And when the opening bell rang on this titanic Boston-Tampa series, we came to see what kind of punch the Lightning would throw after being remade in a more black-and-blue image.
Instead, we were reminded of a universal hockey truth: the Bruins are exactly what we thought they were.
“There are no moral wins here, there are lessons learned,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Boston.
You come to the king, it is better not to miss.
Game 1 was tilted in the Bruins’ favor with a series of tiny edges. Then the dagger came like lightning, Patrice Bergeron lifting Ryan McDonagh’s stick before the defender had any idea he was in grave danger.
From there it was a quick touch of the puck to David Pastrnak, who put a non-gazing backhand saucer pass straight to Brad Marchand’s strip in a shooting position with nothing but an empty net. on which to shoot.
“That goal was all about him,” Marchand said of Bergeron. “His pre-check there, a great read. This is why he will be a member of the Hall of Fame.
The entire sequence took place in two seconds. You might as well put it in the terrifying Louvre.
“When our offensive players do that we’re going to be hard to stop because they can finish a few games,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s a second-effort league.”
“Obviously everyone saw it,” Cooper added. “They do big games at a high speed so if you let it go for a second they will catch you because they are competing really hard and they will never give up the games. And that is clearly what happened there.
“We have a recipe for them, but in the end you just hope to control them.”
He was referring to Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak – the so-called “Line Perfection,” which has always been felt to be an imperfect label because it’s a sport where that ideal just isn’t achievable.
Boston’s front row was anything but perfect to open this second-round series and yet they found a way to make a difference. This group played uphill for a significant portion of the game and still had a hand in all three goals: with Marchand winning the line and holding the puck before Charlie Coyle knocked down a shot from Brandon Carlo’s point, and Pastrnak burying a David Krejci feeding off the power play, and ultimately Marchand completed the magnificent 1:17 streak in the third period that raised the bar a little higher than Tampa’s feverish comeback attempt could reach.
Still, it was a start to the series that left you with no reason to draw big conclusions.
Tampa and Boston have each owned a top spot in the NHL for what feels like a sporting eternity. Over the past three regular seasons, they rank No.1 and 2 for wins and points.
No one has scored more goals than the Lightning during that time. No one has authorized less than the Bruins.
They could end up playing seven games in 11 nights if that best-of-seven goes the distance and that’s why every decision seemed more of a long-term investment than a win-at-any-cost move at the moment.
Cooper gave his fourth row essentially the same 5v5 time as his second row (7: 46-7: 37), meaning Patrick Maroon played almost as much as Tyler Johnson. That trend may not continue when the puck drops in Game 2 on Tuesday, but after a year where the Lightning decided to toughen the bottom of the list, the head coach has leaned on his beef.
“They have a little different makeup now. They compete a lot harder, they’re a lot more physical and obviously they have a ton of talent, ”said Marchand.
Considering the stakes, the biggest disappointment for the Lightning was a lukewarm first half where they only managed 19 shooting attempts in total. They trailed 1-0 in intermission, pushed hard through the middle frame, and still lost 2-0 due to the special teams advantage highlighted by Pastrnak’s power play goal.
Tampa eventually managed to break through with two responses from the late Victor Hedman in traffic – both glanced at Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy along the way – but it didn’t save any extra pride.
Almost a month after the bubble started, this is where it really starts to get stressful. The winner of this series will have a path to the Stanley Cup final and both teams are incredibly invested in the outcome.
We saw the temperature start to rise to a boil as the Bruins and Lightning found their balance in Game 1 and were reminded that neither head nor shoulders are above each other.
“You can’t win with just one line. You have to drive to the end, ”said Marchand. “Different heroes every night, different series. That’s why we were a good team last year, that’s why we have been dominant throughout the season. And why we are here tonight.
“We are counting on our group. We still have the following mindset and it continues.
It’s a four-man race.
And the punches are just starting to fly.