Bruins

Bergeron rolling toward Hart consideration

Bergeron rolling toward Hart consideration

GOLD STAR: Once again it’s Patrice Bergeron with a couple of goals that provided the difference in the third period. Bergeron widened his team lead with his 26th and 27th goals of the season, moved into the NHL’s top-10 in goals scored this season with another multi-goal outburst. Bergeron finished with the two goals in 19:56 of ice time to go along with six shots on net, seven shot attempts, a takeaway, a blocked shot and 13-of-19 face-off wins in his night’s work. Bergeron continues to string together impressive nightly performances that push up his standing in the Hart Trophy conversation. It’s all getting real for No. 37 in what could turn out to be his best NHL season.

BLACK EYE: It was another tough night for David Pastrnak, who took an ill-advised slashing penalty in the first period after getting stood up at the blue line by Mark Giordano a couple of times. Bruce Cassidy responded by dropping Pastrnak from his normal spot with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and installing David Backes on the right wing instead once the physicality started getting cranked up against the Flames. Backes remained there and it turned into a two-goal performance from Bergeron as the entire Bruins team responded with a solid final 40 minutes. Pastrnak finished with just a couple of shots on net and a minus-1 rating in 12:02 of ice time, and was a non-factor in a stretch where he’s been very quiet offensively.

TURNING POINT: After getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, the Bruins turned it up and turned it on in the final 40 minutes to leave the middling beginning far into the rear view mirror. Some of it was about Bruce Cassidy’s adjustment pushing David Backes onto the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and some of it was probably about the Bruins getting sick of some of the mediocre play they’d been producing lately. In the second period the Bruins outshot the Flames by a 16-8 margin, got the game-tying goal from Riley Nash after an excellent individual play to set things up by Charlie McAvoy and turned the way that the entire game was spinning. Once the momentum had shifted it was simply about finishing off the Flames, which the B’s and Bergeron did with two goals before Zdeno Chara’s empty netter.

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash has quietly been very strong for the Bruins this season as a third line center, and that continued with a two-goal performance that got Boston up and running against Calgary. The two goals were Nash’s 9th and 10th goals of the season, and added to a night where he was a plus-2 in 14:33 of strong ice time while switching out David Backes for younger, faster David Pastrnak on his right side. Nash finished with three shots on net, a takeaway and a 4-of-11 performance in the face-off circle on a really strong night up the middle for the Black and Gold. Nash has been quietly very good with 10 goals and 36 points in a strong follow-up in his second season in Black and Gold.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of assists for Charlie McAvoy in the win, which snapped a six game scoreless stretch for the rookie defenseman timed around the heart procedure he underwent just a couple of weeks ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Everything they got, they earned. I thought we did a better job being a little more, sort of, belligerent, in the scoring area, getting to the goaltender for some second chances. [We were] managing the puck; we got it behind their D a lot better and forced some turnovers on the fore-check. We played much more to our style of play, how we want to wear teams down and eventually get our looks.” –Bruce Cassidy, on the Bruins’ return to their gritty, simple style of play in the win over the Flames after some recent defensive slippage.

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Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

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Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while shaking my head at the disparity in talent levels between Ilya Kovalchuk and anybody on Team USA...no offense to the guys we sent over there.

*Phil Kessel said he values winning Stanley Cups over scoring titles, but does he value them more than hot dogs from his favorite food stand in Toronto? That is the question.

*Here’s a fine tribute from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Steve Conroy about his late partner at the Boston Herald, columnist/hockey writer Steve Harris, who sadly passed away a couple of days ago while still manning the beat until the past week or so. It’s still such a shocking loss for everybody in the local hockey community, and this piece does a good job of capturing his spirit.

*So, controversial Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is going to now also be the CEO of the team as well? Yikes.

*Damien Cox takes a look at the Canadian NHL teams that look like they’re going to fall short of the playoffs and what they need to do to right their respective ships.

*The Nashville Predators explain how they are “all in” at the NHL trade deadline with another clear shot at a Cup run.

*For something completely different: A ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from worst to best that suffers from recent-itis where a number of movies just released are probably given way, way too much deference even though they are good superhero flicks.

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Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

When the Bruins take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night deep in the outer reaches of Western Canada, there will be a couple of things at play. One will be the start of a long sprint to the end of the regular season with 27 games in a scant 52 days with no more long breaks to catch their collective breath.

The worst of the worst will be 16 games in March, which could be the thing that ultimately knocks the Black and Gold down a peg after they’ve managed to play through everything else this season.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by just a couple of points for the NHL’s top spot, the Bruins know the schedule itself will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.

“We’re certainly aware of our schedule the rest of the way, and we know that it’s going to be a challenge. There aren’t too many more days off and we’re pretty much playing every other day,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So some of it will be about getting the proper rest and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play. But this has also been a group that’s done a really good job of handling other things that have been thrown at us whether it’s injuries or something else. This is just another challenge to take on.”

But the other, smaller picture is of the five-game trip through Canada with a final stop in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bruins will play those five games in ten days in their longest trip of the regular season. They hope to conjure up some of the same mojo that kicked off their three-month winning binge way back in mid-November. It was then that the Bruins righted the ship on a trip through California and won games in Los Angeles and San Jose that kicked off a four-game winning streak that helped change the season.

The Bruins are much more comfortable now with a giant cushion for a playoff spot and a legitimate chance to overtake the Lightning, but Bruce Cassidy is hoping to see the same kind of hunger in this particular long stretch away from home.

“This is much more about what we are and what we look like, but having said that the [California trip] was the beginning of us [turning things around]. It had us gutting out some wins in typically tough places to play like L.A. and San Jose. [Anton] Khudobin was in net and we were relying on some call-up guys, but that was really when our D-corps really stiffened up,” said Cassidy. “It kind of got us back to our heads above water, and from there we kind of took off. But now this is a different group in a different position, and we’re pushing to be in a different position.

“I think you can say Tuukka [Rask] won us all these games or [Brad] Marchand or [Patrice] Bergeron. Our best players have been our best players, but our support players have been very good, especially on those nights when we’ve needed to lean on them a little more when they’ve able to shut down [the Bergeron Line]. I think our support players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bruins clearly hope this mammoth trip can be another seasonal turning point that pushes them in a direction toward a strong, decisive finish to the marathon of a regular season.

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