Bruins

Brad Marchand explains decision to get off ice in costly Game 7 sequence

Brad Marchand explains decision to get off ice in costly Game 7 sequence

BOSTON – Brad Marchand had a brilliant regular season with 100 points and will get his share of Hart Trophy votes when the NHL awards come down in a couple of weeks.

But the B’s left winger is going to have a long time this offseason to think about what went wrong for him and for his linemates in Boston’s 4-1 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

Marchand finished with just two goals and a minus-2 rating in the best-of-seven series, and had zero points in a decisive Game 7 loss.

But it was Marchand's defensive miscue at the end of the first period that essentially doomed the Black and Gold in Game 7. Marchand signaled for a line change with fewer than 15 seconds remaining in the second, and then watched as both Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo skated by him into the B’s offensive zone while he retreated to the bench.

Marchand’s absence allowed Schwartz and Pietrangelo easy entrance to the Bruins' offensive zone, where Pietrangelo snapped a backhanded wrist shot past Tuukka Rask. The back-breaking tally gave the Blues a two-goal lead with eight seconds remaining in the first period and effectively knocked the wind out of the Black and Gold in a death blow they would never recover from.

“I don’t know, they chipped it in. I thought that [Jaden Schwartz] was by himself, so I went for a change, and a couple more guys jumped up on the play,” said a teary-eyed Marchand, who appeared to have the entire play develop in front of him as he decided to make the change at the Bruins' bench. “I didn’t see the replay, but yeah.”

Marchand's decision to make a change with roughly 10 seconds to go in the first period ended up being disastrous for the Bruins, and head coach Bruce Cassidy didn't mince any words about it, describing it as probably the turning point in Game 7.

“The second [goal allowed] we just didn’t manage the puck. We kind of missed an assignment and they made a play, a nice play by Pietrangelo but you’re probably [talking] a different game if it’s 1-0 coming out of the first, I do believe that,” said Cassidy. “I’m not saying that we would have won or we would have lost. I’m not a mind reader. But I do believe that it gave them a lot of juice for a period that they, you know if they looked at it objectively, probably felt or should have felt that they got outplayed but they’re up 2-0 on the scoreboard. That’s all that matters.”

Marchand has done great things for the Bruins throughout his career and he’s one of the veteran B’s players who helped get the Black and Gold all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. He’s also one of the experienced veteran guys for the Bruins who they rely on to play solidly in those big game moments in the postseason.

But that decision to get off the ice right before the second goal for St. Louis is one that’s likely (and appropriately) going to stick with the Nose Face Killah for a long time this offseason and beyond.

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Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

BOSTON — Much as they did last season, the Bruins have an offensive balance issue this year despite winning five of their first six games to start the regular season.

Sure, it’s great that the B’s are 5-1-0 and that David Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top five in both goals and points after his four-goal outburst in Monday afternoon’s win over the Anaheim Ducks. But a look at the Bruins stat sheet also shows a real top-heavy problem when it comes to their offense. Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have scored 11 of the team’s last 14 goals over the last five games, which is great for them and not-so-special for everybody else.

Aside from the aforementioned red-hot Perfection Line, fourth-line center Sean Kuraly is the only other Bruins forward who's scored even more than just a single point this season, and he’s got two assists in six games thus far this year. Some of it is about some very slow starts to the year offensively for some of Boston’s skill players, some of it is about injuries that have dogged David Krejci early in this year and some of it is about two goals called back against Colorado that would have padded Jake DeBrusk’s stat line a little bit in the early going.

 
BRUINS POINT LEADERS  
David Pastrnak 10
Brad Marchand 9
Patrice Bergeron 5
Torey Krug 4
Sean Kuraly 2
11 Players with  1

Clearly Bruce Cassidy is concerned and said it was a front-burner issue for him after watching Pastrnak drop four goals against the Ducks on Monday afternoon.

“It’s not in the back of my mind. What’s on the forefront of my mind is more the other guys, what could we do to help them get going?” said Cassidy, when asked if the top-heavy nature of his offense was in the back of his mind after Monday’s victory. “What can they do themselves to help themselves? As a coach, is what I’m thinking about.

“I’m happy they’re on, they’re going and the power play unit’s found their mojo again. That’s good. But my mind’s more on the other group. How can we help them out? We’ll keep looking at it.”

The disappointment has been across the board as the second line hasn’t done much outside of the goals called back against the Avalanche, and Charlie Coyle has been silent along with the rest of the third line since a good opening game against Dallas. With young wingers like Karson Kuhlman, Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen yet to get going this season, perhaps the time has already come for the Bruins to dip into the minor leagues and call up Anders Bjork.

The once highly regarded prospect had an excellent training camp before being one of the last cuts to Providence, and the 23-year-old Bjork is off to a hot start with the P-Bruins, piling up three goals and five points in his first four games. He’s bringing speed, offense and two-way play to the table for the P-Bruins as he did in his best moments in Boston while healthy over the last two seasons, and it was a foregone conclusion he’d be back up with the Bruins at some point this season once he got his game going.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Providence last weekend to watch Bjork play in person, and saw for himself that the young winger is operating at a high level right now while finally healthy.

Whelp, it’s going right now in Providence in a big way. So perhaps it’s time to send a non-performer like Kuhlman or Par Lindholm down to the P-Bruins, and bring up a guy in Bjork that could add a little spark to a slow-starting group of Bruins forwards this season.

It can’t hurt for a Bruins team that’s once again searching for ways to diversify a top-heavy offense that was the exact same issue this hockey club faced for most of last season as well.

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Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

BOSTON — Sometimes the best perspective on something can be collected by going outside any given organization to get some thoughts.

Certainly the Bruins were critical of themselves even as they were beating the Ducks on Monday afternoon to get off to a 5-1-0 start to the season, and Bruce Cassidy went so far as to call the second period “exceptionally poor” for the Black and Gold while getting outshot 16-6. Still, we’re talking about a hockey team that’s won five of its first six games with four of those games coming on the West Coast to start the season, and also a team coming off a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

For all the criticism and tough love that the Bruins get from within and from their own fan base still heartbroken from last June, it’s easy to forget there are at least 20-25 other NHL teams that would gladly switch places with them in a heartbeat.

That’s something Anaheim head coach Dallas Eakins reminded everybody about after watching David Pastrnak score four goals to take down his team Monday afternoon.

"I think there’s lots of lessons that we can all learn from this organization,” said Eakins. “The way they transitioned their organization maybe five years ago and where they’re at today, how fast they play. You can see why they were 60 minutes from a Stanley Cup ring. There are lots of lessons to be learned."

Clearly Eakins is impressed with the way the Bruins have gone from a big, slow juggernaut capable of beating down other teams to a fast, skilled group that dazzles while still paying attention to things like defense and goaltending, and team toughness. And there’s also the power play that scored eight seconds into its first possession in the first period, and has top PP unit members in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk that have been playing together for a while.

"The one [top] unit has been together for a while. The [guys on the power play] don’t even have to look up. They know where everybody is. They’ve been together. They’ve been dangerous for a while,” said Eakins. “The thing they do incredibly well is that you rarely see a guy stickhandle with the puck. That’s habit-based and it’s something obviously they’ve worked on and they believe in.”

It sure sounds like Eakins has been admiring the Boston Bruins, and an old adversary from the AHL coaching days in Bruce Cassidy, from afar before taking over the head coaching gig in Anaheim this season.

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