St. Louis Blues

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.

Plus

*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.

Minus

*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.

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No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

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USA TODAY Sports photo

No supplemental discipline for Schenn on Krejci hit

UPDATE: 1:10 P.M.: The NHL Department of Player Safety ruled that no supplemental discipline is needed for the Blues'  Brayden Schenn for the violent hit he delivered to the Bruins' David Krejci in the B's 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis on Wednesday night. 

In the second period, Schenn clobbered David Krejci in the corner with a punishing hit to the head as the B’s playmaking center was facing him immediately after releasing the puck. Schenn was whistled for a two-minute minor for charging at the time of the collision, but luckily Krejci was able to remain in the game and played 15:54 of ice time in the loss.

Upon further review, it was very clearly a big, heavy hit delivered to Krejci’s head, but there were plenty of mitigating factors. Krejci had his head down until the last second while looking down at the puck on his stick and was hunched over as Schenn moved in to deliver a check on a player eligible to be hit. Schenn’s skates left the ice to finish the hit after impact, which made the collision look even worse to the casual observer, but that isn’t considered launching into a hit by the NHL’s standards.

Adding to the equation is that Schenn has been suspended twice by the NHL before, three games in 2016 for a charging hit on TJ Oshie and one game back in 2013.

Clearly, it’s a difficult call for the league as they try to deter hits to the head and reduce the number of concussions. Still, this would appear to be another situation where, as the league says, a player “assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable." It’s absolutely similar to the Patrick Hornqvist/Charlie McAvoy hit from a few weeks ago that never ended up with any supplemental discipline for the Penguins hard-hitter despite plenty of hue and cry from the Bruins fans.

So what does everybody else think about this hit, and whether or not Schenn should be facing discipline from the NHL as a result of it?


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B's continue to get 'stellar goaltending' as Rask keeps streaking

B's continue to get 'stellar goaltending' as Rask keeps streaking

BOSTON – One sure sign that a goaltender is going well is when he ends up winning epic duels between puck-stoppers. That’s just where Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finds himself midway through the season.

Rask improved to a personal-best, 19-game point streak in Boston’s 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. He stopped 32 shots while staring down Jake Allen performing his own miracles at the other end of the ice. The Bruins No. 1 goalie is 17-0-2 over those 19 games and is fourth-best all-time in point streaks for a B's goalie, behind only the legendary Gerry Cheevers (32 games in 1971-72), Pete Peeters (31 games in 1982-83) and Frank Brimsek (23 games in 1940-41).

Perhaps his best arrived in the third period when Rask kicked away a long point shot, and then managed to go post-to-post for the big glove save on Jaden Schwartz bearing down with a backhanded rebound attempt. It was still a one-goal game at that point, and even one fault in Rask’s game could have messed things up for the Black and Gold.

As he’s been for much of the past three months, Rask was up to the task.

“I think this team has always been confident in Tuukka, especially lately,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those key saves late in the second period – I thought we did a really good job keeping it clean in front of him for the most part – but those were two big saves. He wanted to match the other guy because I thought the other guy…it was good goaltending tonight.

“I think any team will play better when they know their goaltender has their back, and Tuukka certainly had that, as well as Anton [Khudobin]. We talked about it. Anton has been very good for us, and we’ve been fortunate, for the last stretch since mid whatever it was…November, to have stellar goaltending.”

Certainly, the numbers back it up. The Bruins goalies are fifth in the NHL with a .918 save percentage this season and are currently the favorites to walk away with the Jennings Trophy at the end of the season with a 2.41 goals-against average. Clearly, the Bruins put forth one of their best efforts on Thursday night to respond to what the Blues brought to the table with a big, strong and heavy attack, but Rask was equally locked in while watching  Allen stop 43 of 45 shots at the other end of the ice.

“Allen played a great game, a lot of good saves that kept them in it. You just know when it’s a one-goal game you know at some point there’s going to be a chance, you try to make that save,” said Rask, who is tied for sixth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage and ranks third with a 2.12 GAA. “You know maybe today came in the third period and then after that, we extended the lead, and you just try to keep it tight at all times.

“A lot of it is team play like how your team plays in front of you. Lately, as goalies, we haven’t had to stand on our heads and play unbelievable games to keep us in it. Our team is playing great hockey offensively, defensively and all around. I think it helps everybody. Everybody feels more confident, and everybody is trying to pick each other up all the time. We’re no different.”

There’s no telling how long Rask can keep his point streak going with his strong play combined with a consistent 200-foot team in front of him, but it could be awhile given that he’s also well-rested because of how good Anton Khudobin was in the first half of the season. Things are lining up perfectly for Rask and the Bruins, so perhaps we’ll finally get to see just how good he can be as a No. 1 goalie at the time when the B's will really need him in the spring.

That being said, it was a playoff-style game vs. St. Louis on Thursday night and a playoff-style performance from Rask that should leave some enthusiasm for what’s in store a couple of months from now.  

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