Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

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Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

BOSTON – The Bruins had been in a self-described special teams “funk” as of late, so Thursday night’s special teams’ explosion was a welcome development indeed.

The Bruins broke a six-game power play drought (0-for-18 over that span) with three PP strikes and at the time ended up holding the high-powered Penguins power play unit without a score in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Penguins at TD Garden. The fact that they did both of those things without an integral piece in Patrice Bergeron was impressive, but it was all about executing and getting back to a simple, hard-working mindset at both ends of the ice.

All three power play goals arrived because players were crashing the net or cutting hard to the paint with our without the puck, and that’s something that had been missing a bit over the last month as the Bruins went 2-for-32 on the man advantage. They managed to outdo that in one night’s work with the three special teams’ goals against the Penguins.

“We executed better. We’ve talked about that. That’s a start, right? You make good passes and you win pucks, you’re playing in the O-zone, and you’re forcing the team to defend. So I think that’s the start of it. We made some great heads-up plays like, the [Nick] Holden play to Krejci – that’s not one you practice; that’s a broken play where you win a puck – Jake DeBrusk does a great job winning a puck,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about it, I think this morning, one of the specifics was second effort. That’s a second-effort play, winning the puck, and then you allow your skill to take over, and he makes a great play.

“So that’s an example of what we had asked the players to do a little better job at, and I thought they did. We had a few passes that didn’t connect that were maybe forced, but I think that’s always going to happen when you have – what did we have, five [power plays]? But, for the most part, I thought we made better decisions with it, as well. So good for them; they got rewarded. We have plenty of skill in there. They can score, and I thought we had more urgency tonight.”

The first score was Rick Nash camped out in front of the net, waiting and ready to redirect a Torey Krug point pass through Casey DeSmith with a simple tap-in attempt. Then David Krejci kicked it into PP overdrive in the second period when Nick Holden found the Czech center cutting to the net wide open, and for his third goal of the night he was able to guide home a shot set up by a tipped Brian Gionta pass as the 5-foot-7 forward was camped out in front.

“Over the last three games we’ve talked about the drought and keeping it simple,” said Nash. “I think that when any power play struggles, you have to simplify things. Put pucks to the net and you have to get bodies to the net, and it’ll start to go in.”

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday night as the dam finally broke on the power play for the Black and Gold, and the PK managed to shut out the Penguins after allowing six power play goals in the previous five games. Now it’s a matter of the Bruins keeping it up at a time of year when special teams can be a massive difference-maker for hockey clubs looking for any edge they can find.  


'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.


Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

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Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

BRIGHTON --  Ryan Donato will make his NHL debut for the Bruins on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it looks like he’ll do it as a member of the third line.

The newly-signed Harvard star was wearing No. 17 at morning skate on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, and skating on the left wing with Noel Acciari and Brian Gionta in a new-look third line made necessary by injures to Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk in the last few weeks. 

Donato signed with the Bruins on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how ready he is to “plug and play” at the NHL level after crushing NCAA competition with 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season. 

Otherwise it was a fairly standard lineup for the Bruins aside from Tommy Wingels dropping down to the fourth line to allow Acciari to center the third line, and thereby allow Donato to play the wing position where the B’s project him to be at the NHL level.

In other very positive B’s news, Bergeron -- recovering from a fractured right foot -- made a return to the ice, working on his own ahead of morning skate and then jumping in here and there in the team skate/

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Blue Jackets based on morning skate: