Calgary Flames

Bruins send Pastrnak a message with demotion against Flames

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Bruins send Pastrnak a message with demotion against Flames

BOSTON -- With 27 games left in the regular season and the President's Trophy -- given to the team with the best record in the NHL -- within their grasp, now is not the time for the Bruins to be easing up.

So coach Bruce Cassidy decided Tuesday night it was time to send David Pastrnak a message. The slumping 21-year-old right wing was dropped to the third line in Boston’s 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames at TD Garden as big, physical David Backes took Pastrnak's spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Bruins' top line.

Pastrnak finished with a minus-1 rating and a couple of shots on net in the win, and acknowledged that he had some work to do.

“I don’t mind playing with anyone, you know?" he said. "I think I’m the kind of player, you know, I can find chemistry with someone. I don’t know. I want to be better, and we’ll see. I was trying to get better. I need to kind of get better and think what I will do, and what will be the best for the team.”

Some of it was clearly about the matchup against a gritty, fast-skating and skilled Calgary crew that doesn’t shy away from the contact. Cassidy admitted as much after the game.

“Their line plays hard; they play honest and play in straight lines," said Cassidy. "I thought, well, if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to go 200 feet. I thought they got an easy goal against us, too easy for how good they are and how good we want to be defensively. Then Backes would see [Matthew] Tkachuk on the left wing, who is an ornery guy. So, it’s just a bit of a matchup to keep everything honest in our building, give us a little more push back, and then Pasta would slide down with [Riley] Nash and [Danton] Heinen, which is still a very effective [third] line.

“So, you know, just a little tweak and a little different matchup worked tonight, and we’ll see going forward."

That part of it certainly worked as the Bruins shut down the Flames defensively in the final 40 minutes, Bergeron scored a pair of third-period goals and Backes finished with a pair of helpers in a solid, blue collar night’s work.

But some of it was also about a player in Pastrnak who has just one goal in his last 10 games and began to fly under the radar when Marchand was suspended.

The game-breaking right wing is a minus player thus far during the month of February, and hasn’t been generating much in the way of shots on net or scoring chances . . . both of which were coming in bunches earlier in the year.

So, once Pastrnak took an ill-advised slashing penalty after getting stood up by Mark Giordano a couple of times with hard hits at the offensive blue line, the time arrived for Cassidy to make change.

It’s time for everybody up and down the Bruins roster to roll up their sleeves, do their share of the hard-nosed work and play up to the intensity and focus their opponents are showing them on a nightly basis -- and that includes electric offensive talents like Pastrnak.

“I was trying to say that politely, all kidding aside,” said Cassidy, when asked if he was sending a message to his young right wing by dropping him to the third line and just 12-plus minutes of ice time. “You know, because I don’t like to do it through [the media] -- David and I always talk. Yeah, to a certain extent [you] try to get a lot of the guy’s attention, but he’s one that [has to know] you’re going to have tough matchups come April and May.

“If we’re fortunate enough to be playing well and playing at that time of the year, that’s what he is going to see. [Pastrnak] is going to have to grow from the experience he got last year. So there was a little bit of [message-sending], for sure. I love David’s passion for the game, his willingness to compete. We just have to remind him every once in a while how to compete, how to manage the puck, and how to best help the team.”

Pastrnak had a couple of goals and four points in the playoff series last spring against the Ottawa Senators, but there were also times when he struggled to play his game amidst the elevated postseason intensity all around him.

Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak have been the best forward line in the NHL since they were put together a month or two into the regular season. But Tuesday night served as a reminder to Pastrnak that he’s going to need to up his battle, his involvement and his “hard to play against” quotient if he wants to stay there when the going gets tough.

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McAvoy 'starting to feel good' for the B's as he notches first point post-surgery

McAvoy 'starting to feel good' for the B's as he notches first point post-surgery

BOSTON – It was the kind of play that Charlie McAvoy made routinely in the first half of the season, and it was a welcomed sight on Tuesday night as it helped set up the game-tying goal in the second period.

The 20-year-old picked up an assist on Boston’s second goal of the game in an eventual 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames, and it was clearly significant for its time and place in the game.

But it was also about McAvoy snapping a six-game scoreless stretch with his first point since Jan. 20, and securing his first point since undergoing a much-discussed heart ablation procedure at the end of January. On the play McAvoy intercepted a TJ Brodie clearing attempt at the neutral zone, and simply carried the puck straight to the net before drawing defenders and then creating passing lanes for himself and Tim Schaller to set up Riley Nash’s second score of the game.

McAvoy admitted it’s been a process regaining his game at full speed while jumping on the NHL regular season train at midstream, but it certainly looks like things are again falling into place for the brilliant rookie D-man.

“I don’t want to say you lose a step, but whenever you’re not playing and you come back you kind of have to re-adjust yourself so you can get to where you feel like you left off. Especially when you leave

off on a good note and you come back and right away you want to pick up where you left off…it’s easier said than done,” said McAvoy. “Guys come back from injuries every day in this league and, you know, it’s definitely hard to get back in to that game pace.

“So I’m continuing to feel better and starting to feel good. I’m just going to continue to ride it, keep getting better every day, keep staying up, staying energized and just keep playing good.”

McAvoy finished with the aforementioned assist and a game-best plus-3 in his 18:27 of ice time, fared very well under the fast and physical Calgary attack and feels like he’s pretty much back to normal at this point. He’s been back with one point and a plus-5 rating in six games since coming back from the procedure, and has topped 20 minutes in three of those six games for an impressive show of endurance since making his return.

“That’s just composure, smarts and then the ability to see the ice once you get over the blue line and force their ‘D’ to commit away from the net, and all of a sudden, we finished. Well, too, obviously, [Tim] Schaller making the play to Nash,” said Bruce Cassidy. ‘Then, moving pucks up ice, and he had to be hard against good players again tonight, too.

“That’s essentially what we asked our group to be after the first period; let’s just play hard, get back to competing harder, winning pucks, getting there first. If you’re not getting their first, arrive ornery, and I thought we did a good job with that.”

McAvoy continues to work hard and make an impact as a game-changing rookie on the back end for the Bruins, and the good news is that Tuesday night’s big offensive flash is a harbinger of good things to come for the Black and Gold.  

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Bergeron rolling toward Hart consideration

Bergeron rolling toward Hart consideration

GOLD STAR: Once again it’s Patrice Bergeron with a couple of goals that provided the difference in the third period. Bergeron widened his team lead with his 26th and 27th goals of the season, moved into the NHL’s top-10 in goals scored this season with another multi-goal outburst. Bergeron finished with the two goals in 19:56 of ice time to go along with six shots on net, seven shot attempts, a takeaway, a blocked shot and 13-of-19 face-off wins in his night’s work. Bergeron continues to string together impressive nightly performances that push up his standing in the Hart Trophy conversation. It’s all getting real for No. 37 in what could turn out to be his best NHL season.

BLACK EYE: It was another tough night for David Pastrnak, who took an ill-advised slashing penalty in the first period after getting stood up at the blue line by Mark Giordano a couple of times. Bruce Cassidy responded by dropping Pastrnak from his normal spot with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and installing David Backes on the right wing instead once the physicality started getting cranked up against the Flames. Backes remained there and it turned into a two-goal performance from Bergeron as the entire Bruins team responded with a solid final 40 minutes. Pastrnak finished with just a couple of shots on net and a minus-1 rating in 12:02 of ice time, and was a non-factor in a stretch where he’s been very quiet offensively.

TURNING POINT: After getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, the Bruins turned it up and turned it on in the final 40 minutes to leave the middling beginning far into the rear view mirror. Some of it was about Bruce Cassidy’s adjustment pushing David Backes onto the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and some of it was probably about the Bruins getting sick of some of the mediocre play they’d been producing lately. In the second period the Bruins outshot the Flames by a 16-8 margin, got the game-tying goal from Riley Nash after an excellent individual play to set things up by Charlie McAvoy and turned the way that the entire game was spinning. Once the momentum had shifted it was simply about finishing off the Flames, which the B’s and Bergeron did with two goals before Zdeno Chara’s empty netter.

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash has quietly been very strong for the Bruins this season as a third line center, and that continued with a two-goal performance that got Boston up and running against Calgary. The two goals were Nash’s 9th and 10th goals of the season, and added to a night where he was a plus-2 in 14:33 of strong ice time while switching out David Backes for younger, faster David Pastrnak on his right side. Nash finished with three shots on net, a takeaway and a 4-of-11 performance in the face-off circle on a really strong night up the middle for the Black and Gold. Nash has been quietly very good with 10 goals and 36 points in a strong follow-up in his second season in Black and Gold.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of assists for Charlie McAvoy in the win, which snapped a six game scoreless stretch for the rookie defenseman timed around the heart procedure he underwent just a couple of weeks ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Everything they got, they earned. I thought we did a better job being a little more, sort of, belligerent, in the scoring area, getting to the goaltender for some second chances. [We were] managing the puck; we got it behind their D a lot better and forced some turnovers on the fore-check. We played much more to our style of play, how we want to wear teams down and eventually get our looks.” –Bruce Cassidy, on the Bruins’ return to their gritty, simple style of play in the win over the Flames after some recent defensive slippage.

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