Bruins

Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

bruins_rangers_brad_marchand_121617.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Rask was Bruins "best player", steals a win from Devils

rask_bruinsdevils_1232018b.jpg

Rask was Bruins "best player", steals a win from Devils

BOSTON, Mass – There was a point much earlier in the season when it seemed that Tuukka Rask simply couldn’t win a game, and now it’s a reality that the Bruins No. 1 goaltender simply can’t lose. Rask stopped 37 shots including a show-stopping 20 saves in the first period en route to a Bruins 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Rask extended his unbeaten streak to 17 games with a 15-0-2 record and truly helped the Black and Gold steal a game they probably didn’t deserve against a New Jersey team that was desperate for the two points. He was also at his best early and late with the 20 saves in the first period as the Bruins got their footing, and another 12 stops in the third period including a stone wall job on a Damon Severson breakaway while protecting a slim one-goal lead.

For a goalie that is often accused of not stealing enough games for his team, Rask was guilty of grand larceny hockey game vs. the Devils in the best way possible.

“I think the quality saves were more [happening] late [in the game]. I think early on there was a lot of volume of shots. I think their game plan was clearly to funnel everything to the net and see what happens. Sometimes you can’t let the shot clock dictate how you are playing because I thought we had some good looks from the slot,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They clearly had better puck possession than us, and that was the issue. Sooner or later when you start funneling pucks to the net, bad things happen for us…penalties, bounces, deflections, and that’s what happened, obviously, [on] their first goal. So that was a concern, but I thought Tuukka was our best player.”

Clearly Cassidy has a point as the Devils’ chances early were largely from the perimeter in the first period with the slot getting well protected by the Bruins defense, but they were much higher quality late in the game as things broke down a little bit. Either way Rask admitted he was pushed into battling a little bit more against the Devils based on the heavy traffic in front, and the odd angles that shots were coming at him fast and furiously.

“It’s tough, but you just try to stay compact and behind the puck. There were a lot of shots that they took from bad angles and I couldn’t control the rebounds,” admitted Rask. “It was just one of those nights that the puck doesn’t really stick to you as much as usual. You would like it to but then you just have to battle and make the rebound saves.

“Today, I think we had to defend a lot compared to the last few weeks but there were a lot of rebounds and they took care of them. I think we were really good at getting the puck out of our own zone, wheeling with the puck and finding the open guy with the breakout. The guys did a great job.”

Rask is also doing a good job with the .923 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average that continues to improve game after game, and more importantly the wins that keep stacking on top of each other for a goalie that’s answered the challenge from earlier in the season. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Talking Points: Tuukka continues to be a brick wall

rask_bruinsdevils_1232018.jpg

Talking Points: Tuukka continues to be a brick wall

GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask has been on a hell of a run with a 15-0-2 record over his last 17 games, and the latest was also one of his best. Rask stopped 20 shots in the first period as the Bruins really didn’t have their best legs, and then he made some of his best saves in the third period protecting a one goal lead, including a stop on a Damon Severson breakaway late in the game. In all Rask stopped 37-of-39 shots and really became a Finnish brick wall whenever the Devils began ratcheting up the attack in a game where the Bruins clearly weren’t at their best. Rask hasn’t been quite as dominant in the month of January with a .913 save percentage for the month even after his stellar work against New Jersey, but he’s going into the All-Star break playing some of his best hockey.

BLACK EYE: Jesper Bratt has been pretty strong for the Devils as a rookie this season, but he did not have a very good game for New Jersey this time around. Bratt finished with a minus-2 in 14:59 of ice time and had zero shots on net as the Devils fired 39 total shots at Tuukka Rask. Bratt certainly wasn’t alone in having a subpar game for New Jersey, but it’s expected that players like him would need to step up with Taylor Hall injured and out of the lineup. It didn’t happen for Bratt and the Devils on Tuesday, and subsequently New Jersey skates out of Boston empty-handed after starting the game like a hockey house of fire.

TURNING POINT: The turning point for the Bruins was getting a 5-on-3 power play after Miles Wood had a meltdown and took two separate penalties for cross-checking and interference on a retaliatory hit on Riley Nash. That landed Wood in the box for four minutes and Marcus Johansson followed right afterward with a tripping call. The Bruins subsequently enjoyed two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey and Patrice Bergeron cashed in on a goal that tied the game in the second period. It immediately ushered in a 13-minute delay as the TD Garden scoreboard went haywire, and the Bruins never trailed again in the rest of the game. It was a true moment where the Bruins had a chance to forcefully seize control of the game, and that’s exactly what they did.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand wasn’t at his best, but he factored into the game on many different levels while also notching the game-winner for the Bruins. It was his breakaway in the second period where he completely deked out Cory Schneider and then flipped a puck over him for the slick, easy-looking score for his team-leading 21st goal of the season. Marchand finished with a goal, two points and four shots on net in 20:06 of ice time, and had a couple of takeaways along the way as well. Unfortunately Marchand also caught Marcus Johansson with an elbow in the third period that went uncalled on the ice, but could end up resulting in supplementary discipline with the league.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13-0-4 – the Bruins record during their 17-game point streak that dates all the way back to their last regulation loss on Dec. 14, and is tied for the third-longest stretch in team history along with 17-gamers in 1929-30, 1977-78 and 1982-83.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought Tuukka was our best player.” –Bruce Cassidy, on his goalie making 37 saves in the 3-2 win for the Black and Gold. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE