Bruins

Bruins face a stiff challenge in second-half schedule

boston-bruins-bruce-cassidy-bench-21017.jpg

Bruins face a stiff challenge in second-half schedule

BRIGHTON, Mass – The real challenge for the Bruins begins starting tonight when they host the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.

It’s not necessarily the opponent - the Anaheim Ducks - though they did lose to them back in November in the game that spurred Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to bench Tuukka Rask and kick off four consecutive wins for backup Anton Khudobin. It’s more about what lies ahead in the Black and Gold’s final 35 games in the final two months of the regular season.

Certainly, the Bruins are in optimal shape with a 20-point cushion for a playoff spot and games in hand on everybody in the Eastern Conference aside from the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators. But they’re also playing 16 games in March and no longer have holiday breaks, All-Star breaks or five-day byes to look forward to for a brief respite.

It’s something the Bruins veterans are well aware of with the four sets of back-to-back games in February and two separate week-long road trips in tMarch where attrition could play a role for a mostly healthy, extremely deep B’s roster right now.

“I think everybody is going to have a pretty condensed schedule,” said Zdeno Chara. “February and March, there are going to be a lot of games coming up in a pretty short amount of time. It will be important how we play out of these breaks. Teams are going to playing for points and trying to fight for position going into the playoffs.”

Instead, it’s going to be about playing one of the busiest schedules for the remainder of the regular season and doing so with a roster that has got more than its share of young players and one 40-year-old captain that still leads the team in ice time. Cassidy wasn’t under any illusions about the challenge ahead for his Bruins, but it’s also not like Boston is going to have to fight and scrap for much from here on out either.

“We know what’s in front of us. We’ve played the least amount of games,” said Cassidy. “We’ve got some ground to make up, but that’s a good thing if you’re playing well. Right now, we’re relatively healthy and we’d like to keep it that way, but it will be challenging and we have to make sure that we’re getting our appropriate rest. That’s why this [All-Star weekend], they didn’t do as much traveling as the [bye week]. This was about recharging the batteries and understanding what’s in front of them.

“It is what it is. We’re in a good position. We’ve done well in the first half, but we’re going to be tested a little more in the second half. Hopefully, we’re up to the task. I think we are…the guys look good and are in a good frame of mind. So we’ll see how it plays out.”

The bottom line: It’s a good thing the Bruins piled up so many points the past couple of months because they are going to be much tougher to come by once the dog days of February and March start taking a chunk out them.    

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Krejci snaps tie late in 3rd, Bruins rally past Oilers 3-2

david-krejci-bruins-2-21-18.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Krejci snaps tie late in 3rd, Bruins rally past Oilers 3-2

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Patience paid off for the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

David Krejci broke a tie with 1:04 remaining and Boston rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Noel Acciari and Matt Grzelcyk also scored for the Bruins (37-13-8), who have won seven of nine and are one point back of NHL-leading Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. Boston trailed 2-0 before scoring three times in the third period.

"We have a will to win," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "There are 82 of these and sometimes you just don't have it, but I think our group is pretty good at pushing right to the end. It would have been easy for us to say it was our third game in four nights and we were playing back-to-back games, and maybe it is not our night after the frustration early on of not being able to finish and (Oilers goalie Cam Talbot) being really good, but we stuck with it."

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin agreed the key was staying positive after falling behind a team they felt they were outplaying.

"If you are thinking things aren't going your way, then they are never going to go your way," he said. "You have to keep positive, keep playing and shooting and you are going to get rewarded. We were rewarded tonight."

Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira had the goals for the Oilers (24-31-4), who have lost seven of eight.

"At the end of the day, you're here for wins and losses and it's tough to take moral victories out of the game," Strome said. "We know the position we're in and that's a disappointing result after 40 good minutes."

The Oilers scored the game's first goal with 1:31 left in the opening period - despite being outshot 13-2 to that point - when Strome beat Khudobin on a 2-on-1 break for his ninth of the season.

The Bruins came close five minutes into the second when David Pastrnak's shot clanged off the post behind Talbot, but instead the Oilers extended their lead just more than six minutes later when a knuckler by Khaira beat Khudobin up high.

The shots favored the Bruins 29-14 through 40 minutes.

Boston got on the board 4:37 into the third when Acciari swung a puck in front of the Edmonton net and it bounced off Strome and in to make it 2-1.

The Bruins tied it with eight minutes to play after a flurry in front led to Grzelcyk putting the puck past a diving Talbot.

Boston completed the comeback with just 64 seconds to play in the third, after the Oilers lost control of the puck in their own end. Danton Heinen sent it out in front, allowing Krejci to score his 11th of the season.

NOTES: It was the second and final meeting this season between the teams. The Oilers took the first game 4-2 in Boston on Nov. 26. ... Oilers defenseman Kris Russellplayed his 700th NHL game. ... The Bruins acquired D Nick Holden from the New York Rangers for minor league defenseman Rob O'Gara and their third-round pick in this year's draft. Holden was not in Edmonton in time for the game.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Saturday at Toronto.

Oilers: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Talking points: Noel Acciari's goal helps inspire comeback

my_post-3.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Talking points: Noel Acciari's goal helps inspire comeback

GOLD STAR: Zdeno Chara didn’t factor into the scoring for the Bruins, but the 6-foot-9, 40-year-old captain was massive against the Oilers in his role as a shutdown performer. Chara was locked up with Connor McDavid throughout the 60 minutes of regulation play, and it was that constant attention being paid by Big Zee that helped keep the Edmonton wunderkind under wraps with just a couple of shots on net. Above and beyond the simple, vital defensive shutdown work for the Bruins that goes without saying, Chara set the tone physically as well with team-highs in registered hits (five) and blocked shots (five) in his 22:39 of ice time. He finished a plus-1, wasn’t scored on and instead continued to draw energy and enthusiasm doing his defensive work even though it was the second end of a back-to-back fairly late in the season. 

BLACK EYE: Leon Draisaitl had to know that he was in for a battle against the Bruins based on their center strength down the middle, and he clearly came up on the short end of the stick along with his Oilers. Draisaitl finished with no shots on net, a couple of giveaways and not much else going on aside from going 12-for-26 in a face-off performance that wasn’t very good either. Draisaitl is counted on to be a big time player for the Oilers and team with Connor McDavid as a 1-2 punch carrying them on offense when things aren’t going well. That didn’t happen with Edmonton’s German import and the rest of an Oilers group. Once again, they fell short after building up and holding a two-goal lead for most of the game. Things would have been much better for the Oil if Draisaitl could have finished off an offensive play or two on an evening where it was all hands on deck against the Bruins. 

TURNING POINT: It was all about Noel Acciari finally breaking through in the third period with his high effort goal, and that stirred everything else into gear as everybody suddenly started believing in the comeback. That turned into three unanswered goals in the third period that led the Bruins to the two points. Acciari motored down the wing, fired a shot at the net and gathered his own rebound behind the net before wrapping it inside the post on the opposite side for his first score in a while since battling injuries over the last few weeks. That bit of fourth line opportunistic offense really started things percolating with the Bruins offense, and led to a couple more goals from a Boston bunch that refused to lose once again.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Give it up for David Krejci stepping up in the final minutes and scoring the game-winning goal as he stepped up to finish off a great play that started with both Danton Heinen and David Backes. Krejci finished with a goal in 17:23 of ice time, three shots on net, a registered hit and 8-of-13 face-off wins in a solid night, but he really seemed to flourish when Bruce Cassidy switched him out with Riley Nash for a bit of a third period spark. That’s when Backes and Heinen responded to playing with No. 46, and ultimately teamed up for the game-winner after Nash had set up the game-tying goal with his new linemates in Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner. Take a bow for those line changes in the third period down by a couple of goals, Bruce Cassidy!

BY THE NUMBERS: 142 – the fewest goals allowed in the NHL this season is something proudly carried around this season, and it’s really not even close with Nashville as the next team with 154 goals allowed this season. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ll have to see how quickly he really adapts to our system, and then go from there.” –Bruce Cassidy to reporters in Edmonton, when asking how long it will be for newly traded D-man Nick Holden to get in the lineup for the Bruins.