Bruins

Talking Points: Second-guessing Bruins' shootout decision

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Talking Points: Second-guessing Bruins' shootout decision

GOLD STAR: While it took a while for the Bruins to get going, Patrice Bergeron was one of the players that didn’t stop playing for the Black and Gold. It was his power-play goal in the second period that started to turn things moving in the right direction, and he continued that level of play with a no-look pass to Brad Marchand for the game-tying score in the third period. Bergeron finished with a goal and two points in 22:08 of ice time with four shots on net, a hit, a takeaway and managed to win 13-of-27 draws while doing yeoman’s work at both ends of the ice. It’s a shame that Bergeron was never able get involved in the shootout after Kenny Agostino and Brad Marchand were the first two guys to come down the pipe.

BLACK EYE: Kenny Agostino played just five minutes in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets, but somehow he managed to be one of the two shooters that Bruce Cassidy was able to get out on the ice before Columbus iced the shootout win. That means Agostino was going to be one of Boston’s top three shooters over either Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak, and that is a choice that leaves plenty of room for second-guessing. Agostino might be a lights out shootout/penalty shot specialist in the AHL and he may have been impressive in practice, or perhaps it was more of a hunch from Cassidy that he would come through. Whatever it was, hopefully it’s the last time we see the career AHL winger get selected over Boston’s top-tier offensive players in their next shootout.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins came on strong in the third period and scored a pair of goals to wipe out the Columbus advantage, and push things into the extra session. It was goals from Torey Krug and Brad Marchand that ended up tying things up after Boston’s horrid start, and gave the Bruins an impressive finishing kick that showed some heart and character. It wasn’t completely dominant from the B’s as it was a 9-9 shot count in the final 20 minutes, but the Bruins were very clearly exerting some pressure on the Blue Jackets.

HONORABLE MENTION: Zdeno Chara didn’t factor into the scoring, but he did make a clear statement that the first period wasn’t acceptable when he stepped up and dropped the gloves with Josh Anderson at the start of the second period. He was targeted with a number of hits in his final shift of the first period, so he was pretty surly to start the second as the rest of his teammates should have been as well. Chara leveled Anderson behind the Boston net to start the trouble, and then finished things with the fight against another mammoth player on the other roster. In all Chara finished with seven shot attempts, a hit and a couple of blocked shots in 24:08 of ice time.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29:19 – the total ice time for workhorse defenseman Charlie McAvoy against a heavy, physical Blue Jackets bunch as the rookie continues to take on more and more responsibility for the Black and Gold.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to win too many games if we don’t have all 20 guys going, and I don’t think that was the case pretty early on.” – Bruce Cassidy, to NESN on his assessment of the ghastly start for the B’s in their eventual 4-3 shootout loss.

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.