May 3, 2011

Down a man, B's blueline did whatever it took to hold off Flyers

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Surviving even a small portion of a hockey game down a man on the blueline is a tall task. In Game 2 of their series with the Flyers on Monday night, the Bruins corps of d-men nearly did so for an entire tilt.

Boston lost Adam McQuaid with under three minutes to go in the first period of a 2-2 game, as the rugged blueliner missed a check on Mike Richards and sprained his neck after crashing head-first into the boards.

"Obviously it's not easy to look at," said Tomas Kaberle, McQuaid's partner. "I saw it on the replay and it didn't look good. He's a tough kid, so hopefully he'll be back as soon as possible."

The onus to replace No. 54's minutes fell equally on the five remaining defensemen, as they were rotated in and out frequently up until the final horn at the 14:00 mark of overtime.

"Well it's a coach's decision and they can tell who is fresh and who isn't," Kaberle said the team's approach. "It's about matchups as well."

Pushed to their physical limits, the Bruins blueliners regularly returned to the bench at the end of their shifts gasping for air, exhausted by the 74-minute contest.

"Well you have to do whatever it takes," Kaberle said of the team's effort in the 3-2 win. "Sometimes it's one, two or three overtimes. It's nice to see us find a way, especially in overtime. You have to put everything on the line and it's nice to come back home with a 2-0 lead."

Boston's band of drained d-men somehow withstood a 32-shot barrage in the third period and overtime without getting scored on, as the Flyers controlled the latter half of the tilt.

"Right now we know it wasn't pretty last night," said Kaberle. "But, like I said, we found a way to win and that's what matters in playoff hockey."

Thankfully for the Bruins' sake, Tim Thomas was damn near an impenetrable wall, stopping 52 shots in the game -- 46 straight after Philadelphia jumped ahead 2-0 midway through the first period.

"Obviously he's been great, not just in the regular season but in the playoffs, last night especially," Kaberle said of the B's netminder. "They had a lot of scoring chances and, without him, who knows how the game would've ended."

Thomas' stellar play has understandably given the players in front of him a tremendous amount of confidence.

"It gives you a big boost," Kaberle said. "You know you can trust him and count on him every game. It's not just one on or  one off, he's solid every game. You can tell before the games when he's getting ready and he's focused on his game."

Boston was awfully lucky to head home with a 2-0 lead in the series, and each of the players recognizes that winning Game 3 will require a few changes.

"We have to make adjustments, play our game and just keep things simple," Johnny Boychuk said of the Bruins next tilt. "We've just got to try to get pucks in deep, limit the turnovers and keep play down their end as much as we can."

With what they hope will be six defensemen available for the entirety of their next game, life should be a little bit easier for those on the Bruins back-end.