What we learned in B's 3-1 win over Panthers
WWhat we learned in Bruins’ 3-1 win over Panthers
Here’s what we learned in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on Thursday night on an historic evening for living legend Jaromir Jagr and for his left butt cheek as well.
1) Boy, it helps to have another true winger that can finish off plays
Frank Vatrano showed that in the second period when took a slick backhanded dish from Torey Krug and fired home a wrist shot with the trademark quick release. It beat James Reimer before he could even set up for the shot and got the Bruins on the board when they desperately needed to score first and ease some of the offensive tension. This is what made it all the more mind-blowing that the Bruins didn’t just put Vatrano into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Islanders when a goal here or there might have helped make the difference. Vatrano is a play-finisher. And that’s something the Bruins don’t have nearly enough of on their team. Adding him with David Pastrnak could help boost the B’s offense. Still, he still needs to prove it completely in the NHL, which is something the Bruins expected him to do this season coming off a very impressive performance at the world championships. He got off to a good start Thursday night and he’s done that a couple of times already in the NHL, but what Vatrano needs to focus on this time around is making sure that performance and production stays consistent for him. The bottom line is that the Bruins needed somebody to step up and score last night and Vatrano showed he’s capable of doing that.
2) Credit where its due for the oft-maligned Jimmy Hayes
The Bruins power forward is tough to handle when he’s playing hard and using his size and strength effectively and that’s what he has been doing lately. He was once again playing with a fire in his belly against the Panthers and was making life difficult for Florida all around their net. Hayes finished with three shots on net and six shot attempts in 8:18 of ice time, and was driving hard toward the Florida net with every opportunity he had on the ice. Hayes didn’t have any hits on the night and he didn’t end up on the score sheet, but he still had an extremely positive performance and has put together three or four good efforts together in a row as he finally seems to be emerging from whatever dark cloud hung over his game. It’s made for a really interesting, effective fourth line along with Anton Blidh and Dominic Moore. A cynical person might say it has something to do with Frank Vatrano returning and making it a much more competitive situation for playing time among the forwards, but we don’t believe in cynicism here in Haggs land.
3) Patrice Bergeron got a little offense to fall his way, so perhaps this is the start of something bigger for him
Bergeron finished off a power play chance for the slot and ended up with the winning goal for the Black and Gold. It was extremely welcome to see on a couple of different levels. First, it snapped a nine-game goal-less stretch for No. 37 with his Bruins are desperate for offense. Second, it gave Bergeron a little success and production on the power play. Regardless of whether or not David Pastrnak is on the top PP unit, the success or failure of the B’s power play largely sits with Bergeron’s effectiveness on the top unit. He’s struggled there all season and the PP has been one of the worst in the NHL. But a nice, quick-developing play after the Bruins gained the blue line turned into a Torey Krug shot fake and then a pass to Bergeron as the trailer for a strong wrist shot from the high slot past James Reimer. It was part of a strong night with two shots on net, two takeaways and 12-for-21 face-off wins in 20:30 of ice time, but it’s the goal that Bergeron will remember after putting a lot of pressure on himself to produce this season. So, he now has five goals and two PP goals this season and needs to keep his foot on the gas when it comes to offensive production.
*Frank Vatrano only needed one shot to positively impact the team and get on the scoreboard, but it was a pretty darn good shot and release from the slot after an equally good setup from Torey Krug. So, now Vatrano has three goals in three games between the AHL and NHL this season after not playing a meaningful game since last April.
*Two assists for Torey Krug, who played fewer minutes and didn’t have a shot on net. But that’s okay because it looked like Krug’s head was up looking for open teammates in scoring areas and he found a couple in Vatrano and then later Patrice Bergeron on the power play. He was the primary setup guy for each of Boston’s first two important scores.
*A tip of the cap to Jaromir Jagr for his 1,888th career NHL point, which moves him past Mark Messier into second place all-time behind Wayne Gretzky. The puck glancing off Jagr’s butt, hitting Tuukka Rask on the helmet and then hopping to Aleksander Barkov for the rebound goal was an all-timer.
*James Reimer had a rough night. He only allowed two goals, but it didn’t look like he was tracking the puck well at all and he was leaving rebounds all over the ice. It felt like this could have been a 5-1 or 6-1 game if the Bruins were better at finishing off plays these days. It feels like Big Jim Murray has been right all this time about Reimer.
*Keith Yandle was a minus-2, had a rough giveaway fanning on the puck at the blue line that led to an empty-net goal that iced the game for the Bruins and didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Panthers. He’s had some tough games against his hometown Bruins over the years and this was another one for Yandle, despite the 25-plus minutes of ice time.
*A minus-2 and not much going on in 20 plus minutes of ice time for Aaron Ekblad, who also wasn’t playing at the top of his game against the Bruins in a pretty important divisional matchup from Florida’s perspective.