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Bruins host a welcome back party at the Garden

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 2, 2013 10:23 AM

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Good morning, pulse. Welcome back.

Where ya been?

The Boston Bruins kicked off the 2013 NHL playoffs with an impressive 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, looking nothing like the team that lingered through the second half of the shortened season, and every bit like a team playing with some purpose and passion. Again.

Finally.

Time will tell whether Game 1 was a signal that the heartbeat that drives these Bruins has returned to the Hub or if these young Leafs simply aren’t ready for prime time, but for one night, let’s call it a push. The Bruins took advantage of the Leafs’ mistakes and turnovers, and battered Toronto goalie James Reimer, who may or may not have been hearing “Luongo” chants from the crowd by the end of the evening.

But when Wade Redden is leading the charge, you have to assume things are going well.

Claude Julien went with experience over youth in Game 1, electing to go with veteran defenseman Redden while Dougie Hamiltion watched his first NHL playoff experience from the rafters. Of course, it paid off when Redden scored Boston’s first goal of the game, tying the game at 1 in the first, then nearly adding a second tally with seconds remaining in the period when Nathan Horton deflected his shot for a 2-1 lead.

Wade Redden?

Redden had scored only once since the Bruins acquired him last month, and most recently had been known as a forgotten soul in New York, where he was banished to the AHL. When the Bruins plucked him from St. Louis for a conditional draft pick, the best that could be said about the deal was that Redden and Zdeno Chara would old line buddies during their days in Ottawa. Expecting more than dressing room camaraderie seemed a stretch.

But...well, Wade Redden. Playoff hero.

“It’s been a long road. Obviously, the position I was in, a lot of uncertainties,” Redden said after his first playoff game since 2009. “But I kept working and kept believing. It’s great to be here now and have the chance, and I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

On that note, the Bruins certainly took advantage of every opportunity while the Leafs wilted in the raucous atmosphere of the Garden. In the game’s first five minutes, everything that Bruins fans worried about their team heading into the postseason rang true when Boston found itself in a 1-0 deficit after James van Riemsdyk’s power play goal. But instead of instantly going into panic mode, which is what the Bruins of the last half of this season might have done, they found the energy that was so missing most nights that they took the ice. They attacked Reimer, who had 36 saves on 40 shots, while his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Tuukka Rask, turned away every chance the Leafs tossed his way after the first period hiccup.

In his first playoff start since that night against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, Rask was workmanlike, but hardly tested all evening. Overmatched and intimidated, the young Leafs appeared lost after Horton’s score, unsure of how to play with a deficit while the playoff-tested Bruins ran over them. Good for night one. But the way they left the regular season behind, it’s only fair to question if Boston can do the same with any sort of consistency moving forward in the series.

We do remember the Bruins won Game 1 against the Capitals last spring, right?

“This series is not over,” Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul said. “There is plenty of belief in here.”

As there should be. Yet, they’re panicking already in Toronto, where it’s been nine years since a night like Wednesday. Hockey success plays in Toronto the way baseball success plays on the north side of Chicago, or football success in Buffalo; it’s a foreign concept with not much confidence in tow. The Bruins did little to change that out of the chute.

The Cup run may be in its infancy, but it sure was nice to run into an old friend on Wednesday.

If we meet that intensity three more times, maybe there will be reason to wonder if we might not see it 12 more times after that. It’s been a long while since we saw the Bruins look as good as they did against the Leafs.

Back at it Saturday. Wade Redden is ready.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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