Bruins 3, Maple Leafs 1: Bruins win without Patrice Bergeron

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Photo credit Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

Less than an hour before puck drop of a crucial Game 4, the Bruins found out that Patrice Bergeron (upper-body, considered ‘day-to-day’) would not be available.

Given Bergeron’s importance -- he’s the driving force of the best line in hockey, plays in every situation possible, and has been asked to be a shutdown force against the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews -- and with all due respect to replacement-on-the-fly Riley Nash, this could have and should have been a total backbreaker for the Bruins.

But with a Torey Krug shot clapped by Frederik Andersen just 28 seconds into the first period, and with two goals featuring direct involvement from the Bergeron-less Bergeron line in a 3-1 final, the B’s managed their way into a 3-1 series lead coming back to Boston.

...Just as everybody drew it up.

Or how you could have drawn it up, to be honest.

Let's think about it: Everything about this season has been a test of this club’s ability to deal with adversity. Be it because of injuries, slumps, or brutal scheduling, the Bruins have consistently had to dig deep and find ways to remain competitive. And Bergeron was not the first Bruin to suddenly become unavailable just an hour before a game. The same happened earlier in the season with a David Krejci injury that absolutely decimated the Bruins' depth down the middle and middle-six scoring punch, and then came again after the deadline when Rick Nash came down with some post-concussion issues two days after a blow to the head that didn't knock out of a Mar. 17 contest.

And the Bruins have had to battle through injuries to Bergeron long before tonight.

He missed the first five games of the season (the Bruins were a disaster then), and then missed 13 games during the regular season stretch run. The Bruins fared much better the second time around, for what it’s worth, with a 9-2-2 record sans Bergeron. Largely with Riley Nash skating in Bergeron's spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, too. 

Previous experience with this situation undoubtedly helped a player like Marchand -- somebody that’s been attached to Bergeron’s hip since 2011 -- play his game as if were No. 37 were there, with a goal and two shots in a forward-leading 20:25 of time on ice. Same for Pastrnak in what was a two-assist night. Even Riley Nash in just his second game back from an ear laceration that left him with concussion-like symptoms, came through with countless chances generated or plays kept alive with his steady three-zone play. 

Sweet, sweet dish from Pasta to Marchand.

— Puck Show (@PuckShow) April 20, 2018

Being down an all-world center also forced Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari to up their own-zone play to the best of their ability.

The trio combined for seven defensive-zone faceoff wins, including four from Nash against Tomas Plekanec. The Bruins had a massive d-zone buy-in from all of their skaters, in fact, with 12 different players finishing the win with at least one blocked shot, including four from both Kuraly and Tommy Wingels (back in action for the first time since Game 1).

And on the heels of a could-have-been-better performance in Game 3, Tuukka Rask set the tone for the night with stops on all but one of the 32 shots the Leafs threw his way.

Is this the kind of performance that the Black and Gold put together if this is their first time dealing without the services of their best all-around player? Likely not. So consider Thursday another test passed, and with a knockout punch now on the table as this series shifts back to a rockin’ TD Garden for another Saturday night showdown. With or without Bergeron.

As crazy as that may sound. 

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