Haggerty: Bruins show they can get gritty win without Pastrnak for short term

Haggerty: Bruins show they can get gritty win without Pastrnak for short term

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.”


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. 

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.