The NHL playoffs would have started Wednesday night if not for the season being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While there’s no way to replicate the excitement of what would have been -- and may still be -- another postseason run for a promising Bruins team, we hope we can at least bring back some good memories by counting down the top 10 Bruins playoff games of the last decade over the next few weeks.
We start with the only entry on the list from last year’s postseason. Now, it seems very odd for a playoff run that went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to only get one game in the top 10, but 2019 was pretty weird for the Bruins in that sense.
As memorable as the spring as a whole was, it wasn’t exactly loaded with all-time classic games and moments like the ones we’ll see as this list goes on. The opening round against Toronto was a rivalry series and ended with the Bruins’ third Game 7 victory over the Maple Leafs of the decade, but most of the games were actually pretty one-sided, including the Bruins’ 5-1 Game 7 triumph.
The Eastern Conference Final against Carolina was a total beatdown and a four-game sweep. The Stanley Cup Final against St. Louis went seven games, but was dominated as much by talk about poor officiating and suspendable hits as it was memorable goals. The Blues won the only two one-goal games in the series, including the only overtime game.
That leaves the second round against Columbus, which has to be the best series from the Boston perspective in terms of great, competitive games.
Game 1 could’ve easily made this list as well. The Bruins led 1-0 after two periods, but then the Blue Jackets scored two goals 13 seconds apart to take the lead. That set up Charlie Coyle’s heroics, as the Weymouth native scored the tying goal with 4:35 left in regulation and the winning goal 5:15 into overtime. Game 2 was also great, as it went to double overtime and ended with the Blue Jackets tying the series.
But Game 5 gets the nod here. After the teams split Games 3 and 4 in Columbus, the series returned to Boston tied 2-2. The game was a defensive, goaltending-duel type game through two periods, with Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky both making some big saves and a David Krejci goal early in the second period standing as the lone score.
Then the floodgates opened in a wild third period, with the teams combining for six goals, including four in a 3:25 stretch in the middle of the period, and the Bruins eventually taking the lead for good on a late David Pastrnak winner.
Brad Marchand made it 2-0 Bruins early in the period. Then Seth Jones gave Columbus some life at the 10:33 mark when his centering pass from the corner deflected off Matt Grzelcyk’s stick and just squeaked inside the post.
Then Pastrnak made it 3-1 just 43 seconds later when he beat Bobrovsky on a 2-on-1. Then Ryan Dzingel scored 51 seconds later to make it 3-2. Then Dean Kukan tied it 1:51 after that on a rocket of a one-timer.
The TD Garden crowd that had been going crazy after both the Marchand and Pastrnak goals was temporarily quieted… until Pastrnak struck again. With a minute and a half left in regulation, Brandon Carlo stepped up and made a great play to force an Artemi Panarin turnover, then started the rush the other way with a transition pass to Marchand. Marchand then found Pastrnak streaking to the net for a one-touch finish that sent the Garden into delirium once again.
Based on the way the period had gone, 1:28 was still plenty of time for something to happen, and sure enough, the Blue Jackets did come close to scoring again -- a few times. Matt Duchene hit the post with 45 seconds left, Rask made a great sprawling pad save on Cam Atkinson with 16 seconds left, and then Charlie McAvoy laid out to block a threatening Panarin one-timer in the final seconds to secure the win.
Just in terms of sheer rewatchability, this third period (which starts at 3:52 in the video below) is about as good as it gets, and that’s enough to earn this game the No. 10 spot on our countdown.
The Bruins would go on to finish off the series with a 3-0 Game 6 win in Columbus, sending them to the conference finals for the third time in nine years.