Civian: Playoff veterans set tone for Bruins

Sara Civian
April 13, 2018 - 1:19 am

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

There was a celebration, sure.

David Backes paused for a second, raised a fist in the air, and banged on the glass.

But the classic Backes garbage collection that gave the Bruins the 2-1 lead was his 14th career playoff goal in his 56th career playoff game, so that show was mostly for the fans. It was also for his linemate Danton Heinen, who looked elated just to be on the ice for a goal in his playoff debut.

“For the most part, [Backes] played with younger guys this year -- he’s been a mentor for them,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “He says the right things, he plays the right way and I think he really relishes this type of hockey this time of year. It seems to bring out the best in him.”

Cassidy was going for familiarity over the lure of a shiny, new toy when he chose to scratch Ryan Donato his Game 1 lineup. Add the 5-1 win over Toronto to his resume of good calls.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans in the room,” Cassidy said. “They’ve been through this.”

Brad Marchand has certainly been through this, with his 18th goal in 73 career playoff games to show for it. Red-hot David Pastrnak had been there a few times too -- his dent on the scoreboard was his third in seven playoff games.

“Been through this” is almost insulting to David Krejci, who might’ve been born in a playoff laboratory and raised by two Stanley Cups.

“When he’s on, he makes it look easy,” Cassidy said. “He’s been doing that for years. He’s a clutch playoff player, and he was real good for us tonight.”

Both the clutchness and the years were on full display Thursday when he scored his 30th playoff goal and Jake DeBrusk was the one screaming.

Even with 97 playoff games under his belt, Krejci gets it.

“Honestly, first game in the playoffs is not easy, emotions are high,” he said. “Everything is a little bit newer. The much more than the regular season. The fans were great, you get a little goosebumps.”

That juxtaposition of veteran comfort and rookie wonder is the 2018 Boston Bruins, and it tends to work out when they stick to the order of operations. First, feed off the best line in the NHL, then comes trickle-down defensive responsibility, then let the depth fill any scoring gaps, then come the rookies’ confidence-building highlight-reelers.

“That’s what Bergy’s line does,” Cassidy said. “They make plays, they support one another, and they get those slot looks.”

You know what would’ve happened if Ryan Donato entered that Game 1 lineup? He probably would’ve been fine, and there’s a good chance he would’ve crossed yet another goal off his extensive bucket list.

It just wasn’t going to make or break anything.

That’s not a knock on Donato, who’s somehow exceeded already unrealistic expectations. He’ll get his shot, and his presence could matter more down the line when playoff hockey starts taking its toll. That had been the plan from the start, hadn’t it?

Maybe somewhere at the corner of another Brad Marchand suspension and Patrice Bergeron’s month out we forgot about the order of operations.

“Well obviously [David Pastrnak] had the puck and when a player like that has the puck, you just go to the front of the net,” Sean Kuraly described his goal. “Usually, good things happen.”

Cassidy didn’t forget that “players like that” are the tone-setters.

If Brad Marchand stays as disciplined as he did in Game 1, and if Patrice Bergeron and the three Davids stay healthy, they’ll keep reminding us.

Until those big picture reminders stop rolling in, let's focus on them instead of what a scratched depth player might do. The B's have had to rely on the D word for so long that it might've lost its meaning, but stop covering your eyes."Depth" is a weapon now, not a crutch -- the Bruins are actually healthy.

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