During the Boston Bruins’ four-game regular season series with Carolina — all games the Bruins won — Hurricanes star forward Eric Staal managed nary a point.
In the Bruins’ 4-1 series-opening victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden tonight, the Bruins’ mastery of Staal continued. The All-Star managed just two shots on net and no points in 18:12 of ice time.
“The best of how we played him is our forwards really got involved in disrupting his flow,” said Aaron Ward, who along with defense partner Zdeno Chara had the Staal assignment the whole night. “He’s a full-tilt guy. Once he gets his momentum going, he’s hard to stop. And guys got in his way and deviated his path up the ice. We didn’t do anything illegal, but we were aware of the fact that he was on the ice and we could find him wherever he was on the ice.”
While all four forward lines matched up against Staal at one point or another, Patrice Bergeron‘s trio with Chuck Kobasew and Mark Recchi got the bulk of the shifts against the Hurricanes’ top gun.
“I was just trying to play well defensively, in the neutral zone. And they’ve got a lot of speed, so we’ve got to make sure we play well against them,” said Bergeron. “Staal, he proved himself, he won the Cup and that whole line did. So it’s a good line, it’s tough to play against. But it’s only one game.”
Staal, who played with a few different wingers throughout the night and was even reunited with stalwarts Ray Whitney and Erik Cole for much of the second half, put a lot of the blame for his team’s struggles on the Hurricanes’ own play and he seemed to think there were brighter days ahead.
“We made it hard on ourselves,” said Staal, the Hurricanes’ second-leading scorer with 75 points (40 goals) in the regular season. “We played into their hands and into their system. That is what they do. They try to get ahead and then clog it up through the middle. They try to get you to make plays east to west and then pick them off in the middle. We can’t do that. We haven’t in a long time. We will be better next game.”