The Boston Bruins have eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, again. This time, they had to dig hard in order to get a series victory. In Game 7 on Tuesday night at TD Garden, it was very difficult for the Bruins to score goals. They had no power plays and their top two units were left without a point (not counting empty net goals). It was a perfect time for the Bruins bottom-six to strike and the one who almost always leads the way is Sean Kuraly.
Ever since his first game with the Boston Bruins, Sean Kuraly is one of the most important players for them. From outside the League, people would regard him as “just” a fourth-liner. But that’s not completely correct. Over his third season with Boston, Kuraly has scored some big-time goals at very key moments.
Sean Kuraly: From Late Draft Pick to Bruins Playoffs Hero
Sean Kuraly was drafted 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks then sent him to Boston in the Martin Jones trade in 2015. A very small part of that deal, but eventually an awfully important one for the Bruins. After Kuraly finished his tenure with Miami University in Ohio, he came to play with the Providence Bruins in the AHL for the 2016-2017 season. In his 54 games in the regular season, the Ohio native collected 14 goals and 12 assists. He also made his NHL debut with the Bruins that season, playing in eight regular-season games while producing one assist.
Nobody expected him to play in the playoffs as the Bruins faced the Ottawa Senators in the first round. But with so many injuries the Bruins had during that spring, Bruins Head coach Bruce Cassidy decided to give Kuraly a look. In Game 5, when the Bruins trailed the series 1-3, they also trailed 0-2 in the game on the road. After David Pastrnak made it a one-goal game, Sean Kuraly tied it up in the second period with his first NHL goal.
That elimination game for the Bruins went all the way to double overtime, where Kuraly won it. Even though the Bruins lost following Game 6, Game 5 was quite remarkable and it helped the Bruins to change their direction. From a team nearly missing the playoffs in three straight years, to a team reaching more than 100 points in back-to-back seasons. Sean Kuraly was the hero that night. The Bruins fans have fallen in love with Kuraly ever since that spring and that love hasn’t faded away.
Kuraly Solidifying the Bruins Bottom-Six
After what he showed in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bruce Cassidy knew that Kuraly was going to be a regular in the lineup for the upcoming season. Sean Kuraly winded up playing in 75 games during the 2017-2018 season. In those 75 contests, he collected six goals and eight assists for 14 points. More than just that, he solidified the Bruins bottom-six.
The bottom-six for the Bruins was pretty much non-existent for the previous three seasons. That was also one of the main reasons why the Bruins missed the playoffs twice in 2015 and 2016. Kuraly, that small-looking piece in a trade with San Jose in 2015, helped the Bruins to reset their bottom-six again.
Kuraly formed part of the fourth line alongside Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari. This fourth line proved to be deadly on many occasions for the Bruins. Acciari scored 10 goals while Schaller, who left the Bruins in the past offseason, had 12 goals and 22 points combined. In the 2018 playoffs, Kuraly was shinning in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In seven games in that series, Kuraly scored two goals and added two assists. Once again, he demonstrated how good he is for the Bruins in the playoffs.
Sean Kuraly Comeback Enough For Bruins in Game 7 Win
In the 2018-2019 season, Kuraly enjoyed the best season of his career. Last summer, Kuraly signed a three-year contract extension worth $1,275,000 per season. In his 71 games in the regular season, Kuraly scored eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points. The start to the season wasn’t good for him, though. Until December 22, Kuraly had just one goal all season long and that was scored with two seconds to go in an 8-2 game. Two days before Christmas, Kuraly scored an empty-netter.
After Christmas, he scored an overtime winner in an important divisional game against the Buffalo Sabres on the road. Two days later, he scored a third-period game-winner in the Winter Classic. Those were two important wins for the Bruins season. Later on, he had the first three-point game of his career in another divisional road win versus the Maple Leafs. Two days before his hand injury in late March, he scored twice in a convincing 5-0 win on the road versus the New York Islanders.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) 24. apríla 2019
Kuraly had to miss the first four games of the series against Toronto. In his first game back, in Game 5, his game was rusty a bit. But in Game 6 it was him again, helping the Bruins big time. In Game 7, he assisted Joakim Nordstrom for an opening goal before scoring a third-period goal to make it 3-1. That goal legitimately killed all the momentum the Leafs could possibly have. In his three games, his xGF% was at 78.46 at even strength, while solely in Game 7 it was at 83.78 at even strength. There is no wonder why the Bruins played their best defence since Kuraly came back.
Kuraly Set For Another Playoff Ride With Boston
When the Bruins needed a huge double-overtime win in that Game 5 in Ottawa, it was Sean Kuraly. Playing the Winter Classic to boost the Bruins confidence, it was Sean Kuraly scoring on special stage to win it. When they needed someone to score some big goals in big road games during the season, once again, it was him scoring them. When the Bruins faced Game 7, of course, he scored a massive third-period goal.
There is almost no doubt about who is going to score a Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Bruins. But that’s far away from Boston right now. Now they will turn the page and face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round. Playing a playoff game at Nationwide Arena in his home-state Ohio with the Bruins, it will certainly be very special for Kuraly and his family as well.
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