Talking Points: Bruins ride momentum early and Tuukka shuts the door on Bolts


Talking Points: Bruins ride momentum early and Tuukka shuts the door on Bolts

GOLD STAR: Torey Krug had a radically up-and-down game in the Sunday loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and clearly entered Wednesday night’s game aiming to be a difference-maker. Krug finished by scoring the game-winning goal in the second period, led the Bruins with a game-high seven shots on net and had eight shot attempts and a couple of blocked shots in 17:42 of ice time. Even better Krug managed to stay out of any big trouble in the defensive zone and avoided any turnovers in a high-paced, back-and-forth game against the Lightning. Krug has only been back for a couple of games after missing time with an injury, but on Wednesday night he looked like a player trending toward the top of his game with heavy involvement in the offensive zone.

BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov is one of the top scorers in the NHL along with Steven Stamkos, and he’s been brilliant in the first couple of months with Tampa Bay. But on Wednesday night he finished with just a single shot on net and a minus-2 while clearly not enjoying very good skating legs. His one and only chance in the game was a sweeping one-timer attempt at the end of the second period, and it was a very good scoring opportunity. However, Tuukka Rask was able to make the stop on Kucherov’s scoring attempt and that was it for the Hart Trophy hopeful.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins seized this game early on and outshot the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 19-5 margin. They also scored two first period goals and imposed their will on the Bolts. It was a positive for the Bruins to get the goal from Charlie McAvoy midway through the period, and see it count after a phantom Brad Marchand goalie interference call almost cost them. It could have been a boost for Tampa to get through the rest of a period down by just a single goal after being dominated, but a Riley Nash wrist shot toward the end of the period created a lead the Bruins would never surrender. As it turned out, the strong start was enough to carry them to victory for the most part.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Tuukka Rask, who only made 19 saves but came up with the big time stops to maintain momentum in the game. Rask stopped 14-of-16 shots in the final two periods, in addition to stoning a Nikita Kucherov rocket toward the end of the middle period that kept the Bruins ahead of the Bolts. Even if the Finnish goaltender downplayed it, it’s pretty clear that Wednesday night was a massive step forward for him if he wanted to hold onto the No. 1 goaltender spot with the B's. Rask went out and did his job in solid, workmanlike fashion, and that’s all the Bruins are looking from their main puck-stopper.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28:11 – the game-high ice time total for Charlie McAvoy, who was very strong while scoring Boston’s first goal. He finished with an important multi-point effort in a very strong showing for the rookie D-man.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t think we saw their best game, but we definitely were ready and excited to play them. We want to continue to get better and I think we’ve done it, the last little bit. You’re really seeing guys come into their own and really step up. We need that going forward.” –Brad Marchand, liked what he saw in the win over Tampa Bay after he returned to the lineup from injury. 


A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence


A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – It sounds like the toughness quotient might be going up quite a bit higher for the Bruins in the near future.

Adam McQuaid may be cleared to play as soon as Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least later on in the week if it doesn’t happen against the rough-and-tumble, Metro Division Blue Jackets. The 6-foot-5 hard-nosed defender has been out for nearly two months with a broken right fibula, but has been back skating with the Bruins for a couple of weeks.

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he’s getting close. He’s practicing with us, so it’s imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact day,” said Cassidy of McQuaid, who was one of a handful of players along with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Frank Vatrano, Paul Postma and Anton Khudobin that skated on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena.

There certainly may be some rust in McQuaid’s game after missing the last 24 cgames dating back to the Oct. 19 injury. Ddding another tough customer and D-zone warrior certainly won't hurt the Bruins. In the short term, the presence of McQuaid could protect some of B's top players like Brad Marchand who has received some questionable hits over the last couple of months. In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.

In terms of pairings it would be logical to swing Kevan Miller back over to the left side, and potentially pull rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup once McQuaid is ready to play. But Bruce Cassidy indicated it won’t be that simple, and there may be times when the Bruins roll seven defensemen given their strength in numbers once McQuaid comes back.

“If you take the last guy in, Grzelcyk, [out of the lineup] then you’re back to your four righty [defensemen]. We had mixed levels of success with that, and then it’s a matter of who on the right Is going to come out if he stick with the three lefties,” said Cassidy. “That’s an internal discussion that we’ve already started to have. He will definitely help the penalty kill. It could be a different lineup every night where we go with six D one night, and then go with seven D the next night. It will create good competition.”

McQuaid wants to temper the excitement now that he’s on the verge of a return, and is simply putting in work until he’s given the green light to play. The busy NHL schedule and the lack of quality practice time isn't the perfect scenario for the 31-year-old defenseman to return, so it’s simply a matter of doing what’s best for player and team.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 in the six games he did appear in. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. The more and more game-like situations you get in [can help].

“We haven’t gone too far down the road so I don’t know exactly [when I’ll return]. I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”


Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now


Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I still remain pretty conflicted about my thoughts on the Last Jedi. See yesterday’s morning skate for the full review.

*Happy Holidays from the Boston Bruins, who all wore spiffy Christmas-inspired suits into TD Garden for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers. The clear winners are Christmas Elf Brad Marchand and bedazzled Patrice Bergeron, but everybody is a winner when they’re in the holiday spirit.

*Here’s a blueprint for all 31 NHL teams to get an outdoor game next season if you’re really looking to run the concept into the ground.

*Everybody loves a goalie fight, and the Providence Bruins had one last night even if it was more like slightly angry hugging than actual fighting.

*This quick snippet from an Ottawa Senators radio broadcast this weekend is one of the oddest things I’ve heard in a while. No idea what took them down that path.

*Speaking of the Senators, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says he has no idea why the Sens are having such big attendance problems at their arena. I can think of one reason: location, location and location.

*Larry Brooks goes over the Sean Avery memoir just in time for Christmas for all those looking for a stocking stuffer, or just looking for the perfect gift for that hockey rat in your life.

*Hacksaw Jim Duggan dropping the puck for a minor league hockey game is definitely something to brag about. Ho!

*For something completely different: 20 years later, the crazy story of how the blockbuster Titanic ultimately got made.