Bruins

Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

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Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 3-2 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday night:

1) Brad Marchand is putting together a Hart Trophy resume for the second consecutive season. 
Clearly, the numbers are impressive with 12 goals, 25 points and a plus-12 rating in just 20 games. He’s on pace for 44 goals and 93 points in an era when you just don’t see that kind of production much anymore. Still, it’s the time and the place where Marchand exerts his dominance that makes him an MVP-type force. That’s exactly what happened in the come-from-behind win. The Bruins hadn’t played well for the first 40 minutes and it looked like they were going to lose after Dylan Larkin struck for a shorthanded goal in the third period. That’s when Marchand got to work snapping a slick, cross-ice pass through three Detroit defenders to set up David Pastrnak’s tying goal with the goalie pulled. Then Marchand scored on a backhanded breakaway less than a minute into OT to steal two points for the B's. Of course, there were others to credit: Pastrnak was able to put a great finish on the one-timer, David Backes attracted attention in front of the net to create the passing seam and Torey Krug freed up Marchand for the breakaway winner. But it was No. 63 again at the center of everything who practically willed the Black and Gold to victory. That’s the kind of thing that MVP-type players do throughout the season when it’s badly needed.

2) Bruins found a way to get two points in a game where really they didn't deserve it. 
The Bruins didn’t play well at all, didn’t react very adeptly to Detroit's trapping them and had a difficult time generating anything consistently in the offensive zone until the third period. Tuukka Rask kept them in the game and the Bruins finally began paying the price to get closer to the net in the third and overtime. Good teams find a way to win, and that’s what the Bruins did against a Red Wings team that’s not going anywhere this season. So, with their ninth victory in the past 11 tries, the Bruins are now firmly in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and have a four-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens with a whopping four games in hand against the Habs right now. If the Bruins can avoid monumentally stubbing their toe here, they are in a very good position to keep it in cruise control after the holidays for a postseason spot.

3)  I didn’t think people from Detroit were afraid of anything.
Apparently, I’ve given them way too much credit. Apparently, they’re afraid of a little snow. The downtown Detroit area got six inches of snow on Wednesday and that was enough to keep Red Wings fans away from the new Little Caesars Arena. When you’re from New England, six inches of snow is considered a dusting and isn’t something that would keep any self-respecting hardcore hockey fan away. But anybody who watched the "Wednesday Night Rivalry Game" on NBCSN got an eyeful of empty red seats in the lower bowl at LCA that made Detroit look like anything but HockeyTown. Skipping the game would be understandable if the Motor City was truly in the thrall of a nasty blizzard, but instead Wings fans looked like a player turtling in a hockey fight with the sad attendance. Weak sauce, in my opinion. Next time just shut down the entire city and cancel everything when an inch or two is in the forecast. 

PLUS
*Marchand was the money player. He set up the tying goal in the third period with a slick cross-ice, threaded pass through three defenders, and then scoring the winner. In all, he had two points, a plus-1 and a couple of gigantic plays in his 22-plus minutes of ice time.

*Torey Krug finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in a whopping 23:39 of ice time. It was No. 47 who threaded the needle on a pass that freed up Marchand for the winner. Krug and Marchand were the only two multi-point performers for the Black and Gold.

*Noel Acciari didn’t pile up the hits and he only played 10:50 of ice time, but he made a huge play in the third period when he disrupted the Detroit breakout on a Wings face-off win in the D-zone. He was rewarded with a loose puck goal in front of the net right after causing the turnover. That shift from the fourth line really started shifting the game in Boston’s direction.

MINUS
*The Bruins had two shots on net in the first period and had just one decent scoring chance in the first 40 minutes (a Pastrnak breakaway in the second period) while playing right into the hands of the trap-happy Wings. The Bruins deserved to lose this game based on the way they played early, but a few individuals ended up saving their bacon.

*One shot on net and a minus-3 rating for Henrik Zetterberg, who was mostly invisible aside from a PP assist to Tomas Tatar early in the game. Zetterberg was on the ice for every goal scored by the Bruins and was grossly negligent on at least one of them.

*The refs bungled a call on Patrice Bergeron that directly set up the Wings first goal. Bergeron was clearly tripped by Frans Nielsen in the second period and Nielsen then stumbled over Bergeron’s stick as No. 37 was trying to lift himself up off the ice after falling due to the original tripping infraction. Instead, the refs merely saw the end of the play, called Bergeron for a bogus tripping call and that turned into a PP score for Tomas Tatar that broke the game open. You’d really expect a player such as Bergeron to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, wouldn’t you? 
 

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

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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. 

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Talking Points: Tuukka continues to be a brick wall

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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. 

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