Haggerty: Bruins turn page after letting big chance slip away

Haggerty: Bruins turn page after letting big chance slip away

BRIGHTON, Mass. - It’s really too bad the Bruins couldn’t finish their two-game trip on a massive high note with a statement win over the Predators.

They would have been only the fourth team in 14 tries to get the better of the Predators on their home ice and would have effectively slowed down a red-hot reigning Western Conference champ that’s won 13 of 16. The Preds have been something close to unbeatable since getting Kyle Turris in the three-team deal at the beginning of November. The Bruins got an up-close examination why in their 5-3 loss at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night.


In that way, it was a missed opportunity to take a massive step forward in the perceptions around the league on this season's Bruins and it was also a missed opportunity based on the self-inflicted wounds from mistakes made by Torey Krug, Anton Khudobin, Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara and others.

That’s where the frustration comes in for a Bruins team that had won six of seven coming in and battled all the way back to make it a one-goal game in the third period before again shooting themselves in the foot with a Fillip Forsberg breakaway.

“We did a good job of pushing back and making it a game. We had some really good chances, but we’re at a point where we just need the results,” said Brad Marchand. “Regardless of the score, I thought we played better than they did. We just gave up a few chances that they capitalized on.”

Still, the Bruins deserve some credit for the way they’ve played against the big boys around the league this season. The Black and Gold memorably took down the Predators on opening night and ripped off a stretch to end November where they notched wins against the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. All quality teams that are currently in a playoff position as the Bruins sit just outside the top-eight teams in the Eastern Conference with games in hand.

It’s a good reflection on the Bruins that they’re playing the NHL’s best teams so toughly this season, and even when they lose, they are serving notice that they aren’t going to be an easy out.

“It seems to scare us into playing the right way when we see the firepower and ability of the players we’re playing against, especially when [it’s a team] that went deep last year or is highly-touted at the moment,” said David Backes. “It causes us to value all of the puck possessions and not give away anything while making them earn it all. When we do that our goalies are seeing all the pucks and the chances against them are a little lower quality. It kind of clues everybody in and gives us the extra motivation to prove that we are a good team. We’re moving [healthy] bodies back in here it seems like every day, and things are going pretty well.”

All that being said the Bruins are at a point where it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if they’re beating the best teams in the league. They were a playoff team last season and the B’s are shaping up to again be a group that looks playoff-worthy again with key core members David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand again leading the way with dominant seasons.

They are as close to full health as they’ve been all season and now will be the time for the Black and Gold to start seizing opportunities like the one that slipped through their fingers in Music City.

It’s also about the Bruins beating the lesser teams with the same focus, effort and emotion that they’re bringing against the league’s best. The Bruins have also lost to some of the league’s worst teams: once each to the Oilers and Sabres and a couple of awful back-to-back losses to the Avs now back in their last place residence in the Central Division.   

“We’ve got Stanley Cup champions in there, so they do elevate their game [against big challenges],” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s a good thing. But you don’t want to shrink down your game [if it’s an opponent] that you don’t have as much respect for. You’ve got to guard against that and play to your standard in every game.”

Guarding against playing down to their competition will be an immediate test with the Arizona Coyotes rolling into town on Thursday night with the second-fewest points (19) in the NHL. So, it’s time for the B’s to turn the page on the missed opportunities and focus on taking care of business against one of the very beatable weak sisters.  

Talking Points: Marchand puts Bruins on his shoulders late


Talking Points: Marchand puts Bruins on his shoulders late

GOLD STAR: Brad Marchand decided to put the team on his shoulders late in the game, and not allow the Bruins to lose in Detroit. Marchand snapped off a slick cross-ice pass to David Pastrnak for the game-tying goal late in the third period with the goalie pulled, and then scored on a filthy backhanded finish in a breakaway in the 3-on-3 OT. Marchand finished with five shot attempts, a goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in 21:27 of ice time, and should put these highlights in his greatest hits reel for Hart Trophy consideration at the end of the year. Marchand is so fun to watch in those moments when he elevates his game with everything on the line, mainly because he is one of the few players that can do it.

BLACK EYE: Henrik Zetterberg looked every bit of his 37 years of age in this game finishing with a minus-3 and with just one shot on net during an otherwise decent, disciplined effort from the Red Wings. Zetterberg is really the poster boy for all that’s wrong with Detroit through no fault of his own where he’s a reminder of past Red Wings glory, but he’s not a player that should be around anymore as they build around younger players. Zetterberg can still play in the league and be pretty good, but he’s also not what he used to be when the Red Wings were perennial Cup contenders. It’s amazing that he was on ice for all three of the goals scored by the B’s in this one.

TURNING POINT: Bruce Cassidy pulled the goalie with slightly less than two minutes to go in the third period, and it turned into a good call as the Bruins skill players went to work with a scrambling Red Wings group on the ice. Marchand authored an elite, cross-ice pass through three Red Wings players in the middle of the ice to a waiting David Pastrnak for the game-tying goal, and that at least guaranteed the Bruins a single point in a game where they hadn’t played really well. That’s what good teams do: Grind out points when they’re not at their best, and somehow find ways to win some of those games by any means necessary.

HONORABLE MENTION: Noel Acciari helped the Bruins get some energy in the third period when he scored a gritty goal in front of the Red Wings net on a loose puck. Acciari attacked the end boards after the Red Wings had won a defensive zone face-off and forced a turnover on the exchange between Detroit D-men. That aggressive play turned into a shot at the Boston net from Tim Schaller, and then a follow-up from Acciari where he spotted the loose puck and flipped it past Jimmy Howard for the Bruins first goal of the game. Acciari only ended up with a shot on net and two hits in 10:50 of ice time, but it was exactly the kind of contribution that every team is looking for from their fourth line. Acciari came up big in this game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of wins in a row for Tuukka Rask, who made 31 saves and played solid for a Bruins team that didn’t play very good hockey in front of him for most of the game. 

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I didn’t see even see Marchy. I thought he was going to shoot it, and I just saw it at the last second. It wasn’t an easy shot and it was coming in pretty hot, but I got it down on the ice and was shooting at an empty net.” – David Pastrnak, on receiving the cross-ice pass from Brad Marchand through three Detroit defenders for the game-tying goal in the final minutes. 

Bruins tie it late, beat Red Wings 3-2 in OT behind Marchand


Bruins tie it late, beat Red Wings 3-2 in OT behind Marchand

DETROIT -- In just over two minutes, Brad Marchand stole another victory for the Boston Bruins.

Marchand assisted on the tying goal late in regulation and scored the game-winner 35 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. Boston managed only two shots on goal in the first period but twice rallied from a one-goal deficit for its ninth win in 11 games.

"It's big," Marchand said. "Just shows the character that we have in the room and that we're really learning a lot."

Detroit has dropped 10 of 11, although the Red Wings have earned a point in five of those losses.

David Pastrnak tied it with 1:26 remaining in the third period, extending his point streak to nine games. The Bruins had pulled goalie Tuukka Rask with more than two minutes left, and Marchand's pinpoint pass from the right side made it through traffic to Pastrnak at the left of the net. His 15th goal of the season sent the game to overtime.

"A lot of times it's tough to get those through," Marchand said. "One out of 10 or one out of 20, whatever. But luckily that one made it through and we were able to capitalize."

In the extra period, Marchand skated in ahead of defenseman Mike Green and stickhandled to the right before backhanding the puck past goalie Jimmy Howard from a sharp angle.

"We've played way too many games this season where we played good and came up short," Detroit's Tomas Tatar said. "Maybe that's showing us something. We have to be better somewhere."

Noel Acciari scored the other goal for Boston. Dylan Larkin and Tatar scored for Detroit.

Tatar opened the scoring on a second-period power play, beating Rask only 13 seconds after Patrice Bergeron received a minor penalty for tripping. Tatar's wrist shot made it through with teammate Justin Abdelkader standing in front of the net as a screen.

Pastrnak, playing his 200th career game, nearly tied it moments later when he skated in behind the Detroit defense, but Howard stopped him.

"In the end, we got it going eventually. There's a lot of pride in that room. We knew we needed to be better," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "In fairness, Detroit hasn't won much lately, but their will to block shots and keep the puck out of their nets was tremendous. You've got to give them credit."

Acciari tied it early in the third after a scramble in front of the net, and Boston went on the power play when Green was whistled for holding. But Larkin scored short-handed on a breakaway to put Detroit up 2-1.

The Red Wings couldn't hold onto that lead either, giving up the tying goal after the Bruins were able to set up in the Detroit zone.

"I think we got a little bit tired, so we didn't have enough pressure below the tops of the circles. We don't want to be that passive," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I thought we were in the right places, but we didn't make a play on the puck. Ultimately, the puck went through multiple guys. It's a good play by Marchand. But we certainly were in the right spots, we've just got to make a play on the puck."

NOTES: The Red Wings ended up with only a 33-32 edge in shots despite a 9-2 advantage in the first. ... Marchand has 12 goals and 13 assists this season.


Bruins: Host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Red Wings: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.