Bruins

A return to form for Johnny Boychuk

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A return to form for Johnny Boychuk

WASHINGTON If there was a silver-lining to Bostons loss to the Capitals in Game 4, it was the play of Johnny Boychuk.

The Bs defenseman has looked slowed and tentative at times during the series while working his way back from a sprained knee suffered at the end of the regular season, but the real No. 55 stepped up against the Caps. Boychuk played 19:17 of ice time and registered a couple of thumping trademark hits while also blocking a Brooks Laich shot in the third period that appeared destined for an open net.

It wasnt enough in the 2-1 loss, but it qualified as a positive for a Bruins team looking for them amid a frustrated dressing room.

It was the kind of game that Boychuk has been searching for since the postseason started, and the kind of difference-making effort hes become known for in the playoffs since he acted as a human wrecking ball against the Buffalo Sabres two years ago.

But hed much rather it come in a win.

We had 40 plus shots again and weve got to find a way to get something past Holtby. We had a lot of loose pucks around the net and we need to find a way to get to those zones to put it home, said Boychuk.

Boychuk admitted after the game that hes started feeling that freedom and ease midway through Game 3, and freely said he didnt feel like himself in the first couple of games. He was a beat too slow reacting to things happening on the ice, and thats a playoff hockey death sentence for a defenseman thats always had to play close attention to his skating.Case in point: the penalty Boychuk was able to draw on Mike Knuble in the third period on an aggressive pinch is something he hadnt been doing in the first three games.

Things are starting to feel a lot better. Hopefully next game Ill feel even that much better, said Boychuk. Its new getting used to a knee brace and feeling my way through it.Its starting to come together for Boychuk at the exact right time with the Bruins facing a best of three series against the Washington Capitals for playoff advancement, and Boston could use as many hands on deck as possible.

Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

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Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak netted the game-winner in the third period after getting freed up for a breakaway chance, and then throwing a double-move at Matt Murray before tucking one under his glove hand. It was the first goal in six games for Pastrnak, and it capped off a day when he topped 22 minutes of ice time, had a team-high five shots on net and battled through some physical play from the Penguins to get toward his offense. The 21-year-old continues to set the pace for the Bruins offensively, and has shown all the signs in the last couple of games that he’s busting out of whatever mini-slump was holding him down. Everybody knows that Pasta isn’t good for Thanksgiving, but it is certainly good for Black Friday.

BLACK EYE: A tough afternoon for former Boston College standout Brian Dumoulin, who got rocked by a couple of heavy Noel Acciari hits later in the game, finishing with a minus-2 rating while sitting on the ice for a couple of goals against. Dumoulin finished with three giveaways in 20:03 of ice time, managed only a single shot on net and was one of the weaker links on the ice for Pittsburgh in a game where they didn’t play too badly in the final 40 minutes. Dumoulin seems to struggle a bit when he comes back to Boston, and Black Friday afternoon was no exception.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were outplayed in the second period despite outshooting the Penguins by a 14-8 margin, and they watched as Pittsburgh pressed them for three goals in the middle 20 minutes. But in what turned out to be a very important play in the game, Matt Grzelcyk finished off a broken play in front of the net to score his first NHL goal on the Garden ice where he grew up skating. That goal allowed the Bruins to move into the second intermission with a tied hockey game, and set things up for the third period heroics where David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a breakaway strike.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk put together another strong performance, and his line played a giant role in the Bruins jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. He set up the David Krejci goal that got the Bruins up and rolling in the first period, and then he also fed Krejci again in the second period on a shot attempt he fanned on in the slot. The puck drifted over to Matt Grzelcyk for Boston’s third goal, and it capped off a day where the rookie winger topped 18 minutes of ice time, had two assists and a plus-1 rating, finished with four shots on net and had a couple of hits in there for good measure.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the placement the Bruins now have in the Atlantic Division after winning four games in a row, which puts them back into a playoff spot on the day after Thanksgiving. What a stunning turnaround it’s been over the last couple of weeks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, everyone is watching, let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it, and I think they felt the same way coming out [in the first period].” –Bruce Cassidy, on the strong start from the Black and Gold. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

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Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

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Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
 
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
 
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE