BOSTON – It wasn’t going to be an easy one for the Boston Bruins against one of the heavies from the Metropolitan Division, and they found that out the hard way against the New York Rangers.
The Bruins and Blueshirts tangled to a scoreless draw through the first 40 minutes, but the Black and Gold leaked for a couple of goals in the third to fall short in a 2-1 Thursday night loss to the Rangers at TD Garden. More than anything the game was about Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head in the opening 40 minutes to keep the attacking B’s off the board, and end a streak of 10 straight games with a goal in the first period.
Tuukka Rask was able to go save-for-save with King Henrik through the first two periods, but a fumbled puck hand-off between Rask and Zdeno Chara in the third period eventually came back to bite the Black and Gold. Pavel Buchnevich fired a puck from the face-off dot that went through Chara and then carried past Rask to put the Blueshirts on the board.
Oscar Lindberg added a goal to give the Rangers a commanding two-goal advantage in the third period, but the Bruins stormed back and got one of their own to take back some of the momentum. David Pastrnak drew a delayed penalty call while pushing through a Rangers defender toward the net, and was able to create a loose puck that Brad Marchand slammed home past Lundqvist for his 29th goal of the season.
But Lundqvist was able to draw a goalie interference call on David Backes in the closing minutes that left the B’s shorthanded, and ultimately slapped the B’s with their second loss in nine tries during the Bruce Cassidy Era. Lundqvist finished with 32 saves on the Bruins while earning the No. 1 Star of the game in shutting down the Boston offense.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting tired of the Friday news dumps.
*Here’s your Saturday morning hockey show on 98.5 the Sports Hub where yours truly, Billy Jaffe, Ryan Johnston, Bob Beers and Judd Sirott all talked Bruins, Ryan Donato, David Backes’ busy week and Boston’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight among other things.
*Alex Galchenyuk has been regaining his rhythm, speed and effectiveness for the Montreal Canadiens even as so many other things for them are spinning out of control.
*Braden Holtby has been one of a number of big-time NHL goalies that have struggled at times this season, but he may be getting his mojo back for the Washington Capitals.
*It looks like there’s never been a better time to be an NHL coach as all 31 coaches are going to keep their jobs through the season, the first time that’s happened in more than 50 years.
*Pro Hockey Talk has the details of Ilya Kovalchuk looking to return to the NHL next season after five years over in Russia.
*For something completely different: Love these galleries that Anthony Breznican does at Entertainment Weekly to break down the new Star Wars/Marvel trailers when they finally drop on the Internet. There are such great, little details to them.
TAMPA, Fla. – The Bruins will switch things up a little bit heading into their important game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, and that means a new look among their forward group.
The Bruins are bumping David Backes up to a center spot on the top line in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and pushing Riley Nash back to the third-line center spot that he’s manned for most of the season.
Certainly, Nash has done an admirable job of filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron, but the expectation is that Backes can bring a little more of an offensive jolt, perhaps protect Marchand and Pastrnak a little bit and improve a face-off performance with the Bruins that’s been lacking a little lately. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged that on a very short list of areas where the Lightning can be exploited, their abilities in the face-off dot is one of them.
“It’s something we talked about. It’s an easy switch to go back to. Backes is fresh and Riley has played a lot of hockey lately, so maybe this will be David a little motivated being up there. They’ll probably see the top lines, so we’ll see how David responds to that. It will get David a few more looks offensively as well,” said Cassidy of Backes, who joked he thought he was going to be a healthy scratch when he didn't see his name in its normal third-line spot on the pre-practice whiteboard. “[The face-offs] are also part of it. Without [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Backes get tossed the other night, we had a tough time.
“Tampa doesn’t have very many weaknesses, but if there’s one you could sort of nitpick at it’s the face-off dot. So it’s somewhere we can start hopefully with the puck a little more than them.”
That’s what can happen when a team is missing Bergeron and his 56.9 percent win rate in the face-off circle. Backes has been good this season winning 53 percent of his draws in limited center duty while Nash is at 47.6 percent and Sean Kuraly is at 46.4 percent, so it’s pretty clear why the Bruins are struggling in the dot recently.
Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on an optional morning skate at Amalie Arena: