Talking points: Noel Acciari's goal helps inspire comeback

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Talking points: Noel Acciari's goal helps inspire comeback

GOLD STAR: Zdeno Chara didn’t factor into the scoring for the Bruins, but the 6-foot-9, 40-year-old captain was massive against the Oilers in his role as a shutdown performer. Chara was locked up with Connor McDavid throughout the 60 minutes of regulation play, and it was that constant attention being paid by Big Zee that helped keep the Edmonton wunderkind under wraps with just a couple of shots on net. Above and beyond the simple, vital defensive shutdown work for the Bruins that goes without saying, Chara set the tone physically as well with team-highs in registered hits (five) and blocked shots (five) in his 22:39 of ice time. He finished a plus-1, wasn’t scored on and instead continued to draw energy and enthusiasm doing his defensive work even though it was the second end of a back-to-back fairly late in the season. 

BLACK EYE: Leon Draisaitl had to know that he was in for a battle against the Bruins based on their center strength down the middle, and he clearly came up on the short end of the stick along with his Oilers. Draisaitl finished with no shots on net, a couple of giveaways and not much else going on aside from going 12-for-26 in a face-off performance that wasn’t very good either. Draisaitl is counted on to be a big time player for the Oilers and team with Connor McDavid as a 1-2 punch carrying them on offense when things aren’t going well. That didn’t happen with Edmonton’s German import and the rest of an Oilers group. Once again, they fell short after building up and holding a two-goal lead for most of the game. Things would have been much better for the Oil if Draisaitl could have finished off an offensive play or two on an evening where it was all hands on deck against the Bruins. 

TURNING POINT: It was all about Noel Acciari finally breaking through in the third period with his high effort goal, and that stirred everything else into gear as everybody suddenly started believing in the comeback. That turned into three unanswered goals in the third period that led the Bruins to the two points. Acciari motored down the wing, fired a shot at the net and gathered his own rebound behind the net before wrapping it inside the post on the opposite side for his first score in a while since battling injuries over the last few weeks. That bit of fourth line opportunistic offense really started things percolating with the Bruins offense, and led to a couple more goals from a Boston bunch that refused to lose once again.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Give it up for David Krejci stepping up in the final minutes and scoring the game-winning goal as he stepped up to finish off a great play that started with both Danton Heinen and David Backes. Krejci finished with a goal in 17:23 of ice time, three shots on net, a registered hit and 8-of-13 face-off wins in a solid night, but he really seemed to flourish when Bruce Cassidy switched him out with Riley Nash for a bit of a third period spark. That’s when Backes and Heinen responded to playing with No. 46, and ultimately teamed up for the game-winner after Nash had set up the game-tying goal with his new linemates in Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner. Take a bow for those line changes in the third period down by a couple of goals, Bruce Cassidy!

BY THE NUMBERS: 142 – the fewest goals allowed in the NHL this season is something proudly carried around this season, and it’s really not even close with Nashville as the next team with 154 goals allowed this season. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ll have to see how quickly he really adapts to our system, and then go from there.” –Bruce Cassidy to reporters in Edmonton, when asking how long it will be for newly traded D-man Nick Holden to get in the lineup for the Bruins. 

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

BRIGHTON – If you stay in the NHL for long enough, the hockey circle of life becomes complete for any player.

Sometimes it might be coaching the son of a former teammate or a former NHL player watching their kids suit up against guys they used to play against. Much more rarely, it might be father and son playing on the same team as the late, great Hall of Famer Gordie Howe did with his sons at the tail end of his brilliant career.

Much more common are NHL players sticking around long enough to play with sons of their former teammates. Such was the case with Patrice Bergeron, 32, skating at practice on Monday with the newly signed Ryan Donato. Bergeron couldn’t help but feel a little old at the notion, but immediately went back to his days as an 18-year-old NHL rookie playing with Teddy Donato in the final season of his NHL career back in 2003-04.

“It’s definitely different. When I was an 18-year-old coming in [to the NHL] I was playing with his dad, and that year [Ryan, as a little kid] was skating a few times after practice and I was there,” said Bergeron, going into the way-back machine to when he was the youngest player in the league in his first season. “Now he’s in the locker room and going to be a part of the team. He comes from a great family. I just hope I can help him as much as Teddy [helped me].

“It certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger. I still think I am, and that I’ve got a few good years ahead of me. It’s a little weird to see that, but that where I am in my career, I guess.”

Clearly, the memories of the younger Donato are notable for Bergeron, and they are doubly so for a young guy in Donato who's idolized No. 37. In fact, Donato said he was blown away that Bergeron even remembered him when they bumped into each other at the summer pro league in Foxboro a couple of years back.

It was a long way away from Bergeron heading over to Donato’s house for pool parties when he was still a teenager just starting to make NHL waves.

“This is what kind of guy Patrice Bergeron is...he was around the house a little bit when I was a little kid and he was a rookie in the NHL,” said Donato, telling the story at last summer’s development camp after dominating the rest of his Bruins prospect peers for a week’s time. “I hadn’t seen him for a pretty long time, and then he saw me in Foxboro a couple of years ago and said ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’

“That’s pretty cool when your idol and the player you most look up to can remember you like that. It says a lot about him as a person, and we know what he’s all about as a player. He’s just a great of the best.”

It was when Donato retold that story to that we had a pretty good idea he wouldn’t be signing anywhere else but with the Black and Gold.

Bergeron and Donato won’t get to play together at the start, unfortunately, with the Bruins franchise center still out with a fractured right foot. That’s part of the reason the Donato, who turns 22 April 9, is being brought in with Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk down with injuries and the Bruins in need of some dynamic wingers with offensive pop. Clearly, Donato has proven everything he needs to at the collegiate level with 26 goals in 29 games this season at Harvard and he was Team USA’s most dynamic player in PyeongChang with five goals scored in the tournament.

It’s still unclear how much of an impact Donato is going to make jumping straight from the NCAAs to the NHL, but he’s ready to start living out his NHL dreams with the Bruins team that also drafted and developed his dad 30 years ago.

“It’s a whirlwind. Right now it’s pretty crazy. Obviously, I’m really excited," he said. "It’s something I don’t want to happen too fast so I can cherish every second of it. Right now it’s a lot of fun,” said Donato, who signed his two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday. “Even going out for [the morning skate] was a dream come true. It didn’t even feel real yet.

“I just want to play well and do whatever I can to help the team. I just want to go in confident and do what I can to help. At the end of the day, it’s just hockey and I’ve been playing it my whole life, so hopefully, I can play to the best of my abilities.”

With a strong Bruins support system headed by a couple of his father's former NHL teammates in Don Sweeney and Cam Neely- who have known him since he was a little kid - and a roster primed for a long playoff run, the younger Donato couldn’t be asking for a better situation to show what he can do in the NHL. 

Now, it’s up to Donato to show he’s a chip off the old block as the son of a former Bruins forward who scored 150 goals and totaled nearly 350 points in a distinguished NHL career. Perhaps it’ll give him a chance to show that he’s going to be even better than the old man, who was pretty darn good in Black and Gold.  



'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.