Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 5-1 win over the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night:
1) The Bruins have a fourth line that’s playing as well as any combo they’ve had since the Merlot Line. They dominated for portions of the second and third periods with long, cycling puck-possession shifts that ended with shots on net and chances, and were finally rewarded with goals for both Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari in the third period. You thought the hockey gods might reward them for really wearing down the Islanders over the course of the game, and that’s exactly what happened. Even better, the dominant play by the fourth line allowed Bruce Cassidy to roll his lines and keep the minutes down for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and company. Clearly it will depend on Acciari being able to say healthy and the Bruins remaining generally healthy up front so they can leave the fourth line intact, but it will be interesting to see how good this trio can become if they’re left together. Clearly some nights and some matchups will be better than others, but it would seem the B’s have truly found their energy line with just enough offensive upside to make it interesting.
2) It might not be the worst thing in the world for Brandon Carlo to sit for a game or two at this point with Adam McQuaid waiting in the wings for a return. The Bruins had a lot of bright spots in their 5-1 win, but the play of Carlo wasn’t one of them. He had three giveaways, including a bad, bad turnover in front of his own net after a Patrice Bergeron face-off win. Carlo fumbled with the puck and then fell down, leaving the puck all alone in front for Jordan Eberle to push it past Tuukka Rask for a gift goal. Carlo didn’t do anything quite as bad in the rest of his 19:20 of ice time, but he's had some pretty costly mistakes for the Bruins at points this season. He's the most logical player to sit and at least get McQuaid in the mix with a game or two to get him back into the swing of things. Let’s also not forget that Torey Krug and McQuaid have been longtime partners at the NHL level, and that might be exactly the kind of stabilizing force that Krug could use on his right side. It’s at least worth thinking about, though it doesn’t make too much sense to do it after a winning team-wide effort like the one against the Isles.
3) The streak is over for Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. The Carlo turnovercame with that line on the ice, and so they’ve now given up their first even-strength goal of the season. That’s the bad news, but it’s still miraculous that it took somewhere around 24 or 25 games for that line combination to finally get scored on during 5-on-5 play The good news is that after a few quiet games that line got back on the score sheet on Tuesday night with Bergeron notching the game-winning goal in the second period, and Marchand adding his own score in the third period after a nifty defense-to-offense play for Pastrnak. The even better news: Because Cassidy was able to roll lines vs. the Isles, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak all played under 16 minutes of ice time. That’s exactly the kind of in-game usage that will preserve those players for when it really matters later in the season.
-- Tim Schaller led his fourth-line cohorts with four shots on net, and was finally rewarded for his blue-collar efforts with a third-period goal along . Schaller finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 in 11:54 of ice time, and had several high quality chances before finally scoring.
-- It wasn’t a dominant night for Bergeron, but he made the plays the Bruins needed at the crunch-time moments of the game. It was Bergeron with the heads-up play to bat a puck out of mid-air at the net, and direct it toward his stick where he was able to throw a shot at the skate of Jaroslav Halak. That was the go-ahead goal in the second period and the ultimate game-winner before Boston’s three goals in the third period.
-- Tuukka Rask stopped 25 of 26 shots and made some very good positional saves, increasing his unbeaten streak to 11-0-1 since his mid-November benching. Once again the Bruins were also mostly brilliant in front of him, and have been a big part of Rask’s up-turn in play.
-- Brandon Carlo had three giveaways including a ghastly turnover right in front of the net after a clean Bergeron face-off win in the defensive zone. That led to the Isles only goal and was the only blemish in an otherwise strong night for the Bruins.
-- John Tavares was really not good. He finished a minus-3, lost the face-off to Riley Nash cleanly that led to Danton Heinen’s goal off a draw play in the first period and managed just a single shot on net for the entire game. It’s tough for the Isles to win when that happens.
-- New York is missing a number of players on the back end, and that was obvious while watching Scott Mayfield struggle to a minus-3 in 21:15 of ice time while getting over-exposed a bit. It will be a struggle for the Islanders until they get healthier on the back end.