Commentary

Everything fell in line for Bruins

Updated: May 1, 2010, 8:59 PM ET
By Matt Kalman | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Who says you need set lines to win playoff hockey?

The Boston Bruins proved that isn't the case after battling through injuries to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in overtime in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday at TD Garden.

It took less than 41 seconds for the Bruins to lose winger Marco Sturm to a lower-body injury. Just nine minutes later, Vladimir Sobotka crashed into the net. Sturm didn't return, while Sobotka came back but played sparingly.

[+] EnlargeSteve Begin
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaSteve Begin celebrated his first playoff goal in 30 career games, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

In addition to those misfortunes, the Bruins were already going to have less Marc Savard than was ideal because he was playing his first game in two months after a severe concussion. So coach Claude Julien needed to play mix and match with his forward combinations.

Of course, these Bruins have been through so many personnel changes because of injuries this season, they'd probably be in bigger trouble if they kept the same lines together for more than a game or two.

"That's what it is. Sometimes in the playoffs, things like that happen," said Patrice Bergeron after Savard's goal in OT won it. "You've just got to make the most of it. We just had to all step up and all do the job and keep the shifts short."

Except for the grouping of David Krejci, Miroslav Satan and Milan Lucic, which pretty much stayed together, Julien juggled the rest of the lineup. Some combinations worked and some didn't. Obviously he made the right choice in sending out Savard just before the center's winning goal.

"It's never easy when you lose a guy on his first shift," said Julien. "We kind of had some set lines which we wish we would've been using. That's been basically the way we've operated.

"With all the injuries we've had this year, everybody's kind of played with everybody. So there's certainly help in that matter and we found a way again to get through it."

Five Bruins forwards scored, including Steve Begin. The veteran stepped into Sturm's spot on that line's next shift and potted his first career playoff goal in his 30th game. Over the course of the night, Begin flaunted his versatility, a greater asset than his hands around the net, by playing both winger and center with any number of combinations of forwards.

"I think I played on pretty much every line tonight. Everybody did," Begin said. "That's why we have to stay focused when the coach calls somebody. [There are] different lines, you have to stay ready, and I think we were tonight. We were ready as a team."

There's a familiarity between the Bruins' forwards that allows them to serve as interchangeable parts, but there also has to be communication.

"We're supposed to know what everybody's doing, what their tendency is," Begin said. "We've played with pretty much everybody here during the season when we had so many injuries and stuff like that. But we have to talk and we have to make sure we're ready on the bench too, because sometimes you don't expect it and they call your name with a different line and you have to make sure you get the right guy so we don't get called for too many guys on the ice."

The Bruins avoided bench minors and avoided a letdown. Now they'll try to avoid the relentless injury bug in order to get through the Flyers series. Of course, we still don't know how many bites of that bug are needed to take down the Bruins.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPN Boston and runs TheBruinsBlog.net. His first book, 100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, will be published by Triumph Books in the fall and can be pre-ordered here.

Matt Kalman

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade.

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