Bruins

Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

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Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

BOSTON – The Bruins had been in a self-described special teams “funk” as of late, so Thursday night’s special teams’ explosion was a welcome development indeed.

The Bruins broke a six-game power play drought (0-for-18 over that span) with three PP strikes and at the time ended up holding the high-powered Penguins power play unit without a score in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Penguins at TD Garden. The fact that they did both of those things without an integral piece in Patrice Bergeron was impressive, but it was all about executing and getting back to a simple, hard-working mindset at both ends of the ice.

All three power play goals arrived because players were crashing the net or cutting hard to the paint with our without the puck, and that’s something that had been missing a bit over the last month as the Bruins went 2-for-32 on the man advantage. They managed to outdo that in one night’s work with the three special teams’ goals against the Penguins.

“We executed better. We’ve talked about that. That’s a start, right? You make good passes and you win pucks, you’re playing in the O-zone, and you’re forcing the team to defend. So I think that’s the start of it. We made some great heads-up plays like, the [Nick] Holden play to Krejci – that’s not one you practice; that’s a broken play where you win a puck – Jake DeBrusk does a great job winning a puck,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about it, I think this morning, one of the specifics was second effort. That’s a second-effort play, winning the puck, and then you allow your skill to take over, and he makes a great play.

“So that’s an example of what we had asked the players to do a little better job at, and I thought they did. We had a few passes that didn’t connect that were maybe forced, but I think that’s always going to happen when you have – what did we have, five [power plays]? But, for the most part, I thought we made better decisions with it, as well. So good for them; they got rewarded. We have plenty of skill in there. They can score, and I thought we had more urgency tonight.”

The first score was Rick Nash camped out in front of the net, waiting and ready to redirect a Torey Krug point pass through Casey DeSmith with a simple tap-in attempt. Then David Krejci kicked it into PP overdrive in the second period when Nick Holden found the Czech center cutting to the net wide open, and for his third goal of the night he was able to guide home a shot set up by a tipped Brian Gionta pass as the 5-foot-7 forward was camped out in front.

“Over the last three games we’ve talked about the drought and keeping it simple,” said Nash. “I think that when any power play struggles, you have to simplify things. Put pucks to the net and you have to get bodies to the net, and it’ll start to go in.”

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday night as the dam finally broke on the power play for the Black and Gold, and the PK managed to shut out the Penguins after allowing six power play goals in the previous five games. Now it’s a matter of the Bruins keeping it up at a time of year when special teams can be a massive difference-maker for hockey clubs looking for any edge they can find.  

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Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

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Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

The Bruins' already-thin blue line depth took another body blow Wednesday when captain Zdeno Chara left the first period of a loss to Colorado with an apparent knee injury. The big man is headed back to Boston for further evaluation, and as Joe Haggerty notes, any extended time away from the team by Chara could be a coup de grace.

How dire could this picture look without Chara? Here's what the defenseman depth looks like at present:

WHO'S OUT

Zdeno Chara - The captain is heading back to Boston after injuring his knee in Wednesday night’s loss in Colorado. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out for, but as Joe Haggerty writes, any long-term absence could be quite costly.

Kevan Miller - On the IR with a hand injury, Miller hasn’t appeared in a game since Oct. 18, but traveled with the team for this road trip. He won’t be eligible to play until Nov. 21 against the Red Wings, however.

Charlie McAvoy - Out since Oct. 18 with a concussion, he’s skating again, but did not travel with the team for this road trip.

Brandon Carlo - He’s out on the IR with an upper body injury, having not played since Saturday’s 5-1 win over Toronto.

Urho Vaakanainen - He didn’t make the trip to Colorado, out with a concussion, but he could join the team before the road trip concludes next week in Detroit.

WHO'S HERE

Matt Grzelcyk - He’s been on the top D-pairing with Chara and is averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time this season, with 1-7-8 totals in 16 games.

Torey Krug - The left-shooting puck-mover figures to join Grzelcyk on the top pairing. He started the year off on the mend, making his season debut Oct. 30, with six assists in the seven games since.

Steven Kampfer - Sitting on the third D-pairing with call-up Jeremy Lauzon on Wednesday, Kampfer is at a minus-1 for the season.

Jeremy Lauzon - The third-line rookie notched his first career goal in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Vegas.

John Moore - The well-traveled veteran has been logging heavy minutes of late, averaging 20:06 of ice time this month — including a season-high 25:53 in an overtime win over Dallas on Nov. 5. He has just two points in 18 games.

Jakub Zboril - The 21-year-old Czech is understandably thrilled about his first call-up from Providence. In 13 games for the P-Bruins, the former first-round pick has 2-2-4 totals with 16 penalty minutes.

Connor Clifton - The former Quinnipiac star was called up from Providence Thursday on an emergency basis. In 14 AHL games this season, he has four assists.

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Mookie Betts wins MVP of the American League

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Mookie Betts wins MVP of the American League

1:11 - Mike Felger and Lou Merloni discuss Mookie Betts winning MVP and if JD Martinez should’ve finished higher in the voting.

5:47 - Felger and Merloni are back to debate if the Patriots have enough talent and will be able to keep up the pace with the other high powered teams in the NFL.

10:21 - DJ Bean and Mike Felger talk about the loss of Zdeno Chara after suffering a lower body injury on Wednesday night and debate Tuukka Risk vs. Jaroslav Halak.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

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