Talking Points: Bruins don't take foot off pedal versus Sens


Talking Points: Bruins don't take foot off pedal versus Sens

GOLD STAR: Ryan Spooner had to move to the wing to make room for David Krejci in the lineup, but made a huge statement tonight that he wants to keep playing. His strong play fends off teammates like Anders Bjork and Frank Vatrano chomping at the bit to get back in. Spooner scored a pair of goals to earn his third career two-goal game against his hometown Senators. He played with a fantastic combination of speed and skill both during 5-on-5 play and on the power play. Spooner scored two goals, earned a plus-1 rating, and netted six shots on net in 17:07 of ice time. He now has two goals and seven points in his last seven games since coming back from injury. Perhaps the most promising signs Spooner has shown is his competitiveness, aggressive speed and assertiveness on the ice. This will keep him in the lineup for as long as that remains the case. It’s a win-win situation for the Bruins if it continues as they can utilize him as a veteran top-6 winger, and they could also decide to potentially deal him from a position of strength if he’s playing full-tilt hockey like he is right now.


BLACK EYE: Erik Karlsson has enjoyed some very good games against the Bruins as of late, but Saturday night was not one of them for the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman. Instead it looked like there was a whole lot of resignation in the games of both Karlsson and the rest of the Senators players once things started rolling away from them in the second period. Karlsson finished a team-worst minus-2 with just two shots in net in 26 plus minutes of ice time, and had five of his seven shot attempts blocked by a Bruins team that was going all out for the win. Karlsson has elevated his game for the Senators as of late, but that wasn’t really the case in Saturday’s shutout loss.


TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes, but they really pulled away in the second period against an Ottawa team that appeared to pack it in. The Bruins scored three unanswered goals in the second period, finally started getting their power play unit in sync and then totally buried the Senators underneath continuous waves of quality shifts from all four lines. The Bruins outshot the Senators by a 23-15 margin over the final 40 minutes of the game, and Ottawa could manage only four shots on net in the third period. Ottawa was left waving the white flag in a sad final 20 minutes for them. This was a tale of two hockey teams going in very different directions this season, and the Bruins clearly asserted their authority over the Sens.


HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci returned after missing the last six games with an upper body injury and made an immediate impact with a goal, two points, and solid powerplay effort on Saturday night. Krejci looked no worse for the wear health-wise and had very little rust in his game as he totaled a goal, two points, a plus-1 rating, five shots on net and a 10-for-18 performance in the face-off circle. It was very clear that Krejci’s presence really elevated the man advantage and gave the Bruins exactly the kind of high wattage special teams play they’re going to need to keep carrying things offensively as they move forward.  


BY THE NUMBERS: 10-2-2 – The Bruins record during an excellent month of December where they climbed up the standings and ended on a high note with the blowout win over the Senators.


QUOTE TO NOTE: “Everyone showed up, we played well and we didn’t give them much. Offensively I thought things were clicking, and the power play was amazing from the [David] Krejci unit. It really got us going.” –Patrice Bergeron to NESN on the blowout win over the Senators that ended a 3-of-4 point performance on the two-game road trip.  


Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

TAMPA – David Backes certainly didn’t escape the scary situation with an errant skate blade unscathed, of course. 

The 33-year-old limped his way to the Bruins team bus out of Amalie Arena after Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and needed approximately 18 stitches to close up the gash on his right thigh. But Backes was still able to joke about it as he exited the dressing room while knowing that it could have been much, much worse with that kind of freak accident on the ice. 

"I'll play a second period one of these days,” said a smiling Backes, who was forced out of Saturday night’s loss with the skate blade cut in the last minute of the first period and exited the Florida loss as well after catching a match penalty in the first period as well. Luckily for him, there was no structural damage to Backes’ right leg after Yanni Gourde caught him in the thigh area as both players were down on the ice around the Tampa net.

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There was a lot of blood, however, as he quickly exited the ice, sped past the bench and headed right to the Bruins dressing room with Bruins trainer Donnie DelNegro trailing right behind. 

“I went in and saw him between periods. He’s okay. There’s no structural damage. There will be concern going forward about swelling or infection, but it looks like he’ll be okay. We’ll classify him as day-to-day, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play on Monday,” said Bruce Cassidy of Backes, who actually scored the second goal of the game for the Bruins as a power play strike. “You see a guy coming off like that and you see the blood pooling up, and you’re always worried they could hit an artery somewhere. He was able to get up. That was the first good sign and he was able to be tended to quickly. 

“It is scary. But we were told it would be a deep cut that would require some stitches, and it wasn’t too dangerous.”

For now it just becomes an eventful month for Backes where he’s been suspended, tossed out of a game with a match penalty and now forced out of a game after a freak skate blade incident, but there’s no doubt he’ll return better and stronger than ever in rapid fashion as he’s done through the last two seasons with the Bruins.


B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

AP Photo

B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

TAMPA – One has to wonder what the Tampa Bay Lightning are thinking after Saturday night’s game. 

It’s probably something along the lines of “Oh crap” after the Bruins completely shut them down while missing their top defensemen pairing, their best all-around player and top line center, their most impactful rookie forward and also losing their best power forward, who was filling in as top line center, in the first period. The undermanned Bruins made a big, fat statement with their 3-0 win over the well-rested, healthy Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena at the end of a long, four-game road trip, and now sit just two points behind the Bolts with 12 games to play in the regular season. 

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It was impressive enough that the Black and Gold won at all against the NHL’s best team while missing so many of their top shelf players, but to do it while also totally shutting down Tampa’s offense was something worth remarking about. The Bruins defense and goaltending had been playing a bit fast and loose for the better part of a month, and had been bailed out time and again by an offense that’s been dropping big numbers lately. 

But the Bruins went into Saturday night determined to leave an impression with the Lightning about what awaits them next month once the playoffs start, and they did it with physical, gritty defense that left Tampa with little space to operate. Even better the Bruins defensemen moved the puck pretty much perfectly and swiftly all night, blocked shots with hard-nosed determination and proved they could do more than survive without Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. 

That’s damned impressive when you consider the opponents from Tampa Bay lining up against them with a chance to clinch their playoff spot, and what’s on the line for both teams headed into the final three weeks of the regular season. 

“We were looking at it as more of a bounce-back against a really good team, and let’s see where we are. I thought we answered the bell,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Probably the biggest win in a long time. We've had some nice comebacks and some high-scoring affairs, but it was nice to get a zero [goals allowed] in the column. It’s been a while. 

“It was just good, solid team defense…winning pucks. It was probably not the prettiest hockey, but I thought the goals we scored were pretty nice ones going to the net. It was playoff hockey. I thought we were better at it than they were tonight. Who knows how the next one is going to go, but we’re going to enjoy this.”

It was clear early on that the Bruins wanted to set the tone both physically and style of play-wise, and they did just that. The pounding physicality clearly bothered the Lightning as Steven Stamkos made an uncharacteristic choice to retaliate against Tim Schaller after he threw a heavy hit on the Tampa Bay star player. That landed Stamkos in the box and set the Bruins up for their first of two power play goals on the evening. 

Those two power play goals were proof enough that the Bruins had their special teams in good order, but it took just a combined 23 seconds of power play time to strike for those two scores against the Lightning penalty kill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay coaching staff up at night before the final two meetings between these two teams. The suffocating defense, the stout physicality and the quick strike offense just completely overwhelmed the Lightning, and things went exactly according to the game plan that Bruce Cassidy had set out for them prior to the game. 

“We’re a confident group back there, and when we play the way we’re supposed to we can compete with anybody,” said Kevan Miller, who played a punishing, physical 21:41 of ice time in the win. “It’s that time of year where we’re pushing for the playoffs, we’re grinding away and we knew as a group after [the Florida loss] we needed to tighten things up. We did that. That’s a tough team over there, so you need to take time and space away from them. As a group we did a great job of that.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Bruins early was David Backes exiting quickly at the end of the first after his right thigh got sliced by an errant skate blade. But even the 33-year-old Backes managed to avoid serious injury despite approximately 18 stitches to close the wound, and was cracking jokes about it as he limped to the Bruins bus postgame.

Clearly things can and will change with two games remaining between the two teams in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bruins should theoretically be even better and more difficult to beat once they got all of their key players healthy, and that’s got to be a frightening prospect for the Lightning. 

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Then again perhaps the Bolts were a little rusty after three days off leading into Saturday night, and they needed to be kicked in the teeth by the Bruins to start getting that hunger back. Either way the Bruins are within a single win of pulling into a tie for the top spot in the East and home ice throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Nobody should be surprised the Bruins did it once again while fighting through injuries and a brutal late season schedule, and that’s a testament to how stubbornly they’ve successfully plowed through adversity this season. 

The dominant win over Tampa on Saturday night just serves as another piece of compelling hockey evidence that something special is building with the Black and Gold. It’s become impossible to deny or ignore as the Bruins continue bucking the odds in a way that should have everybody else’s full attention around the NHL at this point.