Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

What are these Bruins made of? We just got a pretty good idea

Scott McLaughlin
April 26, 2018 - 12:59 am

You’ve already failed to win two closeout games. Then your 3-2 Game 7 lead turned into a 4-3 deficit thanks to a sloppy second period. Now you’re 20 minutes from elimination, from a massively disappointing end to such a promising season.

So what are you made of? When it comes to the Bruins, we got a pretty good idea Wednesday night. This was not going to be that disappointing end, because they weren’t going to let it be.

With their backs against the wall, the B’s came out of the locker room after the second intermission and played one of their best periods of the season when they needed it the most. They were aggressive, they were flying around the ice, and they had some swagger.

That last part may have been the most encouraging. There were plenty of times in this series when the Bruins didn’t look too confident, like they weren’t really sure if they were actually a Stanley Cup contender. There were moments when there was just a little hesitation that resulted in a scoring chance going by the wayside, or a little bit of carelessness that led to a turnover. There was letup after goals that opened the door for Toronto to answer. Not enough killer instinct.

But in the third period of Game 7, the Bruins looked like a bully. They looked mean. They took it to Toronto in every conceivable way -- on the forecheck, on the rush, in the corners. They barely gave the Leafs room to breathe, much less skate with the puck or get off a shot. It took Toronto eight minutes just to get a shot on goal in the period, and by that time the Bruins had already wrestled away the lead.

Where did all this confidence come from? Well, the Bruins had reminded themselves during the intermission that they could do it, that they had done it. They’ve been able to come back in the third period all year, so why shouldn’t they do it now?

“Didn’t matter how long it was going to take, we were going to do the job,” Torey Krug said. “You know, it’s kind of how we were all season long, coming back in games, losing guys to injury. It was just kind of like the definition of our season, so it didn’t matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them and we did.”

It started right from the period’s opening faceoff with David Krejci’s line immediately getting the puck in deep and going to work. Zdeno Chara had an early look from the point with Rick Nash setting a screen, but Frederik Andersen was able to gobble up the shot. No matter. There would be more chances.

The snarl kicked in shortly after that when Krejci got right in Zack Hyman’s face after he basically tackled Brad Marchand, as if to say, “No more of that.” The get-together resulted in matching penalties, which turned out to be a blessing for the Bruins, as they tied the game seconds later.

Patrice Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff, Kevan Miller swooped in and slid it back to Krug, and Krug stepped into a rocket of a one-timer that flew past Andersen’s glove. Krug threw his arms up, skated back toward his bench and yelled, “LET’S GO!” The crowd was jacked and so was the team.

If there was a moment that could’ve killed some of that excitement, it might’ve been when Rick Nash took an unnecessary retaliation penalty a couple minutes later that negated a Bruins power play. But that wasn’t going to happen. The ball was already rolling downhill.

Before Nash was even out of the box, his young linemate, Jake DeBrusk, put the Bruins ahead as he continued a fantastic first career playoff series. He got a head of steam and just barreled down the right side past Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner before beating Andersen five-hole while getting knocked to the ice. It was the sort of bullish play that DeBrusk has been making all series, and one that perfectly embodied the kind of attitude the Bruins should always have.

While there were times in this series when DeBrusk seemed like the only Bruin playing that way, he wasn’t alone in the third period Wednesday. When the Bruins made it 6-4 with 8:21 to go, it was Marchand and Bergeron getting in on the forecheck and winning the puck away from Toronto, with Bergeron then setting up David Pastrnak in front for his fifth goal of the series. It was the third goal of the game that line had created, and they would go on to add an empty-netter to cap off a performance in which they rediscovered the finishing touch they had earlier in the series.

 The Bruins’ fourth line had some good forechecks and offensive zone cycles that helped kill time and prevent the Leafs from mounting any sort of comeback. Zdeno Chara, who played nearly half the game, consistently looked like a bouncer throwing Leafs out of the area around Tuukka Rask.

These were the Bruins that can contend for the Cup. They were there to start the series, and they were there to finish it. Now if they can make sure that team doesn’t fade away like it did at times in the middle of this series, look out.