Can we talk about how great this win was? It was pretty great.
Some hiccups, for sure. The last five minutes or so of the 2nd were dreadful. Total hold-on-for-dear-life deer-in-the-headlights hockey. Took our foot off the gas. Can't do that, ever.
Other than that, pretty good.
Bertuzzi was absolutely loving life. Setting up Fabbri's goals. Finishing checks. Getting under people's skin. Shutting down the best line in the NHL. Ho-hum.
Speaking of shutting down Boston's top line...yeah, that was a thing. The Larkin line won that matchup. Pastrnak had an assist on the Krug goal. Nothing for Bergeron. (Larkin more than held his own in the faceoff circle.) Nothing for Marchand, who got frustrated and probably hurt his team more than he helped it. I don't think he liked that Hronek dropped the gloves. I don't think he liked that all the jawing in the world didn't seem to rattle a bench that was supposed to be lacking confidence and composure. I don't think he liked that Mantha is actually a better shutdown (or, power-versus-power) player than people give him credit for.
Speaking of Mantha...I think I finally get it. I think he finally makes sense.
Dude was playing like he was sleepwalking last night. Except, he wasn't sleepwalking. He was engaged.
"We've always known that's a thing with him. He's big, so he can cover a lot of ground without exerting as much energy as a smaller guy like Bertuzzi. People see it as laziness. It's not."
Right, sure, but that's not really what I'm not talking about. It's more that he looked like he was stuck in slow motion while everyone else was playing at normal speed...and yet, it was more than a few times that the Bruins players playing at full speed seemed to struggle against him. It looked like he wasn't putting a ton of effort into anything he was doing...and yet, he seemed to cause some serious problems for the Bruins.
I guess the word I'm looking for is..."effortless"? Sure. At times last night, he looked effortlessly effective.
Maybe it's a fine line between A) not putting in enough effort and B) pulling stuff off so well that you make it look like it's nothing. I think what's finally clicked for me is the notion that an Anthony Mantha who has realized his full potential is a guy who routinely makes big-time plays look effortless. I'm thinking the challenge he's been facing is figuring out how to walk the line between playing hard, hard, hard and trying to become a Zetterberg-esque playmaker who's so freakishly good at slowing the game down that he can stand still with the puck in an o-zone pocket for what feels like ten seconds without the opposition swarming him and stripping him of the puck.
He's doing that Zetterberg thing now where he just holds the puck and then maybe loses the puck but then gets it right back and just kind of circles around the o-zone like a shark, and the other team isn't quite sure what to do so they just kind of cautiously shadow him and wait for him to give a sign that he's about to make a play, at which point they try to close him off and shut him down. I think Mantha realizes this and I think it's exactly how he's always wanted things to be. He wants to be big and dangerous on the ice, yes, but just as big and dangerous in opposing players' heads.
I think players are starting to treat him as a legit dynamic offensive threat who can burn you in a second, in any number of ways. While that means tighter checking and less time and space, he's hitting his prime and really coming into his own, which I think sort of offsets things. "Power versus power."
Does that make any sense? I feel like I'm doing a s*** job of explaining this.
The following (Mantha's empty-net goal) is absolutely not a perfect example of what I'm talking about, but I like the contrast between exhausted-looking Bergeron and confident-looking Mantha: