The Bruins’ identity has been connected to their defense from Day 1. That’s the buy-in Bruce Cassidy established with his players, and they’ve responded.

For everything else they did well against the Carolina Hurricanes – special teams, goaltending, depth scoring – the defensive, lock-down effort in Game 4 is why the Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup finals.

There’s plenty impressive about a shutout on the road in an elimination game against a team that had lost in its own arena just once in the playoffs. But what the Bruins did was otherwordly. They prevented the Hurricanes, the team that led the NHL in shots, from getting what would even resemble a scoring chance for the final two periods.

Just four shots allowed in the second period and two allowed in the first five minutes of the third made it feel like Carolina was done well before the final buzzer.

It was the Bruins at their absolute best, and they did it without Zdeno Chara.

“I don’t recall a lot of slot chances,” Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I don’t know if the analytics would back that up. I assume they would. Those are the most dangerous ones, so we kind of kept them outside.”

That effort included 27 minutes from Torey Krug, who led all Bruins skaters in time on ice – a far cry from the perceptions about the defenseman who some wanted shipped out of town, citing a lack of defensive prowess.

“We talk about that just because we have guys out, whether it’s Z or Charlie (McAvoy in Game 1), we don’t need any superheroes back there to step in,” Krug said. “It’s just about playing good solid hockey, and our systems will take over eventually. We have a great goaltender that backstops us and gives us a chance to win. Like I said before, no superheroes. Just good solid plays and we’ll be OK.”

It included Patrice Bergeron, who fielded questions all series about his lack of production and then scored twice in Game 4, including once at even strength.

It included David Pastrnak, once a victim of Internet outrage calling for his healthy scratch early in the Columbus series, having one of his best showings in the playoffs.

“Over the last few years, we’ve built something special with the young guys,” Bergeron said. “They’re a big part of this group and this team. They want to get better. They are big-time players and they relish any challenge, so it’s been a fun ride.”

That’s just the way the Bruins were built; adapt and adjust to whatever the game presents, and step up when needed.

The defense exuded that most of all.

Kevan Miller was out, John Moore was thrust into the lineup, Connor Clifton is in his first handful of NHL games, McAvoy is just 21 years old, Brandon Carlo is playing his first playoff hockey.

It wasn’t just enough to beat the Hurricanes and get to the Stanley Cup finals. It was enough for their most magnificent clinic of the season in shutting down a desperate team.

This postseason, at first, felt like growth from the shortened run a year ago. The Bruins toppled Toronto in the first round, and this time they were ready for the second round. They put their foot on the gas and did not let up.

They didn’t let up in the Eastern Conference finals, either. Without their captain, the Bruins clamped down and finished off the Hurricanes in four games.

That’s what the identity has been all season, after all. And they’ve never really gone out of character.

“It’s been a special group since Day 1,” Bergeron said. “You need everybody to be a part of it and contribute. It’s been that way, that’s the only way you can really advance. There’s a lot of work in front of us, but it’s a special feeling.”