When it comes to shutting down one of Boston’s top forwards this postseason, Connor Clifton was blunt.
“It can’t be done really,” the B’s defenseman said. “Especially when he’s doing his rink turns and you never know where he’s going.”
From an opposing standpoint, there are a number of Bruins forwards that can be a thorn in your side when it comes to tying them up in the offensive zone.
Brad Marchand is one of the strongest wingers in the league when he has the puck on his stick. Both David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk have the wheels to catch even the most steady defenseman flat-footed with a quick move to the inside. Charlie Coyle clocks in at 6-foot-3, 22o pounds. Patrice Bergeron is … well, Patrice Bergeron.
But Clifton’s scouting report centered on Boston’s fourth-line pivot — a testament to the overall mismatch that Boston’s forward corps has presented so far this postseason.
On a night in which seven different Bruins skaters tallied at least a point and all but one landed a shot on goal against Jordan Binnington, it was Sean Kuraly that served as the primary offensive catalyst for Boston in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The lone Bruin to finished with two points against the Blues, Kuraly assisted on Clifton's tally at 2:16 in the second period to put Boston on the board after carrying the puck close to 150 feet down the other end of the sheet.
The NHL has been ushering in more speed and skill for years now, but it might be the most evident when looking at bottom-six forwards these days.
I mean, this is Boston's fourth-line center: pic.twitter.com/77ZkXAn7bj
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 28, 2019
The 26-year-old center provided the heroics in the final stanza, knocking a puck past Binnington at 5:21 to give Boston its first lead of the night — one that it did not relinquish en route to a 4-2 win.
Now up to three goals and seven total points over 14 games during this Cup run, Kuraly has been a key cog in what has been an effective bottom-six corps for the Bruins — with his mix of size and speed creating plenty of headaches for the opposition.
“Kurls’ line was unreal and really won that game for us,” Brad Marchand said.
He wasn’t just talking about Kuraly’s contributions on the scoresheet.