TIm Schaller

Short-handed Bruins go all in in victory over Wild

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Short-handed Bruins go all in in victory over Wild

BOSTON -- Somehow the Bruins are managing to survive, and even thrive at times, despite an injury list that keeps growing with each passing day.

The shorthanded B's banked two more points in their 5-3 win over the equally banged-up Minnesota Wild on Monday night at TD Garden, and have now taken points in seven of their last eight games. Some of it is about fill-ins stepping up and getting the job done, some of it is about the youth movement coming through intermittently, some of it is about Boston's core group pulling the rest of the team along, and some of it is about a team displaying a ton of heart and character.

The Bruins showed all of those things after initially falling behind Minnesota by a goal in the first period, and they displayed those enviable qualities in battling back from deficits against both Columbus and Washington over the last week, as well. Habitually falling behind isn't a recipe for success, but the Bruins will take whatever they can get with a bare-bones roster that looks more like an AHL team.

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Clearly it's a small sample size of games with the season barely a month old, but the Bruins refusing to throw in the towel is becoming a trend.

"You're starting to see that personality of our hockey club that we are not going to be an easy out," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "We are going to keep ourselves in games, and work hard to get back in games. Some nights it's going to work out, and some nights it's not. That would be a great personality to have on the team. It just shows the character of the group."

It's interesting to note the Bruins lost Saturday when David Pastrnak accounted for all of Boston's, but won Monday with five different goal-scorers. Certainly they'll count on Jake DeBrusk, who opened Boston's barrage with his third goal of the season, but it was all secondary offense after that, with Frank Vatrano, Sean Kuraly, Torey Krug and Tim Schaller doing the rest of the goal-scoring.

The Bruins were rewarded with the first two assists of Jordan Szwarz's NHL career, and they got hardnosed, physical play from guys like Matt Beleskey, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara against Minnesota after getting pushed around by Washington last weekend.

It's exactly the kind of diversified scoring and offense that Boston is going to need while missing three of its top six forwards (David Krejci, David Backes and Brad Marchand). The trick will be duplicating it through the month of November, with 8 of their 12 opponents having made the playoffs last season. That doesn't leave a lot of room for error while waiting for reinforcements over the next few weeks, but that's the Bruins' lot whether they like it or not.

"We prepare for the games," said Chara. "It's just happens that we are missing some guys. But we can't be feeling sorry for ourselves. We accepted a few days ago that everything is going to be battling, or facing some kind of challenge with injuries, missing players. But like I said earlier, I think it's a great chance for our players to step up, and they did. They played really well. We had a really good team effort. That's important that you don't always rely on the same guy. It's other guys stepping up and making big contributions."

It's a time-honored hockey platitude that injuries are simply an opportunity for somebody else to step up. Normally it's a hackneyed cliché, but stepping up is exactly what's happening as the Bruins have posted a 6-4-3 record in their first 13 games without even once boasting their full lineup. Undoubtedly there's room for improvement -- and it will be a much different story when they finally get healthy -- but for now they're hoping for a steady stream of grind-it-out games just like Monday's all-in win over the Wild.

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Five different Bruins contribute with goals in 5-3 victory over Wild

Five different Bruins contribute with goals in 5-3 victory over Wild

BOSTON – The Bruins seem to lose a new body to injury with each passing day, but it hasn’t stopped them from surviving and winning hockey games.

Missing three of their top offensive forwards from their lineup, the Bruins got goals from up and down the rest of the roster to take an impressive 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. The Bruins have now taken points in seven of their last eight games, and continue to tread along with a severely undermanned lineup.

The Bruins actually gave up the first goal of the game, and didn’t look very good doing it. Tuukka Rask kicked out a Ryan Suter shot directly in front of the net, and Nino Niederreiter had all day to corral the rebound and flip it past Rask.

But after that it was all Bruins, all the time. Less than six minutes later Jake DeBrusk simply took the puck away from Jarred Spurgeon in front of the Minnesota net, and then banked a shot into the net off Suter camped out in front. Frank Vatrano followed a couple of minutes later with a long distance snapper that ended a 25-game goal-scoring drought dating back to last season, and the Bruins had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Sean Kuraly added his second of the season in the second period after following shots from Tim Schaller and Danton Heinen, and David Pastrnak served up a perfect dish for Torey Krug to step into and fire past Devan Dubnyk. The Wild got one back in the third period from Mikael Granlund to make it a two-goal game, but Rask stoned Granlund on a subsequent penalty shot attempt that really could have made it interesting down the stretch.

Erik Staal scored on a shorthanded goal in the final five minutes to move the Wild within a single score, but that’s as close as they would get prior to Tim Schaller icing things with an empty net goal in the final minute.

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.