Why Sean Kuraly’s multi-point night wasn’t even the most impressive thing he did

Evan Marinofsky
May 28, 2019 - 8:04 am

Even though it’s a different series for the Bruins, the story stayed the same: in the big moments it was Sean Kuraly and his line stepping up to get the Bruins over the finish line. 

In Monday night’s Game 1 win, the Bruins dominated. They outshot the Blues 38-20, including an overwhelming 18-3 advantage in the second period. But right after Vladimir Tarasenko scored to make it 2-0 Blues, it seemed like things were about to go sour very quickly. 

And then 1:16 later, Kuraly sifted through the neutral zone and down his off wing into the offensive zone. He found Connor Clifton streaking to the net for the game’s first goal and the first momentum swing in the Bruins favor. 

“That Kuraly play with Clifton got us into the game, got the crowd back into the game,” said Bruce Cassidy. “All of a sudden, wow we’re starting going.” 

Kuraly’s true shining moment didn’t come until the 14:39 mark in the third period but when it came, the impact lifted the Bruins through the final buzzer.

Off a knuckle-puck from Zdeno Chara that Jordan Binnington couldn’t handle, Noel Acciari grabbed the rebound, spun around and dished a perfect pass to Kuraly, who put it past the rookie goaltender to take the lead and cap off the comeback from two down and put the Bruins in the lead for good.

“It’s just trying to enjoy the moment, enjoy the game,” said Kuraly of what was going through his head during the go-ahead goal. “We’ve got a group that makes that pretty easy and our leadership and the guys that have been here before kind of take a lot of the burden and kind of just let us just play and that’s kind of, I think, the result tonight.” 

Kuraly’s multi-point night was impressive, but what was even more impressive was his line’s ability to take on the Brayden Schenn line (Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Schenn) and shut them down after the Bruins' “perfect” top line proved to be not so perfect against them. 

The first goal of the game came off the stick of Brayden Schenn, who had all day to pick a corner behind Tuukka Rask. The reason for Schenn’s ample amount of time was because Patrice Bergeron curled to his right expecting a breakout pass. When it never came, it was because the puck was turned over and went right back to a wide open Schenn.

The Blues' second goal came from the same matchup, this time with David Pastrnak leaving a pass behind the net for no one except Schenn, who grabbed it and fed Tarasenko in front for the finish.

Because of the bad results when Bergeron’s line went against Schenn’s, Cassidy switched it up. 

“It wasn’t going our way, it’s that simple,” said Cassidy. “I thought Bergy’s line had a tough time finding their game tonight and the other guys were a little bit ahead of them, in terms of their puck possession. So we’ve used Kuraly’s line all year against good lines. So we decided to maybe go that route, which worked out for us tonight and we’ll re-evaluate on Wednesday.” 

Schenn's line got some shots against the Bruins' fourth line, but Kuraly and linemates Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari kept them away from danger and outscored them 1-0 in just over 10 minutes of head-to-head even-strength time.

As Cassidy said, the Kuraly line has been effective at going against other teams' top lines all season. Noel Acciari brings the hard hits, Joakim Nordstrom brings the speed and Kuraly brings a mix of both. 

“I think it shows the confidence that obviously our coach has in us to go out there and do that job, and we know what our job is when we’re out against a line like that,” said Kuraly of facing teams' top guns. “It’s to make it difficult for them to create any offense, and you know, they’re a great line so it’s tough. 

“But the expectation from us was just play them hard and play them honest and make them earn every inch and if they beat us with their skill — which will definitely happen at times — then so be it, but we’re not going to let them beat us with something silly that is a mistake by us.” 

Kuraly’s line did just that in the opener of the Stanley Cup Final, which is the main reason why the Bruins are now three games from hoisting the Stanley Cup. 

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