Bruins

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

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Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

BOSTON – The Bruins have to hope the ugly look for their power play units ends up being a temporary phase.

The Bruins managed to put together just six shots on net in seven power play chances during Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, a situation that was just barely salvaged by a third-period power play goal. The score was a timely one on a connection from David Pastrnak to Brad Marchand that pushed things into overtime, but it did little to wipe out the monumental struggles earlier in the game.

The Bruins couldn’t cohesively get the puck in the offensive zone, and plenty of their team-high 22 giveaways in the game took place in the handful of instances they were rewarded with PP’s this season.

Couple that with the back-to-back shorthanded goals allowed in back-to-back games against Detroit and Washington, and there may be some issues to be straightened out on the man advantage.

“Early on, I thought the pressure in zone, we weren’t able to handle it. They were more aggressive on the kill than we were ready for, and we just did not handle it well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a couple plays in mind we thought might work down low around the net. I think we forced the puck on those down by the goal line, so we spent a lot of time going back into our own end and breaking the puck out, which becomes frustrating.

“We tried to run a delayed play tonight; we were out of sync on it. So, there was problems getting into the zone and there were problems in the zone. There was problems, I mean, whoever watched the game clearly – I mean, we struggled on the power play. We’re not going to hide from that, but it got us a goal later, so we eventually kind of got it squared away but we certainly had opportunities early to take advantage and we didn’t.”

The overall performance during the month of December isn’t that bad for the Bruins, who are 6-for-26 (23 percent success rate) on the power play in the games played this month. They’ve been getting more production with better health, but they’re also playing a little too fast and loose with the puck management and decision-making on the ice.  

Brad Marchand admitted after Saturday night’s loss that it’s up to the Bruins players to start picking it up on special teams and make some better choices with the puck.

“It’s on us. We’re forcing plays when they’re not there. Maybe we need to realize we have an extra second, need to calm it down a bit. When we do that, we are at our best that’s kind of when things go well,” said Marchand. “When we take that extra second, we have good support and read off each other well. We aren’t doing any of that now, we are pressing a bit, but something we need to work on and get better at.”

Perhaps that Marchand goal can be the rallying point for the Bruins power play to move on and move out with all the proper personnel healthy and in place with Ryan Spooner, and just a good, old-fashioned confidence-booster acting as the only thing that can quickly lift the Black and Gold man advantage out of their current status in the dumps.

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Cassidy: Too-many-men penalties 'a lousy way to lose'

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Cassidy: Too-many-men penalties 'a lousy way to lose'

BOSTON – The Bruins made plenty of mistakes in Saturday night’s overtime loss to the New York Rangers, but perhaps most glaring was the pair of too many men on the ice penalties late in the tightly contested hockey game.

The first too many men call wiped out the Bruins' final power play of the game, and the second infraction set up the Mats Zuccarello overtime game-winner in the 3-2 victory for the Rangers. Bruce Cassidy had a wry smile on the Bruins bench right after the penalty was called, and copped to a guilty plea of trying to get away with a little something after the game was over.

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Truth be told, the too many men on the ice call in OT could have been called on any one of Torey Krug, Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand as they headed off the ice after a long shift going back and forth up the ice. The Bruins were scrambling to try and change players while also catching up to a Rangers rush into the B’s defensive zone, and that’s where the trouble came in.

“We’re scrambling to get on the ice, so the call might have been from, like, [Charlie] McAvoy jumping for [Torey] Krug, it might have been Krech [David Krejci] going for Bergy [Patrice Bergeron]. I don’t know. I can’t complain, I mean, we’re trying to gain an advantage there,” said Cassidy. “Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. We didn’t. And the other one was on the power play; we had a forward jump for the wrong guy.

“We had six guys. So, it’s hard to complain about them, you know, we were at fault there, we’ll take the blame for that and unfortunately it’s a lousy way to lose, but we had some chances in overtime too, we just lost our footing on a couple too. It was one of those nights, it seemed like we were – we had some chances at the offensive blue line, even in overtime, we just lost control of pucks and lost our footing and took away some good chances for us.”

Cassidy and the Bruins had a little too many men on the ice trouble during their first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators last spring, but it hasn’t really been a recurring issue at all for the B’s bench this season. So the expectation is that Saturday’s OT loss to the Rangers, too many men on the ice penalties and all, was another example of a lot of odd things happening to the Bruins in a game they most definitely didn’t deserve to win. 

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