Bruce Cassidy would never say it.
But as long as his team still got the win, seeing Tampa Bay score two late goals in the third period to turn what would have felt like a dominant win into an anxious one late might be a good thing for the Bruins.
This isn’t going to be an easy series. The Bruins are old enough and mature enough that winning 3-0 probably wouldn’t have made them overconfident. But after Victor Hedman scored twice in the third, there’s not any chance of that. This is going to be a hard series.
Winning Game 1 was obviously a huge step. Winning four games against this Lightning team is going to be hard for any team in the NHL so getting first one will clearly big.
But it wasn’t just winning, but the way they won. Boston’s top line, especially Brad Marchand was terrific. The third goal was a perfect mixture of the trio’s skills and effort. Marchand’s 1-on-3 forecheck kept the puck in the zone long enough for Patrice Bergeron to steal it, push it to David Pastrnak who sent it back to Marchand for what proved to be a pretty essential third goal.
The power play was good too. David Krejci continued to pay dividends since he moved up making perfect pass to Pastrnak who was inexcusably left open for a one-timer goal.
Charlie Coyle delivered the required secondary scoring with another baseball goal that’s becoming his signature move.
“Good thing my parents signed me up for Little League,” he said.
Good thing Don Sweeney traded for him at the deadline last year. Coyle is cementing his reputation as a postseason performer with three goals in six games since the start of the real playoffs. It follows last year’s strong Boston debut with nine goals and seven assists in 24 postseason games.
Watch Charlie Coyle’s absurd eye-hand coordination give Boston a 1-0 lead in Game 1 (video)
Ondrej Kase has yet to be rewarded for it, but he continued to get better and make his presence felt on offense as well.
The most encouraging thing of course was Jaroslav Halak. This series and this postseason will define the 35-year-old’s time in Boston. He was brought in to take some of the load off of Tuukka Rask and keep him fresh for the postseason. Nobody expected Halak to be the workhorse. But for a night anyway, Halak seized the moment. He outplayed his star counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy with a 35-save showing that has to give his teammates confidence.
The Bruins won 58 percent of their faceoffs (including Bergeron’s 17 out of 27) blocked shots (20) and matched Tampa’s physicality when needed. It wasn’t perfect, but there was plenty of reasons for optimism.
But Cassidy was quick to remember 2018 the last time the Bruins and Lightning met in the second round of the playoffs. Boston was even more in control winning Game 1, 6-3, before Tampa stormed back to win the next four games and outscored the Bruins 15-7 over that stretch.
“But again two years ago we won the first game in Tampa, then didn’t go our way after that, so we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to enjoy this one but understand we need to be better and I’m sure they’ll say the same thing.”
Marchand said the same discipline that helped them elevate play after a lackluster round robin would keep them in the right frame of mind now.
“We obviously really buckled down when the playoffs started, when the games matter. That’s kind of how this group is. When it’s time to play, guys are prepared and know how to prepare,” he said. “It kind of fed in tonight. We had a good start. But it’s one game. We have to follow it up again next game.”
Bruce Cassidy would never say it.