BOSTON – Nobody expected it to be pretty without 20-year-old scoring machine David Pastrnak out of the lineup for the Bruins, and Sunday afternoon’s matinee against the Los Angeles Kings was true to form. Pastrnak’s 19 goals on the season have accounted for roughly 25 percent of the Bruins’ overall offense, and subtracting that meant essentially crippling an offense that was 24th in the league with the explosive right winger.
“I think we all need to step up. Any time you’re losing or you’re missing your leading goal scorer, it’s about everyone doing the job and being better,” said Patrice Bergeron, who was all around the net even though he didn’t factor in the scoring. “Whether it’s a 1-0 game or not, it’s about making sure we do the job and we get those much-needed points.”
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So it was a Tuukka Rask shutout or bust for the offensively-challenged Bruins, who scored an early goal and gritted, grinded and gutted their way to a tight 1-0 shutout win against a tired Kings bunch that still kicked out their trademark heavy, physical style of play. So the Bruins got their much-needed two points, and snapped a three-game losing streak on home ice all at the same time.
While there really weren’t any dazzling offensive plays or chances for a game to broken open with an individual flash of skill by Pastrnak, the rest of the Bruins stepped up and showed the successful defense and goaltending formula that’s worked for them this season.
“[Pastrnak] is a very important player for us. He’s scored a lot of goals for this team, especially a team right now that is struggling to find the back of the net. But we have a system in place and we have the confidence in every player in the lineup to step up when the moment is big,” said Torey Krug. “We’re going to have to grind out some low-scoring wins. But even with [Pastrnak] in the lineup, we seem to have to do that so it’s that same mentality going forward.
“We were able to get one early and not give anything up. It’s obviously one of those teams that you have to gauge yourself against sometimes. They’re a bigger team, they play physical, and we like to think that we’re a skating team that plays hard defense. It definitely was a good matchup for both teams and we’re happy we came out on top.”
The grit was palpable at both ends of the ice whether it was Kevan Miller and Kyle Clifford dropping the gloves for an NHL heavyweight bout, or Clifford wobbly skating off the ice after an awkward collision with Adam McQuaid in the corner. Even the lone goal scored by the B’s was pure grit and gristle with Jimmy Hayes camped out in front redirected a Colin Miller point shot past Peter Budaj.
It’s no easy feat keeping the big, strong Kings roster away from the front of the net and then winning battles in their D-zone in the very same area of the ice, but that’s exactly what the Bruins did in a matchup that required full commitment up and down the roster.
“That’s a pretty big, heavy team they have there and their offense usually comes from wearing you down, and winning battles, and crashing the front of the net,” said Claude Julien. “They’ve got some D’s that can shoot the puck really well. Their game plan is very efficient for their team. On our end of it they’ve got good size. It wouldn’t be easy to get to the front of the net that much.
“But I thought our guys did a good job. I know we just had that one goal, but we had some opportunities there around the net. It was that kind of game where you needed to beat those guys. I think we did a great job defensively, which was probably the key there [on Sunday afternoon] to this win.”
Defensively the Bruins were superb in allowing just 19 shots on net, and there wasn’t a single Grade-A scoring chance explored by the Kings throughout the 60 minutes of hockey. It wasn’t the biggest test for Tuukka Rask, but he was perfect all the same in a game where one misstep would have opened the door for LA to climb back into the game and at least push overtime.
But perhaps none of this should be surprising for a Bruins team that played in their 17th one-goal game out of 33 games played this season. The Bruins have put up an impressive 10-4-3 record in those 17 one-goal games, and it’s been a necessity given that they just might not have the offensive wherewithal to close out teams this season.
It feels counter-intuitive to say that the Bruins are comfortable in these nailbiters, but Sunday afternoon was another piece of evidence indicating they’re pretty okay with little margin for error.
“Yeah, we seem to be,” said Tuukka Rask when asked if the Bruins are comfortable in the one-goal games. “We’ve had a ton of those this year. I think this is the second 1-0 win we’ve had. I think it takes a lot of mental strength because you’re only up by a goal, and you are playing a good team.
“You have to still play for that win and for the next goal and not fall back on your heels, and try to just defend. I think we’ve done that even though we haven’t been able to score more goals in some of these games, and it seems to be working.”
It certainly worked on Sunday with the Bruins scraping by without their dazzling young superstar scorer, and setting up a blueprint for how it’s going to work until No. 88 works his way back into the lineup from his surprise elbow procedure. It won’t be easy, but then again precious little has been for the Black and Gold this season even as they’ve built a perfectly decent four point playoff cushion in the Atlantic Division.