The Boston Bruins were dealt a difficult hand when Dmitry Orlov knocked Kevan Miller out of Game 4 with a high hit. The impact sent Miller to the hospital for additional testing, and it was on the remaining five defensemen to close out the game. Rallying behind their fallen leader Boston proceeded to cruise to a 4-1 victory.
“We felt like we had to get it done for him,” David Pastrnak said after the game “He’s a big part of our team. That was our main focus going into the third to get it done for him”.
One of those defensemen forced to step up was Connor Clifton who was activated in game two for the injured Jeremy Lauzon. Clifton is cut from the same cloth as Miller, while not the most intimidating in stature they both take pride in separating their man from the puck, often with intense velocity.
So when it came time to find Miller’s replacement and Clifton’s defensive partner in advance of Game 5 it was between gritty veteran Jarred Tinordi and Urho Vaakanainen, the answer was quite simple. At 6-foot-6, 205 pounds Tinordi is a mack truck on skates with impeccable reach and compliments Clifton’s rough and tough style beautifully.
Physically Clifton and Tinordi harassed Washington all night long
The two proceeded to feast on unsuspecting Capitals, a specifically jarring collision came at the hand of Clifton who flattened Garnett Hathaway behind Boston’s net. Aside from the physical nature, the pair made simple plays all night long. When in danger they’d chip it off the high glass, against Washington’s forecheck they’d reverse the play behind their own net and pass out of the zone, against the rush they’d take away the middle of the ice by angling Washington’s forwards to the corners.
Collectively the pair combined for nearly 35 minutes played, six of which were spent shorthanded. Impressive work from two players who at times struggled to find their footing in the regular season, let alone play meaningful minutes together.
In the second period, momentum swung in Boston’s favor. Despite being outshot and out-chanced the Bruins lept to a 2-0 lead by virtue of an incredible individual effort from David Pastrnak. Washington did get one back just 11 seconds into the third period when former UMass Amherst captain Conor Sheary tucked his own rebound over Rask’s shoulder, but that be as close as they’d get. Just 12 minutes later Bergeron collected his second goal of the game to make it 3-1 which stood as the game’s final score.
With the emergence of the Charlie McAvoy/Matt Gryzelcyk as well as Brandon Carlo/Mike Reilly pairings both Tinordi and Clifton provide sandpaper to a core that lacks grit. Although the sample size is small Bruce Cassidy would be wise to keep his new third defensive pair together. Miller is likely slated to miss considerable time recovering from his ailments but Cassidy can rest assured that his lineup won’t be lacking what Miller brings to the table.