Vin Sylvia: Series key starts, ends with 'Z'
There are three schools of thought regarding the meaning of the Bruins' 3-2, overtime victory over the Rangers in Thursday's Game 1:
1.) It proved just how evenly matched the teams are and strengthened the notion that we're likely looking at a seven-game series of low-scoring games, most of them determined by a single goal.
2.) It showed the Bruins are clearly the superior team. Yes, the B's needed overtime to win it, but they outshot the Rangers 48-35, barely missing on several other scoring attempts - at least three shots caught a post, two others the crossbar - before Brad Marchand potted the game-winner.
3.) It means Boston has a 1-0 series advantage, and that's it. New York's Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goalie in the world, let in two soft goals in Game 1, both in regulation. Think that's going to happen again?
Include me in the third school. It's been a long time since we've seen the Bruins put together consecutive games in which they played well from start to finish. Did the furious first-round finish and miracle outcome of Game 7 against Toronto signal the flick of a switch that ignited a Stanley Cup run? Maybe.
A mud-slog of a first period by both teams notwithstanding, the B's were very good in Game 1 against the Rangers - great in overtime. But let's see if they can do it again Sunday afternoon in Game 2, at least, before we start thinking about whether they possibly can beat the Penguins in the conference final.
If there's one thing Game 1 did other than enable the Bruins to hold serve, it was allay fears that the B's had no chance against the Rangers with three veteran defensemen sidelined by injuries and three rookies skating in their stead.
After the way Dougie Hamilton (5 hits, 1 assist in 20 minutes 45 seconds of ice time), Torey Krug (goal, 3 hits in 16:41) and Matt Bartkowski (3 hits, 2 blocked shots in 26:42) performed Thursday night, it appears there's no need to rush back Dennis Seidenberg, Wade Redden and Andrew Ference. In fact, it's possible the rookies' fresh legs and offense-minded tendencies may have been an advantage in Game 1, particularly in light of game-tying, power-play goal Krug scored off a feed from Hamilton.
Still, I'll take Seidenberg's size, strength and experience over Krug's fresh legs and skills at the point on the power play, given that Thursday marked the latter's fourth NHL game and first in the postseason.
Either way, though, it's good to have Zdeno Chara manning the blue line, isn't it?
In an astounding 38:02 of ice time, Chara totaled a goal, an assist, six hits and two blocks Thursday night. His plus/minus was plus-2.
It was fitting that the rush up ice for the game-winning goal began with Chara poking the puck away on a Rangers odd-man rush. Marchand, capping his best game in months, scored the goal off a feed from Patrice Bergeron, but it all started with Big Z.
We may look at him as the difference at series' end, too.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at email@example.com.