Bruins

Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

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Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

BOSTON – While the Bruins once again showed a gutsy effort Monday night with a rag-tag group in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild despite all the injuries, there were also some lessons to be learned from the game.

Perhaps none was bigger than the way the Bruins played in the third period with a big lead, and specifically, the way David Pastrnak was managing the puck with the Bruins rolling and the Wild teetering on the edge of waving the white flag. The 21-year-old made some high-risk choices with the puck that allowed the Wild to gather confidence, hope and draw a little closer in the final 20 minutes with a couple of goals.

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One was a pass back through the middle of the ice in the defensive zone when he was already at the blue line in the D-zone, and the other was an inability to make a play to hold onto the puck at the offensive blue line that led to Eric Staal’s shorthanded goal. The Staal goal was also on Danton Heinen for throwing a pass back to him that kind of handcuffed Pastrnak while under some pressure. It was something Bruce Cassidy was thinking about postgame.

“We have to manage the puck on an entry on the power play. I think we made a poor decision. We didn’t manage it well in the offensive zone and all of a sudden they are coming back at us. But again, as a coach, I’ll look at who was on the ice, the time and score situation, have to examine that from my end,” said Cassidy. “From the players' end, they have to understand time and score as well, manage the puck. You want to score obviously when you’re on the power play, but not at all costs.

“You have to understand where you’re at in the game. That’s essentially what happened. We had a turnover, ended up in our net. We had three of those the other night against Washington, so that’s obviously an area of concern. But a lot of teams do have turnovers. We just have to make sure we minimize ours and that that’s what happened in the third I think to lead to their chances.”

The negative plays late in the game were in stark contrast to some really nice plays that Pastrnak made in the first 40 minutes to help the Bruins build a big lead, and he did finish with an assist in 18:27 of ice time. The Bruins outshot Minnesota. 15-4 in the second period in perhaps their most dominant stretch this season, but it led the way to some sloppiness and unnecessary fanciness in the final 20 minutes.

But there was a lot of truth in a Pastrnak box score that finished with him at a minus-1, and with as many giveaways (three) as shots on net (three) while getting careless at a time when the Bruins should have kept it simple. It’s all part of the learning process for a still-young player, of course, and it’s a conversation that Cassidy was planning on having with his young star winger.

“It’s a tough job right there. It’s a good question,” said Cassidy, when asked how he’d handle that kind of situation with Pastrnak. “Sometimes you’re going to give him some rope. Hopefully, he doesn’t hang himself with it. Other times you are going to pull back. That’s just a feel...sometimes it matters how the rest of the group is going. Who else is in the lineup? Are you putting a better player out there in that position? Sometimes you just send a hard message and it doesn’t matter who's there. Hey, [sometimes] enough is enough.

“There’s different ways to do it in game. [The next day], there are conversations. Hey, do you want to be a leader? You’re getting into that phase of your career. Is that how leaders play? Kind of see what he thinks of the whole situation. He might have a different answer, so those are the challenges that coach’s face trying to grow his game without shutting him right off. So that’s what we’ll do [at the next day’s practice].”

The good news is that the Bruins won and Pastrnak has rebounded nicely before from previously adventurous games with the puck, so the upcoming two-game trip through New York and Toronto should feature renewed efforts to manage the puck situationally. 
 

Lowly Sabres defeat sluggish Bruins 4-1

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Lowly Sabres defeat sluggish Bruins 4-1

BUFFALO – The Bruins knew going in that it was going to be a tough one against the Buffalo Sabres at the end of a long five game road trip, and that’s exactly what they played like on the ice.

The Bruins never held a lead and were never really in a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center that saw them lose their third game to the lowly Sabres in four tries this season. Instead it was the Sabres that jumped out with a pair of goals scored in the first period and never looked back in a game where the Black and Gold clearly didn’t have their “A” game. 

Old friend Benoit Pouliot scored on a scramble in front right after a Sabres power play had expired, and two minutes later Kyle Okposo fired a power play goal through a Sam Reinhart screen right in front of Anton Khudobin.

The Bruins responded a bit in the second period with Charlie McAvoy’s sixth of the season after crashing backdoor to finish off a David Pastrnak feed, but they couldn’t score again despite a 16 shot barrage in the middle 20 minutes. Instead Evan Rodrigues stepped into a shot that fired past Khudobin to extend the Sabres lead. Marco Scandella clinched it when he threw a long distance shot off the side boards that seemed to surprise Khudobin at the net.

The good news for the Bruins was that newcomer Rick Nash looked pretty good wearing a No. 61 Bruins uniform and had a number of scoring chances throughout the game teamed up with David Krejci on Boston’s second line. But otherwise the only positive development was that Patrice Bergeron was able to play despite sustaining a right foot injury in Saturday night’s loss to the Leafs, and getting the double whammy of a high stick to the face in the first period of Sunday’s loss as well.

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Nash wants to be the "big power forward" that the Bruins are looking for

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Nash wants to be the "big power forward" that the Bruins are looking for

BUFFALO – Rick Nash has been a longtime good buddy of Jumbo Joe Thornton, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that was one of the first texts that the new Bruins power forward received this morning upon learning he’d been traded to Boston.

“He’d always said it was a great place to play,” said Nash. “I actually got a text from him this morning, so that’s pretty cool.”

The 33-year-old Nash will learn firsthand what it’s like to play for the Boston Bruins after getting dealt to the Black and Gold on Sunday morning from the Rangers in exchange for a bundle of assets amounting to a 2018 first round pick, NCAA defenseman prospect Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh round pick. Nash is in the lineup for the Bruins against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon at the First Niagara Center, and he’ll be playing exactly where the Bruins envisioned on David Krejci’s right wing.

The deal will give the Bruins the size, heaviness and power that they’ve been looking to add on their wing this season, and gives Krejci the exact kind of player that he’s had success with in the past a la Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla.

“The team has had such a great year that you don’t want to come in here and ruffle any feathers. You just want to fit in and help out wherever you can,” said Nash. “It was a strange last few weeks in New York, but I’ve moved on and I’m excited for this opportunity. I’m really excited to be here. I wanted to go to a place that wanted me, and that had a great chance to win. I think Boston fits both of those perfectly.

“I just want to bring my style of hockey, and be a big power forward that can hopefully bring some offense, be responsible defensively and be a complete player. It’ll be fun to see what happens. They’re such a good team and they have so many good players that you just want to see where you fit in.

The hope for the Bruins, obviously, is that the chance at a Stanley Cup can light a fire under the 33-year-old Nash, who has posted 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games for the Rangers this season after failing to crack 40 points in each of the last two seasons. Clearly the big-bodied Nash is on the back nine of an All-Star NHL career, but the Bruins see a 6-foot-4, 215-pound dynamic winger that can still score, hit and play the power game around the net that’s needed when things get nasty in the postseason.

“He’s very dynamic. He’s hard to stop and contain one-on-one. He’s got good speed and can protect the puck well, and get so the net with good hands around the net,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s all those things are far as attacking the scoring area. He’s a good penalty killer and responsible defensive player. He’s a good fit and he’s going to right in with [David] Krejci on the right wing with Jake DeBrusk on the left.

“We’re not huge in that area. In our top-9 it will give us a different look and I think it will help us a lot. No disrespect to Ryan Spooner, who went into it with a different skill set. We didn’t expect him to grow five inches earlier this year, so this certainly helps us in those closer, harder games. We’ll see where it leads us.”

In his last three playoff runs with the Rangers, Nash has 10 goals and 23 points in 39 games, which is much better playoff production than the impact winger had earlier in his NHL career. And that is what the Bruins spent all of those assets for on Sunday morning with a chance for Nash to bring something to the B’s as they have big plans for this spring.  

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