What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win: Back on track
What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track
What we learned from the Bruins 4-1 win over the Kings at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday night:
1) Hold off on the backup goalie search?
The Bruins search for outside help at backup goaltender may have taken a backseat on the list of trade deadline priorities after this victory. Anton Khudobin looked a little jumpy in the first period, but settled into after the opening period and stopped all 18 shots he faced in the second and third period while protecting a slim lead for most of the proceedings. Khudobin has now won two games in a row for the first time all season for the Black and Gold, and is finally giving Tuukka Rask the support he’s needed all season. More important than that the Bruins are getting two point regulation wins when he’s given the starting nod, and the confidence in Khudobin from the coaching staff and his teammates is at an all-time high this season. So the possibility has lessened significantly that the Bruins will need to kick the tires on Jaroslav Halak or some other possible veteran backup alternative, and instead they can save the asset rather than wasting it on a stopgap solution. That’s how important it was that the 30-year-old Khudobin answered the call the way he did and is finally performing as the Bruins envisioned he would all season.
2) Since the coaching change...
There are some areas where it’s like night and day between the Bruins of the past six games and the B’s of the first 55 games under Claude Julien. One of those areas is the second night of back-to-backs where the Bruins struggled badly in the first 50-plus games of the season for a number of reasons: Lack of a focused and determined work ethic, compacted schedule and subpar backup goaltending would be three of the bigger reasons. But now the Bruins have won each of the past two second games in back-to-back situations under Bruce Cassidy. The first was a convincing Sunday night win over the Canadiens and the second this victory over the Kings where the B’s closed strong in the third period. Boston survived a poor-ish second period where they allowed 15 shots on net to Los Angeles while clinging to a slim lead, but they allowed only three shots on net while clamping down the vice grips on victory in the final 20 minutes. Boston finally netted a pair of empty-net goals in the final minutes, but the concerted effort and clear focus they brought through the entire final 20 minutes made it a certainty the Bruins were going to win either way.
3) Ryan Spooner and the third line were better vs. Kings than vs. Ducks
Spooner went 1-for-5 in the face-off circle had an assist as he and the third line improved from their performance in Anaheim. Spooner also struggled in the draw against the Ducks on Wednesday night, and has had Jimmy Hayes taking face-offs for him at times over the last few games. It’s not because Spooner has simply lost the simple ability to take a face-off as some might have you believe. The word on the street is that Spooner had a painful thumb injury somewhere along the way that hurt his natural ability to take draws (which has never been his strong suit anyway), and that’s why the numbers have been a bit on the rough side the past couple of games. So, that lends some context to his recent face-off performances and allows people to give the 25-year-old some credit for playing through an injury at a time of the season when most other NHL players are 100 percent fresh and injury-free coming out of their bye weeks.
*Brad Marchand scored the game’s first goal to get the B’s off on the right foot, finished with a pair of points and a plus-3 along with four shot attempts in 18:09 of ice time. The first-period goal was a great individual play by No. 63 to get things going and put Jake Muzzin in the torture chamber at the same time.
*Anton Khudobin has won two games in a row for the first time all season, he stopped 15 shots in the second period including a flashy glove save on Drew Doughty all alone in the slot and he’s finally playing with a little confidence between the pipes.
*David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a power-play one-timer where he snapped his stick. He finished with a whopping nine shot attempts while playing with both strength and offensive explosiveness against a heavy LA team. Pastrnak was much better vs. the Kings than he was against the Ducks.
*Anze Kopitar is having a season to forget about for the Kings. Thursday night was another sinking example of that. Kopitar finished with just one shot on net and a minus-3 rating and was a non-factor for an LA team that needed the points. So much for his Selke showdown with Patrice Bergeron.
*No shots on net in 9:48 of ice time for Frank Vatrano, which is a low ice time total and an oddity that the sweet-shooing kid from Western Mass can’t squeeze in at least one shot attempt. It wasn’t a banner night all-around for the B’s third line, but at least Ryan Spooner kicked in a big assist on Pastrnak’s PP goal.
*Jake Muzzin was a minus-2 in 20:48 of ice time and it was his turnover early combined with a delayed hooking call that turned into Marchand’s tour de force rush up the ice for Boston’s first goal. Many of the Kings weren’t great on Thursday night and Muzzin can certainly be counted among that group.