What we learned: Bruins 2, Sharks 1
Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win over the Sharks Sunday night at the SAP Center.
Ready to go
There was every reason to think the Bruins wouldn't be ready to play -- the way they weren't so many times under Claude Julien in the first 55 games of the year -- on Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks. It was their first game back after a five-day bye, in which the Bruins didn’t spend much time, if any, on the ice. To make it worse, they flew coast-to-coast from Boston to San Jose before facing the Pacific Division leaders. And prior to Sunday night, teams had a 4-12-4 record in the first game back from bye weeks this season. But instead of taking the easy way out, as they had on plenty of occasions this year, the Bruins came out strong. They scored a goal in the first period, dipped in the second, then finished strong in the third and overtime as they found a way to win while playing a strong, mostly mistake-free game that didn’t feature a lot of rust. Credit to the Bruins for making certain they were ready to go this time around, and credit them for showing the urgency and focus they often seemed to lack in the first few months of the season. That’s been one of their hallmarks since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the bench, and it was there again on Sunday night.
The surge continues
It was thought Ryan Spooner might benefit the most from a coaching change, and that’s exactly the way it’s playing out. He scored the only Boston goal in regulation on Sunday night when he stuffed in a close-range shot in the first period after a Jimmy Hayes turnaround from the slot caromed off the end boards. It was the third point (1 goal, 2 assists) in four games under Cassidy for Spooner, who's had seven shots on net in those four games as he's breathed life into a third line that’s underachieved all season. Spooner and Frank Vatrano (seven shot attempts and a plus-1 rating) were two of the best players on the ice for the B’s Sunday night, continuing a strong body of work for Vatrano, Hayes and Spooner since they were put together. Claude Julien didn’t trust them as a trio defensively, so he never saw what they could do as offensive players. Bruce Cassidy, conversely, has shown trust in all three of those young players together as a unit and they’ve produced for him while playing starring roles in the wins over Vancouver and San Jose.
Expanding the attack
Adam McQuaid has points in three straight games for the first time in his NHL career, and is another poster boy for a reimagined Bruins offense under Bruce Cassidy. This time it was McQuaid who stepped up and pinched at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone in the first period, and eventually earn an assist on the puck that Ryan Spooner flipped past Sharks goalie Martin Jones. Nobody expects McQuaid to all of a sudden become an offensive dynamo, but there’s something good going on with the Bruins when even players like McQuaid, Jimmy Hayes and Kevan Miller are picking up points. It makes the B's them much more difficult to stop when more players are getting on the score sheet, and it keeps all the players that much more invested in the game when they’re seeing the offensive results. That sounds like a winning combo to me.
-- Ryan Spooner scored the B’s only goal in regulation, was one of Boston’s best players with four shot attempts in 16:03 of ice time, and now has a goal and three points in four games since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach.
-- Brad Marchand ended the game on a sweet face-off play in overtime when Patrice Bergeron won the D-zone draw, and Torey Krug flipped a lead saucer pass to a streaking Marchand as he bolted toward the offensive zone. Marchand beat Martin Jones for the game-winner and now has four goals and eight points along with a plus-2 in eight games during the month of February.
-- Krug now has four points and a plus-3 in the first four games under Cassidy while finding the perfect system for his calculated offensive risk-taking.
-- David Krejci was certainly okay in the win over San Jose; he won 11-of-17 faceoffs while mostly playing good defense. But he was also a minus-1 with zero shots on net and didn’t have much of a major impact for the Bruins besides simply skating his lane in the win.
-- The Bruins have been red-hot on the power play as of late, but they were 0-for-1 in Sunday’s overtime win while failing to put together much of a threat on the one PP chance they had. This was one of the areas where the rust might have really showed in Boson’s game after five days away from the ice.
-- Matt Beleskey was a healthy scratch for the Bruins on Sunday night, and the hardnosed left winger has now been scratched twice in the last four games since Cassidy took over for Julien. Beleskey needs to figure out a way to get into the B’s lineup and make sure he stays there as he attempts to turn around a subpar second season in Boston.