Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on Saturday night.
• The Bruins' response to their losing streak was impressive. Bruce Cassidy called out the second and third lines for not really doing much during the five-game skid, and he had the numbers to back it all up.
That changed against the Panthers as forwards like Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci not only got on the score sheet, but they also were engaged, fighting for pucks and winning battles along the boards. DeBrusk and Krejci each set the other one up for five-on-five goals in the first couple of periods and Danton Heinen had seven shot attempts in 13:32 of ice time while playing a very active, noticeable game.
Certainly the goals and the offense were nice, but it as much about the competitiveness and the urgency as it was about the actual point production. But there’s no coincidence that Krejci got on the scoresheet and the B’s snapped their losing streak. Those two things are very much intertwined to Boston’s success.
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• David Pastrnak isn’t going to break Phil Esposito’s Bruins goal-scoring record for a single season. It was nice while it lasted and it looks like it’s going to be a lay-up for Pastrnak to have 30 goals scored by the time Christmas break rolls around for the NHL, but he still isn’t back to a 70-goal pace even after tallying two more goals in Saturday night’s win over the Panthers.
Pastrnak is still on pace for 68 goals this season and leads the NHL by a wide margin (he’s got a five goal lead over Jack Eichel), but even a slump for a handful of games is enough to make a 70-goal season more pipe dream than possibility. And it would appear that’s already happened for Pastrnak, so Bruins fans will have to settle for daydreaming about a possible 60-goal season when it comes to their young scoring superstar.
The 76-goal record for Espo seems like it’s going to be safe again this year and it’s going to take something ridiculous for anybody in a Bruins uniform to ever get that many again.
• The Bruins won’t have any extended losing streaks that will take them out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division. These past couple of weeks was the perfect example of this with the Bruins losing five games in a row, the longest losing streak of the Bruce Cassidy era coaching the Bruins.
The last four of those defeats were of the regulation variety, so it was most definitely a notable low point for the year. But between Jaroslav Halak’s strong 31-save effort between the pipes and the Bruins' return to defensive basics against the Panthers, there is only so long that the Bruins are going to lose games barring unforeseen crazy injuries to key players like Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo.
Certainly, the Bruins finally paid the piper for some slack in their game over the last several weeks, and they also ran into a number of very good teams in a short proximity with the losses to Colorado, Washington and Tampa Bay all within a week’s time. But the Bruins have the goaltending, they have the defense, they have Pastrnak always on the verge of a two-goal explosion and they have good enough complementary players that they’ll be able to score against lesser defensive teams like Florida even when their top guns are silenced from time to time.
Perhaps the most disheartening part for every other team in the Atlantic Division? The other teams really didn’t make up any discernible ground despite Boston’s extended slump, with Buffalo still a distant nine points behind the Bruins, and every other team still 12 points or more back in the standings.
For that to be the case after a five-game losing streak for the B’s tells you that the division truly is over and wrapped up, and perhaps that played into some of the malaise we saw from the B’s players during the two-week slump.
*David Krejci finished with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time after not lodging a single point in the Bruins' five-game losing streak. He was creative, playing with plenty of energy and really drove the second line to their best game in weeks.
*Jake DeBrusk similarly played with a very high motor and was far more than a one-dimensional winger who not only scored a goal and had two points, but won battles along the boards, blocked a couple of shots and made himself a factor all over the ice.
*Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Bruins and was rock-solid aside from one bad goal allowed to Keith Yandle that made it a 3-2 hockey game in the third period. But Halak stood tall after that with the game on the line and earned the victory while showing once again that the B’s can rely on elite goaltending all year.
*Jonathan Huberdeau had no shots on net, three giveaways and was on ice for a pair of goals against in 21-plus minute of ice time, and wasn’t able to match the high level of play that Boston’s top-6 forwards brought to the table.
*One hit, no shots on net and a minus-1 in 11:43 of ice time for Noel Acciari, who wasn’t playing with physicality, energy or anything noteworthy against his old Bruins teammates. He also lost 10-of-17 faceoffs.
*For a guy who was scratched for a couple of games, David Backes didn’t play with the kind of energy one might have expected when he was pushed back into the lineup for Brett Ritchie. One shot on net, one hit, 0-for-1 on faceoffs in 9:09 of ice time in a very eventless game for him.