Bruins

Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

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Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the days numbering just a few until final NHL rosters are due into the league offices on Tuesday, Bruce Cassidy has an idea of where he’s going with most of his roster headed into Saturday night’s preseason finale in Chicago.

With the caveat that nothing is concrete until the final list is submitted on Tuesday afternoon, it’s just about an automatic that Anders Bjork has won the top-six, right-wing job alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Anton Khudobin will be the backup goaltender provided he gets through Saturday’s start without any issues and it looks as if Sean Kuraly has won a job to start the season after a solid training camp.

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Jake DeBrusk isn’t quite in the same “lead-pipe lock” status that fellow rookie Bjork is for Thursday's opening night roster, but it looks like the 20-year-old former first-round pick will make the cut if he can show a little offense against the Blackhawks in his final exhibition tune-up.

“Bjork seems like he’s going to be a fit. We’ve played him with [Bergeron] and [Marchand], but he can play the other side. So he could flip and play the other side with Krejci and Pastrnak as well. We haven’t looked at that much, but it could happen,” said Cassidy. “But we like where his game is at right now. DeBrusk, we’re going to keep in there and we’re looking for a few more things out of his game. We like it as well, but we think that Bjork is the furthest ahead of all the young guys.

“We like where Kuraly’s game has been as far as what he brings: Energy and the ability to turn pucks over. It has really turned into a lot of offense, but we believe that it will over time as he continues to play like that. We’re looking at him as a wing tonight rather than center, and he may be a guy that moves around. I’ve liked Danton Heinen’s game. We haven’t talked about him as much, but we want to get another look at him with [Ryan] Spooner as more of a skill guy. There’s no concrete decision on the sixth defensemen yet, and I think [Anton Khudobin] is ready to go as the backup. That’s where I have him. Bjork looks like he’ll start in the lineup, and then we have some spots to fill in down below [among the forwards]. The game matters tonight more for that area.”

DeBrusk came close to scoring in his last preseason game before it was wiped away due to goaltender interference, and Cassidy wants to see the young left winger play at the higher pace he knows he’s capable of when he’s pushing forward.

“[We’d like to see] a little finish around the net. That would be good for [DeBrusk’s] confidence. When you’re playing up in the lineup [in a top-six spot] that will be talked about if you can’t finish,” said Cassidy. “Be a little more proactive skating. There are times when he really pops out of the pile and off he goes skating. He’s shown spurts of that, but let’s see that all the time.

“Coming down the wing let’s not pull up with the puck, but let’s continue to attack and make your plays with your feet moving. He’s a good skater, and if he’s going to make our team it’s going to be because he adds foot speed. That’s what we want out of that younger group, and that’s what they’ve been advertised as.”

Clearly, there are still jobs up for grabs among the bottom-six with Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen, Teddy Purcell, Tim Schaller and Kuraly all in Saturday night’s lineup, and likewise Matt Grzelcyk, Robbie O’Gara and Paul Postma all competing for a fill-in spot while Krug sits out with a fractured jaw.

So, it should be a competitive effort from a group of hungry Bruins on Saturday night in their final dress rehearsal prior to opening night and several players keenly aware that NHL employment might hinge on the final impression they leave with the coaching staff. 

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

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Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak had been a little quiet offensively, but that all changed on Saturday night against Montreal. It was the 21-year-old that answered with a bad angle goal in the second period after Montreal had taken the first lead in the game, and it was Pastrnak again in the third period crashing the net and scoring his second goal to finally give Boston the breathing room that they needed. Pastrnak thoroughly dominated the game, scored two goals and three points along with a plus-3 rating, and led all players with a game-high eight shots on net while playing with energy and intensity in all three zones. It is nights like Saturday night in Montreal when you see just how good Pastrnak could still be a few years down the road.

BLACK EYE: Carey Price wasn’t terrible in the game, but he gave up the wrong goal at the wrong time to the Bruins in the second period. David Pastrnak surprised him with a bad angle shot by the goal line aimed at his skates, and Price couldn’t recover quickly enough to keep the puck from squirting into the net for the game-tying goal. Given how much better the Bruins are than the Canadiens this season, Price was going to be have to letter-perfect in order to beat the Black and Gold. Instead he gave up a bad goal just minutes after Montreal had finally scored, and completely sucked all of the momentum out of the Habs. A few minutes later Torey Krug beat Carey Price with a sniped shot for the go-ahead goal and that was it for the night. In all Price allowed three goals on 30 shots and had one of his weaker games against the Bruins in recent memory.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins appeared to score the insurance goal in the third period when Patrice Bergeron jumped on the rebound of a shot attempt where David Pastrnak’s stick had shattered on the initial shot. But a coach’s challenge ruled that the play was off-sides and the goal was overturned leaving it at a one-goal game in the third period. Montreal was given second life to scratch for one goal to at least push things in overtime, but instead that line was at it again and Pastrnak scored on a rebound in front directly from a Torey Krug point shot. That was the goal that officially broke Montreal’s spirit and allowed the Bruins to sweep all three games over the Habs in an eight day span.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug hasn’t exactly been a scoring machine lately, but he stepped up and had one of his best games against Montreal on Saturday. It was Krug that ended up with the game-winning goal on a sniper shot over Price’s shoulder in the second period when he jumped into the play with the Perfection Line dominating, and it was Krug that finished with a goal, three points and a plus-three rating in 17:24 of ice time. He finished with five shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot as well, and was truly making things happen offensively as he did with a point shot in the third period that turned into a Pastrnak rebound goal for the insurance marker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 – the number of goals for the Perfection Line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) over the 16-game point streak that the Bruins have been riding on for over a month.

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I think at the end of the day if I knew that I would have to face them now, I probably would’ve kept them separate for all those years.” –A joking Claude Julien when asked postgame what it feels like to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand doing so much damage against his new team during the three games played in eight days. 

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