Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm made an impact almost right away in his return to the lineup in Game 6.
Lindholm, who missed the previous three games due to an upper-body injury he suffered in the Game 2 loss, found himself defending a two-on-one Hurricanes’ rush. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho entered the Bruins’ zone with Seth Jarvis flanked to his right. It appeared that the Hurricanes were at least going to get a scoring chance, it was just a matter of whether it was going to be Aho or Jarvis who would shoot the puck.
They didn’t get that chance, though. Lindholm made a clean steal as Aho tried to lead Jarvis as the two skated into the faceoff circles. Lindholm shared how he baited Aho into committing a turnover on that play.
“I think, anything to put misdirection in the player’s head – where to put it,” Lindholm said. “If you have a good player [to defend] and you’re not moving, they’re going to find spots around you. So I just wanted to put some misdirection there and force a pass, and it ended up working this time.”
As Lindholm gained possession of the puck, his relatively new defensive partner Charlie McAvoy came in and made a thunderous hit that knocked Aho down. The hit impressed Lindholm.
“I thought that was a clean, good hit,” Lindholm said. “That’s playoff hockey right there. I know when I break up a play like that, I want to try to get the puck off quick. But he came up quickly and cleaned it up for me there. So, it was a real good play on his end.”
Lindholm’s play helped keep the game scoreless just a little more than halfway through the first period. The Bruins ended up taking a 2-0 lead in the second, but met some resistance in the third when the Hurricanes scored a few minutes into the period. However, that was the closest Carolina got to tying Boston all night as the Bruins scored three consecutive goals before winning 5-2 to take Game 6 on Thursday.
Lindholm was impressed by his team’s performance in his return, which was the first playoff win he’s been a part of in five years.
“I think it was determination,” Lindholm said. “I know we’ve got a real good group out there. We’ve just got to work as five out there, every shift. The way we responded after their 2-1 goal says a lot about our character and we’ve got to keep that up.”
Lindholm ended up playing a major role in the Bruins’ win even after his clutch steal in the first period. He led all skaters in ice time Thursday night, playing nearly 25 minutes (24:48), roughly four more than any other Bruin. He also had two blocked shots and a +1 rating on the night.
In addition, Lindholm helped set up Charlie Coyle’s power-play goal in the second. He drew attention along the boards near the right faceoff circle, passing the puck to Brad Marchand at the point. David Pastrnak’s slapshot from the left faceoff circle was saved by Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta. But he wasn’t able to corral the rebound, which went to Coyle before he pushed it home.
The play began with Lindholm’s calmness while dealing with traffic, which he believes is a strength in his game.
3 takeaways from the Bruins’ Game 6 win to force a Game 7 against the Hurricanes
“I think that’s something I’ve been kind of known as a player since I’ve been young,” Lindholm said. “Everyone has their own thing they want to bring. I always want to try to be a difference-maker out there, whether it’s breaking up the two-on-one or making a good play. We have so many good players on the team so every time I’m out there I try to do something to put the team in a better position. I was just happy to see it go in. We’ve been working hard for those goals and it’s nice to get a little bounce.”
The McAvoy-Lindholm pairing had another strong night overall on Thursday, putting up a strong performance in just their 13th game together after the deadline deal for Lindholm.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy gave a simple reason why the duo works well together.
“I think they’re just good players. They’re naturally [good] and they both have an offensive mindset as well. So, I think they read off each other well,” Cassidy said. “When Charlie has the puck, Lindy knows ‘OK, if I have the puck in that situation where would I want my partner to go?’ They have that natural read off each other to get out of their end and get through the neutral zone.
“Like I said, mostly they’re just good players that have good hockey I.Q. that want the puck. Some guys, they’re more defensive-minded and don’t want it a lot. Those two both want it. If you want the puck, you’re presenting yourself where you want to get it and I think that’s what’s happening with them both.”
With their dominant Game 6 win, the Bruins head back to Carolina for Game 7. Boston has yet to win a game there all season, going 0-5. Lindholm embraces the challenge that lies ahead though.
“They’ve been confident there at home,” Lindholm said. “It’ll be fun for us to come in there as an underdog and show them what we’ve got. It’s an exciting game and I’m looking forward to it.”
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