Charlie McAvoy

Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center:

1) This team is now bona-fide playoff material. 

We knew this was coming for months after the Black and Gold went on an epic three-month hot streak that catapulted them to second place in the Atlantic Division and within a couple of wins of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now that the Bruins have hit the 100-point mark and clinched the playoffs with the overtime point they got Wednesday, it’s now going to be about positioning for the postseason. That means giving all their injured players ample time to heal and be as close to 100 percent as possible and perhaps even eventually giving up on catching the Lighting for the No. 1 overall seed if it means sacrificing anything for full readiness in the postseason. But that’s a story for the first few weeks of April. On this Thursday, let’s just appreciate a Bruins team that’s clinched a playoff berth weeks ahead of time and is considered one of the odds-on favorites to go on a run this spring. Whether it’s fighting through the adversity of  injuries, getting major contributions from perhaps the best rookie class in the history of the Black and Gold or showing the heart of a champion in many, many memorable comeback wins, the Bruins have shown an “aura of greatness” this season. Not the greatness that comes along with being a longstanding dynasty, but the greatness that comes along with the promise they hold for doing great things in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This Bruins team is worth your time and interest and could very well produce the best sports experience for a Boston fan this spring. All of those bode very well for where the Bruins are headed.

2) How about that Ryan Donato? 

Two goals in two games is pretty darned good for the 21-year-old and he once again showed his nose for the net and his excellent shot while burying a puck on edge in the slot area thanks to a bad decision Alex Pietrangelo. All that being said, Donato was very quiet after that point in a heavy, physical game and didn’t do much after Dmitri Jaskin blasted him into the side boards in the second period. Clearly, Donato is courageous for a young guy and has the willingness to go to the scoring areas, but it will be instructive to see how he responds to the heavy, hard-hitting treatment he’s going to get in the NHL. As he scores and gets notoriety, there is going to be more punishment and hard hits thrown his way and it’s going to be up to him to adjust and continue to be as effective. Donato will get that chance, but he now knows it’s not going to be as easy as it looked on that first night at the Garden.

3) The Bruins could use some good health soon.

With Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes and Rick Nash among others missing from the lineup, the Bruins become a much smaller, weaker team that’s increasingly easy to pick on. That’s exactly what the Blues did after falling behind early. There were heavy St. Louis hits thrown all over the ice, including the culmination when Brayden Schenn drilled David Krejci in the corner of the rink. The Bruins never really responded to any of it and instead just kept taking hits and eventually got totally worn down in the third period and overtime when they were just hanging on for their playoff point. Certainly, they can survive in games here or there playing that way, but more Bruins are going to get hurt if opponents are allowed to simply tee off on them as they did on Wednesday night. That won’t be good for anybody associated with the Black and Gold.


*Anton Khudobin was blaming himself for the two goals allowed after the game was over, but the truth is that the Bruins wouldn’t have even got their playoff-clinching point if Khudobin hadn’t stopped a Dmitri Jaskin shot with his goalie mask in the closing seconds. Khudobin was the losing goalie, but he made the big save when the Bruins needed him on Thursday night.

*Donato scored the only goal of the night for the Bruins on a loose puck in the slot that was on edge. He now has two goals and
four points in his first two NHL games. Donato was pretty quiet after that, but how much can you really expect out of the 21-year-old at this point?

*All of the St. Louis offense was supplied by Jaden Schwartz, who beat the Bruins with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle in the third period and then went on a breathtaking one-man rush in OT for the game-winner. Schwartz stepped up with Vladimir Tarasenko down and injured right now.


*One shot on net for David Pastrnak in 20-plus minutes. He did alter the path of the Alex Pietrangelo clearing attempt that turned into Ryan Donato’s goal, but was otherwise quiet in a very physical game.

*Nick Holden played almost 25 minutes of ice time and blocked four shots in the absence of Boston’s top three defensemen and was, by and
large, pretty good throughout the game. But he did back off and give Schwartz way too much room to work with on the tying goal. It was also a tough line change as well, but somebody needs to step up and slow down the Blues there.

*Danton Heinen was called for slashing in the second period on a play that was literally a one-handed tap with the stick on a completely
inconsequential play. The NHL really needs to take a chill pill with these slashing calls. That one was bogus.



Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

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Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

The Bruins have managed to take three of a possible six points since Zdeno Chara went down in the third period of last week's comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and they've done it completely without their top pairing since Charlie McAvoy has also been out all this time.

There are a number of factors behind the ability to withstand the injuries, of course, and the entire defense corps was stellar at both ends in the shutout win over Tampa Bay last weekend.


But it's Torey Krug who's really stepped up his game. He had three assists and 15 shots on net in those three games, and was immense in the win over the Lightning.

Krug has surpassed the 50-point plateau for the second straight season, a major accomplishment for a defenseman who prides himself on his puck-moving and power-play work.

"You know, he has [stepped up]," coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug, adding: "Torey is always going to get his numbers, but he's really added to it 5-on-5 . . . [It] was comforting to see that [without Chara and McAvoy] we shut out one of the best teams [in the NHL], at home, that was rested. You've got to take something out of that. It was one of 82 [games], but that was a real positive for our guys."

For Krug, the challenge of stepping up and being a leader in the team's time of need is the kind of thing he takes pride in responding to with an elevated level of play.

"I'm in the business of winning hockey games and helping my team win," said Krug. "It falls on my shoulders to produce some offense from the back end. And [when] we're missing a couple of guys from the back end that do that push the pace, then you've got to step up and make some plays. When you play with a lot of great players then you'll get your points, and you just need to worry about the defensive zone first.

"We're confident in everybody in this room. A lot of people think that the guys on our back end can't get the job done, so for us to step up [is a good thing]."


The biggest sign of Krug's increased responsibility? He topped 26 minutes of ice time in two of the three games since Chara was injured. Only once before, when he was on the ice for 27-plus minutes against the Rangers in early November, has he played more than that.

The loss of Chara and McAvoy has forced Krug to go above and beyond his normal range of duties and he's stepped up and embraced it. That's what good players on good teams do, and it's something Krug has consistently done in the big moments since arriving in Boston five years ago.


Haggerty: Not surprisingly, injuries and schedule catching up to B's

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Haggerty: Not surprisingly, injuries and schedule catching up to B's

SUNRISE, Florida – It would seem that the attrition, injuries and grueling, rugged schedule are beginning to chip away at the Bruins. 

It took half of March to get there, but the Bruins looked like a team fighting upstream in a 3-0 loss to the hungry, desperate Florida Panthers Thursday night at the BB&T Center.   

There was no magical third-period comeback to be had in this game and Boston’s top offensive duo of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand was held to five shots on net (four from Pastrnak) and a minus-3 rating.

That’s the kind of thing that can happen when a team is missing Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara and Jake DeBrusk to injury and then loses David Backes midway through the first period to a match penalty on a “hitting-from-behind call” call that really didn’t amount to much when you watched replays.

Add all that to a team that's basically been playing every other day for weeks now, and there is inevitably going to be a clunker or two in there. 

Pulling that much quality out of the lineup means that the Bruins probably have to hunker down a little bit defensively and get that extra save from their goaltenders, who have done just that for most of the season.

“You get these nights offensively where it’s not happening, and that’s when you hope that you keep it out of your net,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’ve scored a lot of goals lately to win hockey games if you look at a lot of the scores. It’s probably going to come around pretty soon where we’re going to need a night like the [Panthers] got where they keep the puck out of our net, and we need the extra save. It’s probably getting to that point.

“You’re not going to score six, or eight, or seven on a regular basis, especially when you start taking some people out of the lineup. So hopefully we turn it around quick and start getting the goals against down to a manageable number.”

Still, despite the missing bodies and the result of zero goals, the Bruins still dominated for long stretches of the game. They also seemed to settle down defensively as the game went along and players adjusted to different linemates and defensive partners as the deck keeps getting reshuffled by injuries.

The B’s launched a whopping 46 shots on net and had offensive chances all over the board with pucks bouncing and rattling around the crease against James Reimer, but that’s when the grinding mentality and the determination become the main ingredients to an effective offense. There is something, however, that’s still pretty impressive about the undermanned, injury-battered B's still controlling play and finishing with an unyielding 20 shots on net in the third period while facing a steep, uphill three-goal climb.

“The bottom line is we had a lot of shots on goal today and no goals. We don’t get any points out of a game that’s a division rival, and a team that we’re going to have to face three times in however many games that we have left,” said Backes. “There were a lot of bouncing pucks around the net where we weren’t able to find the second opportunities where you get a couple of whacks. The one where the puck was behind [Reimer] I think it was Jonathan Huberdeau that was back there for whatever reason and able to keep it out of the net.

“That might be a turning point for us if we get a squeaker like that to go in. [There was] another one where [David Pastrnak] tries to whack it in from his belly, but the puck just goes across the other side of the crease. There were other chances we just couldn’t corral the puck, and they were able to clear it out and relieve the pressure for the time being. They did a good job of defending the front of the net as far as getting to loose pucks and getting them out of there.”

Certainly, the Bruins are going to need to be better on Saturday night when they ready for the trip's finale in Tampa Bay, one of three games against the Atlantic Division-leading rivals in the final 13 games of the regular season. If the injury-plagued Bruins want any chance of actually catching and surpassing the Bolts, then they’ll need to make a strong showing in their head-to-head showdowns and a perfunctory effort like the one in Florida simply isn’t going to work.

It might not be the shape that the Bruins wanted to be in when it comes down to these final games against Tampa Bay this season, but the odds are strong they’ll be ready regardless based on the way they’ve flat-out battled this season.