Bruins

Return of Bergeron, Backes propels Bruins past Canucks, 6-3

Return of Bergeron, Backes propels Bruins past Canucks, 6-3

BOSTON – The Bruins were hoping for a big boost from the return of Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to the lineup, and that’s exactly what they got in a solid 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden on Thursday night. 

Bergeron finished with a goal and three assists and a plus-2 rating in the win, and it appeared his return to the Boston lineup was exactly what the doctor ordered for a hockey club in need of a little direction. 

Vancouver actually scored the first goal of the game, but then the Bruins exploded for the next four goals in the first period including three power play goals courtesy of a five minute major boarding penalty on Erik Gudbranson. The mammoth Canucks D-man slammed Frank Vatrano from behind against the end boards, and David Pastrnak, Anders Bjork and David Krejci all tallied power play strikes within 1:37 of each other. 

The Pastrnak score was the beauty of the bunch as he took the puck coast-to-coast through the teeth of the Vancouver penalty kill, and completely faked out Michael Del Zotto before snapping a forehand bid past Anders Nilsson. 

Prior to the PP outburst, Derek Dorsett drew first blood for Vancouver on a wobbly bid from the slot and then Anders Bjork followed with his second NHL goal after tapping home the rebound of a Patrice Bergeron bid from the perimeter. 

Brad Marchand teamed up with linemates Bergeron and Bjork for his fourth goal of the season to make it 5-1 in the second period, and then Vancouver managed to get a couple of goals from Thomas Vanek and Bo Horvat to make for an interesting final period. 

Bergeron made certain that it was a happy ending for the Black and Gold by burying his first goal of the season and his fourth point of the night on a power play strike to ice the game. Anton Khudobin was strong stepping in for the injured Tuukka Rask and stopped 26-of-29 shots for his second victory of the season. 

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

When the Bruins take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night deep in the outer reaches of Western Canada, there will be a couple of things at play. One will be the start of a long sprint to the end of the regular season with 27 games in a scant 52 days with no more long breaks to catch their collective breath.

The worst of the worst will be 16 games in March, which could be the thing that ultimately knocks the Black and Gold down a peg after they’ve managed to play through everything else this season.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by just a couple of points for the NHL’s top spot, the Bruins know the schedule itself will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.

“We’re certainly aware of our schedule the rest of the way, and we know that it’s going to be a challenge. There aren’t too many more days off and we’re pretty much playing every other day,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So some of it will be about getting the proper rest and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play. But this has also been a group that’s done a really good job of handling other things that have been thrown at us whether it’s injuries or something else. This is just another challenge to take on.”

But the other, smaller picture is of the five-game trip through Canada with a final stop in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bruins will play those five games in ten days in their longest trip of the regular season. They hope to conjure up some of the same mojo that kicked off their three-month winning binge way back in mid-November. It was then that the Bruins righted the ship on a trip through California and won games in Los Angeles and San Jose that kicked off a four-game winning streak that helped change the season.

The Bruins are much more comfortable now with a giant cushion for a playoff spot and a legitimate chance to overtake the Lightning, but Bruce Cassidy is hoping to see the same kind of hunger in this particular long stretch away from home.

“This is much more about what we are and what we look like, but having said that the [California trip] was the beginning of us [turning things around]. It had us gutting out some wins in typically tough places to play like L.A. and San Jose. [Anton] Khudobin was in net and we were relying on some call-up guys, but that was really when our D-corps really stiffened up,” said Cassidy. “It kind of got us back to our heads above water, and from there we kind of took off. But now this is a different group in a different position, and we’re pushing to be in a different position.

“I think you can say Tuukka [Rask] won us all these games or [Brad] Marchand or [Patrice] Bergeron. Our best players have been our best players, but our support players have been very good, especially on those nights when we’ve needed to lean on them a little more when they’ve able to shut down [the Bergeron Line]. I think our support players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bruins clearly hope this mammoth trip can be another seasonal turning point that pushes them in a direction toward a strong, decisive finish to the marathon of a regular season.

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Report: Jake DeBrusk must be included in any deal for Ryan McDonagh

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Report: Jake DeBrusk must be included in any deal for Ryan McDonagh

While Bruins fans might have high hopes that their team is going to be able to land a veteran, proven No. 1 defenseman like Ryan McDonagh in exchange for a song, a bag pucks and a third round pick, that isn’t going to happen. 

The New York Rangers would want Bruins rookie left winger Jake DeBrusk included in any potential deal for McDonagh, according to Edmonton hockey insider Jim Matheson. The report flies in the face of speculation they might be willing to accept unproven prospects like Trent Frederic or Jack Studnicka. The expectation is that the Rangers would be looking for proven, young NHL assets if they were to part ways with a 28-year-old McDonagh, who is signed through next season. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility they’d be looking for DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and a draft pick for a frontline D-man signed through next season. 

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The 21-year-old DeBrusk has 11 goals and 29 points in 51 games for the Bruins, and has done a really nice job as the hard-working, skilled left winger alongside David Krejci for the balance of his rookie season in the NHL. DeBrusk hasn’t exactly been brilliant in his first season, but he’s shown the kind of skills and leadership qualities to be a very good and productive player for the Bruins for a good, long time. 

Clearly McDonagh would be a good fit for the Bruins as a player that would fortify their top-4 on the back end and potentially form a great pairing with 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy. The veteran Blueshirts defenseman would also give the Bruins a high-caliber veteran ready to take over the head of Boston’s D-corps when 40-year-old Zdeno Chara eventually calls it a career. 

But the sense around McDonagh and the Rangers is that Jeff Gorton wouldn’t pull the trigger with him unless he gets an offer he can’t refuse from Boston, Tampa, or any other interested suitors. The Rangers are under no real pressure to move McDonagh right now, and could certainly get a similar, if slightly lesser, haul in June if they opted to trade the defenseman around NHL Draft weekend.

The bottom line for the Bruins remains the same: Don Sweeney should tread carefully when it comes to significantly altering the DNA of a Bruins hockey club that’s threatening for the President’s Trophy this season, and has been the best team in the NHL over the last three months. Removing multiple players like DeBrusk or Carlo from their current group could be the kind of alterations that change the Bruins chemistry for the worse, and that would be a shame after what the Bruins have built up over the course of this season. 

The bottom line is this: Sweeney and the Bruins are in a great spot right now with a high-performing team and a wealth of good prospects, but this is when the decisions start getting really difficult with the wrong moves coming with significant consequences. 

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