What we learned in Bruins' 6-3 win over Stars
Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon at the American Airlines Arena.
New coach, new results
There have been several Bruins players who appear reborn under Bruce Cassidy, but perhaps none more so than playmaking center David Krejci. He didn’t have terrible numbers per se under Claude Julien, but it was clear he wasn’t playing full tilt at times when the Bruins needed him. That was never more apparent than in some of his back-checking efforts in the loss to Toronto that preceded Julien’s firing. Perhaps it was due to his ongoing recovery from offseason hip surgery, but it just seemed Krejci wasn't playing all 200 feet often enough . . . a malady that infected quite a bit of the Bruins lineup. That has changed at both ends of the ice, and Krejci added another goal early in Sunday’s win to continue to hammer home that point. Krejci now has three goals and eight points in seven games under Cassidy and has an even plus/minus rating over that span after racking up a big minus number in the first 55 games under Julien. He was also very clearly back-checking hard in a game against a Western Conference team that started at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. If that doesn’t tell you No. 46 is dialed in, nothing will.
Backes burning brightly ... still
David Backes and Jamie Benn don’t like each over very much. The two important, core players for their respective teams dropped the gloves two seconds into the game and injected a dose of intensity that was probably needed for such an early Sunday start (11:30 a.m. Dallas time). The fight didn’t amount to much -- they threw a couple of quick shots before it was broken up by the referees -- but it spoke to the urgency both men were trying to deliver to their teams. This is the third straight season Backes and Benn have dropped the gloves against each other, and that’s impressive that they’ve been able to keep the hate alive even though Backes is now in a different conference. The Bruins brought Backes to Boston partially because of the physicality and game-to-game focus he can bring to the table from a leadership role, and he showed that again on Sunday.
Efficient offense, efficient results
The Bruins are averaging 4.5 fewer shots, and 1.5 more goals, in seven games under Bruce Cassidy than they did in the first 55 under Claude Julien. It’s clear the B’s have gone from a club willing to settle for large quantities of perimeter shots to one that works for fewer, higher-quality shots closer to the net. That was on full display on Sunday as four of the six goals were scored on tips or redirections in front (David Krejci or Frank Vatrano with the high tips away from the net, or Patrice Bergeron camped down low and outmuscling Jordie Benn for a puck directly in front of goalie). Certainly a couple of the goals scored by the Bergeron/Brad Marchand combo were also noticeable for their time-honored, honed chemistry, but the elevated offensive production is about taking the puck closer to the net for better scoring chances. This is why their shooting percentage is rising rather than simple luck changing, as some simplistic fancy-stats enthusiasts would have you believe.
-- The game was billed as Stars Sunday on NBC with David Pastrnak and Tyler Seguin as the featured performers, and with good reason. But it was Patrice Bergeron who looked every bit the Star with two goals, three points, a plus-3 rating, 10 shot attempts and 16-of-22 face-off wins against the Stars in a dominant performance.
-- David Backes finished with an assist and a plus-3 rating along with the early Jamie Benn fight in 15-plus minutes of ice time. He had three points along with a plus-8 rating on the four-game road swing through his old Western Conference stomping grounds.
-- Torey Krug finished with three assists, including some nifty set-up plays in Boston's six-goal barrage. He has eight assists in the seven games since Bruce Cassidy took over as interim head coach.
... and minus
-- Somehow Riley Nash managed to finish as the only minus player in the Bruins' lineup, and his two shots on net and 2-for-7 in the face-off circle denote him having a bit of a hard time against Dallas.
-- Jason Spezza finished with zero points, two shots on net and a minus-2 to go along with 2-for-7 in the faceoff circle in a forgettable afternoon for the Stars. It’s been a bit of a lost season in Big D for the former Senators standout.
-- Jordie Benn finished a minus-2 in 17 plus minutes and got physically dominated by Patrice Bergeron in front of the Dallas net on a pivotal goal for the Bruins as they started to pull away from the Stars in the second period. It might be fair to say that the Jordie Benn is playing the Danny DeVito part in the “Twins” combo with Jamie on the Dallas roster.