Krug’s hit, Bruins run the stuff legends are made of

Ah, it was a glorious Memorial Day weekend after a lousy spring.

The unofficial start of summer began with,– besides the very serious celebration of the holiday in the traditional sense – barbecues, beaches, baseball. … And hockey.

Monday night the long wait was over for the Boston Bruins. The area from City Hall Plaza to the TD Garden, not any beach, was the place to be. Stanley Cup Fever is the theme for the next week or so, depending on how long the Bruins series with the St.Louis Blues lasts.

After last night’s 4-2 Bruins win, it may not last very long.

It was a game that produced heroes. Sean Kuraly, Connor Clifton, and well, of course Torey Krug.

Skating without his helmet after getting entangled in front of his own goal in the third period, Krug brought the sold out TD Garden crowd – and the throng at City Hall Plaza watching on the big screen – to its feet. He skated all the way down the ice and delivered a clean, crushing hit, sans helmet, to St. Louis’ Robert Thomas.

“I wasn’t too happy about (the play down the ice),” Krug said. “I just came down the ice, had a chance to make a hockey hit. It gave the guys a boost on the bench, the crowd obviously liked it. It’s just part of the game. I’m sure there’s going to be another one next game.”

Amazing. Teams win when they do the little things. Krug’s hit will be part of Boston hockey lore if the B’s go on to win the Cup.

Monday night’s Game 1 was screaming for a play like that. Boston had started out a little sluggish, still had chances, but then came to life in the second period after the Blues had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“We didn’t skate, we turned the puck over, and gave them momentum,” said St. Louis coach Craig Berube, who when asked, said he didn’t see the Krug hit that might just be water cooler talk at the office today. And Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said, “I thought we brought the pucks out better as the game went along.”

Yes, the pace picked up. You could predict that.

You can imagine how the long 11-day layoff between Monday night’s Game 1 and Game 4 nearly two weeks ago in Carolina was agonizing for Bruins fans, and for the players. They had to first wait to see when the finals would begin – that was determined when the Western Conference semis would need more than five games – and then who their team would play. It’s the price of dominating your conference playoffs.

Amazingly enough, the Bruins have barely trailed after the first period in this entire playoff run. Who could have predicted that? But the Blues came in with some early resolve Monday night after all the pomp and circumstance and light show and louuuud fan reception at the TD Garden.

But oh, that Boston power play. The Blues were one of the least penalized teams in the playoffs, but they gave the B’s four power plays in the first two periods. That can’t happen, and as a result a 2-0 St. Louis lead disappeared. And eventually a player like Krug could make a play that could be the signature moment of the Finals.

“His courage,” Clifton said when asked what The Hit told him about Krug. “You know you don’t want to mess with that guy. Don’t make that guy mad.”

Maybe this will be a competitive series. Maybe not. It’s St. Louis’ turn to respond. Had the Bruins been playing Carolina Monday, they would have been up 2-0 early. St. Louis is a completely different animal. They survived two Boston power plays in the first period, a Jake DeBrusk breakaway, and a sneaky Marcus Johansson leaning attempt. Clearly goalie Jordan Binnington is someone who may be able to handle pressure. Remember, St. Louis has the best record in the NHL since early January.

But right now it feels as if this Bruins core knows it has a great opportunity. Just don’t tell that to Brayden Schenn and then Vladimir Tarasenko, the latter giving the Blues a 2-0 lead early in the second period. But when a Connor Clifton scores for the Bruins as he did to get them on the board shortly after the second Blues goal, you get that feeling that the Cup the TD Garden fans are screaming for is going to make the rounds in New England this summer.

“It was a good changing point,” Clifton said of his second period goal. “Eleven days off, like I said, it’s tough to come out and be 100 percent sharp. No worries.”

“Whatever the game needs,” Krug said. “If it needs a big hit, make a clean breakout play, or block a shot, our team is willing to do that.”

That’s why the New England region is buzzing about hockey as summer approaches. No one thought that was possible back in early April.

Probably didn’t think it would be possible in St. Louis, either.

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Finals, where anything is possible, heroes are born and legends are made.

Just ask Torey Krug. Or better yet, Robert Thomas.

Tom King may be reachd at 594-1251, or @Telegraph_TomK, or tking@nashuatelegraph.com