There has been plenty of chatter recently about defensive weak links and Joe Corvos less-than-coveted place in that unpleasant discussion when it comes to the Bruins.
Its the kind of thing that can become a drumbeat during the regular season with games that seem to run together, but also gets wiped away with a couple of good playoff performances.
Conversely its difficult to gloss over the breakdowns and mental errors when they start coming in bunches during the postseason. But that wasnt the case when an Adam McQuaid injury forced Corvo back into the lineup for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals. The much-maligned Corvo started the play in overtime that ended with Chris Kellys game-winner in a 1-0 victory in Game 1 at TD Garden.
Zanon made a nice play to corral Marcus Johansson into a spot where Tim Thomas could see the overtime shot coming, and then Corvo got the puck moving back up ice as any good puck-moving defenseman should.
I thought they moved the puck well on that one, and, you know, they were coming against us and were going to have a pretty good chance. Zanon made a great play there to come back and defend. Then we moved the puck up the ice quickly and caught them in a transition game, said Claude Julien. It was outside speed and being able to use that shot. I thought that at times tonight, when we did get that outside speed, we were looking to make plays through the middle versus shooting just like Kells did.
Perhaps it was a little mischievous bit of fun for Andrew Ference when he concocted the idea of an oversized Junkyard Dog chain with a padlock hanging off it as the player of the year trophy.
Some might have been referring Corvo as a weak link on the Bruins chain, and Ference turned that talk from a negative into a positive for a united Black and Gold front.
The Junkyard Dog 20-link chain is to be passed from teammate to teammate during the playoffs with the idea nobody among the 20 regulars in the Bs postseason lineup wants to be the weakest link.
But the unity and tight-knit chemistry that can arise from those kinds of team-bonding items is exactly what Corvo needed after a bitter end to his regular season. The bottom defensive pairing of Corvo and Greg Zanon was one the Bruins were expected to hide within defensemen shifts during the playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
They were looked at as a weak spot within Bostons game plan. Instead Zanon and Corvo went on the ice in overtime with everything on the line, and they were simply looking to make a play.
Its one of those games that kind of scares you cause were hanging in there, hanging in there. Their goalie is playing well and you just dont want to let them steal the first one. So, it was a relief, said Corvo. Youre hoping that somehow were going to get one break and someones going to score.
We werent really going into the scoring area so I thought it was a typical first game of a series. Usually teams come in and they depend on their goalie quite heavily and he did well. It makes you nervous a little bit but we came out ahead in the end.
On a day when all of the talk was about Ovechkin vs. Chara -- and rightfully so given the kind of impact those two titanic players can have during an on-ice conflict -- it was Corvo and Zanon that helped paved the way for victory.
Corvo finished with 19:10 of ice time, had three shots on net and even finished with a plus-1 in victory for the Bruins. It was a nice first step toward getting his shot confidence back.
Corvo had already nearly won the game single-handedly when he rocketed a shot off the post in the third period, but he truly came out with smart offensive decisions in overtime leading up to the score. He avoided the temptation of simply throwing the puck through the middle of the ice and instead trusted where everybody else would be at that point.
Im just getting it off the wall, just keeping it out of the middle. Because I dont know whats in the middle behind me but I know whats on the wall, said Corvo. So, Im just trying to get it out of the zone.
It was Zanon that perfectly placed himself in the way of Marcus Johansson bid while rushing the Boston net, and allowed Tim Thomas to make his 17th and final save of the evening. Even better Thomas kicked the puck right out to Corvo, and Bostons puck-mover showed some offensive acumen by starting a transitional counter-punch.
One dish later to Brian Rolston on the side boards, and Rolston found Benoit Pouliot streaking toward the offensive zone.
Pouliot pushed it up to Chris Kelly on the left wing, and the rest was history for the two-way pivot once he unloaded top shelf on Braden Holtby.
It was another stark reminder of just how important Kelly is to the things the Bruins want accomplished, but its also a reminder that a guy like Corvo can still be useful if hes using his puck-moving skills for good in the upcoming postseason run.