s back-hand tally in Game 2 to win in OT (which was Bruce’s pick for the turning point), David Pastrnak being almost a ppg , Jake Debrusk coming back to life, Connor Clifton coming in for relief of Jeremy Lauzon and just nailing his opportunity.
All of them great turning points! And there’s a point to be made that all of them were part of getting the B’s off to Round 2, but only one for me stuck out as the moment where the Caps faltered, and then never, ever recovered. One moment where the entire series which up until that point, looked fairly close and then unraveled for one team.
And it was this:
And yeah, it was an absolutely amazing game winner, an excellent cap to a guy who was playing his heart out, and got Taylor Hall on the scoresheet to even things up in the 2nd, but what makes this the turning point of the series is that almost immediately after he went ahead and got that puck past Samsonov, you could absolutely tell this one moment broke the Caps, and not just because Ovechkin was yelling at everybody with a pulse.
While the Bruins had been in control for most of the series, the moment where the dam well and truly broke was after Game 3, and the Bruins never, ever looked back. The Caps rolled over and died for much of Game 4, and then got their backs completely broken by two just atrociously bad goals in Game 5.
And that all begins with a bad turnover by Justin Schultz, and Ilya Samsonov apparently being asleep at the wheel while Craig Smith finished the play.
While it is good to give a nod, hopefully the thing I want to see on a list like this after Round 2 is new names. I want to see heroes emerge in every round so we can look back on this playoff run with a fondness that is deserved.
And more importantly, we can now look to Round 2 ready to crown new heroes. Who do you think is due for a big series coming up?