GLENDALE, Arizona – It was too early to panic, but the Boston Bruins were very clearly in a situation this weekend where they needed their best players to step up and earn a win for a hockey club struggling with injuries and a brand new roster.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday night in the desert as Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all had their best games of the season and led the way for a Bruins group that took home a 6-2 victory against a winless Arizona Coyotes club at Gila River Arena.
“It was a very good win for us. Everybody contributed to it. Obviously we know our job as veterans is to pull a good share of the load and we got that,” said Chara. “The younger group of players stepped up as well. You need that. You need to have everybody on the same page. Otherwise it’s going to be more difficult. But I thought [this win} had a lot of positives and we capitalized on a lot of our chances.”
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Each of those three players had a multi-point night and Anton Khudobin did the job between the pipes in his first start of the young season, and it was exactly what was needed after the Bruins had their confidence shook in back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche.
“Everyone has to do their job. You can’t expect to play bad games and play winning hockey in this league,” said Marchand, who scored his team-leading third goal of the season on a breakaway goal for him in the second period. “We need everyone to do their job every single night and be consistent, and chip in at the right times. It was good to have that tonight and we’re going to need that moving forward.”
Boston’s big money players were right at it from the very beginning. After the Coyotes jumped on the board with the first goal, Chara responded 36 seconds later with a bombed shot that bounced into the open net off David Pastrnak’s leg as he was jumping up in the air. It was probably the most painful goal of Pastrnak’s young career given who was shooting the puck, but it was also an important answer for a hockey team that needed playmakers to step up.
The Bruins really took over the game in the second period with a power-play goal from Jake DeBrusk camped out in front, and then a pair of big plays from Chara with the game in the balance. On the first, Chara cut to the net on a broken play in the Arizona defensive zone and Marchand found him as a big-bodied finisher looking to do some offensive damage.
Louis Domingue made the first stop on Chara, but there was nobody to fight off the 6-foot-9 defenseman as he scooped up the puck and rifled it back into the net for the eventual game-winning goal. In all, Chara finished with a goal and three points, a plus-3 rating and eight shot attempts in 20:18 of ice time while once again showing there is plenty of game still left in his 40-year-old body when the big moments arise.
“There’s a reason he’s our captain and leader, and it just goes to show why he continues to be a very good hockey player. . . a great hockey player,” said Marchand. “He steps up at the right time and always comes up big in big hockey games. He did that again tonight. We’d lost a couple in a row and needed a boost, and he was there to give it to us. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer for a reason and he showed that again tonight.”
Little more than 10 minutes later, Chara and Marchand teamed up to ice the game with a pre-orchestrated face-off play after a successful draw in the defensive zone. Marchand blew the zone up the left side and Chara simply rimmed the puck up to him along the boards for a breakaway where the Nose Face Killah finished things with a backhanded shelf beauty.
With Patrice Bergeron and David Backes still out of the lineup, it was up to the rest of the healthy Bruins to start finding some answers. That’s exactly what they did in an impressive team-wide effort sparked by the Bruins leadership group.
“It starts with Zee tonight. I thought our D-corps had an off night in Colorado and that’s going to happen. Tonight they didn’t and did a real good job for us. It started there. Pasta and Marchand, their line was solid with Riley Nash in there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We saw it on opening night. If we stick to it, manage pucks, play behind them and get skating with some patience then we can be a good team. It’s when we start trying to force. I don’t care how good of a skating team you are. . . if you’re forcing plays and nobody is back-checking then it’s not going to end well.
“Any goals around the front of the net are always key. Zee at the front of the net is a load to move, so that was interesting. Good for him. He wanted to make a difference tonight, and I think Zee deserves a lot of credit for the win. Pastrnak had his legs tonight and that opens up space for everybody else, and Marchand was trying to find him. Pastrnak probably could have had more goals if he played a little more selfish with the puck, but no complaints from me. We need him to be good every night.”
It’s not going to go the way it’s drawn up every night, and both games against Colorado were prime pieces of evidence to that point. But it was important for the B’s players still standing to show that this team can survive, and thrive, no matter which guys are healthy and in the lineup, and the best of the best for the Black and Gold finally did that in a must-have Saturday night win in Arizona.