The three and a half hours of sleep I received before work this morning were well worth it — Around 1:30 a.m. (on the East coast), big Zdeno Chara bore down San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and unleashed his 105 M.P.H. cannon from 20 feet out.
Chara’s lone goal in the shootout completed a 65+ minute effort for the Black and Gold last night in San Jose and gave the Bruins a 2-1 victory at the HP Pavillion.
From the opening puck drop, Boston was able to match the Sharks intensity as both teams traded scoring chances and engaged each other physically. Noteworthy last night was the performance of Milan Lucic who stood out in the 1st last night with two very strong plays: one, a big hit along the side boards in the defensive zone, and later he did a great job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone up against the boards. He was able to put a good deal of pressure and torque on that injured ankle, which is great news. Even from a few thousand miles away, I could see a desperation, an energy, and a willingness to do anything to win that has been lacking from Boston’s play for the better part of this season. Key injuries to key players have caused Bruin players to rely not on skill, but on sheer determination. When Mark Recchi is your top-line Center, you know it’s gonna be a grind-em-out type of evening. That’s precisely what I saw.
Perhaps Boston’s exemplary effort was rewarded with a little luck; over the past week, I’ve been saying that the Bruins will need opportunistic offense and A+ goaltending. They received both last night. Daniel Paille capitalized on a San Jose turnover when his rebound bounced in off of Shark D-man Dan Boyle in the 1st and Tim Thomas had a very strong game and was as competitive as I’ve seen him all season; even though he was twice aided by the goalpost. Of his 41 saves last night, probably five could be considered difficult, which is a credit to the defensive system installed by Head Coach Claude Julien and his staff. Boston did a good (not great) job of clearing the front of the net and keeping the Sharks shooters to the outside. I will say that Boston did an above average job of clogging up passing lanes on everyone except Joe Thornton who, like Marc Savard, can thread the needle with the best of them.
All in all, last night was the most exciting win for this team since the Winter Classic. I only hope they can sustain that effort and intensity. Boston goes for win number two on this road trip tomorrow afternoon in Los Angeles. I will be able to catch the first two periods on my laptop during my layover in Denver. I’ll post periodically during my week vacation in Arizona. Go Coyotes!