Bruins

Here's what happened in the Bruins' Winter Classic 4-2 win over the Blackhawks

Here's what happened in the Bruins' Winter Classic 4-2 win over the Blackhawks

FROM JOE HAGGERTY

The legend of David Pastrnak grows as he’s enjoying another big game on the Winter Classic outdoor ice. It was Pastrnak that scored Boston’s first goal when he camped down low and flipped back a shot after Patrice Bergeron managed to work the puck down to him on the power play. Pastrnak also had another chance a couple of minutes later, but this time Cam Ward managed to thwart him on the backhanded chance. Pastrnak led all Bruins with six shots on net and 10 shot attempts through two periods, and he also picked up an assist on Patrice Bergeron’s power play strike in the second period that tied up the game.

A good first period for Tuukka Rask, who stopped 11-of-12 shots including a couple of Grade-A chances led by the Patrick Kane breakaway in the closing seconds of the first period. Perhaps an ever better second period where Chicago took it to the Bruins, and Rask made 15 saves while only being beaten on a tip from the high slot that managed to sneak through his pads. Rask hasn’t made it a secret that he doesn’t enjoy playing in these outdoor games, but it seems like he’s tracking the puck pretty well in this one. He was also the beneficiary of Connor Murphy ringing one off the pipe and Alex DeBrincat missing an open net by steering the puck just a little to the outside of the net. But Rask made the saves he needed to make, and that’s all the Bruins are asking of him.

Once again the Bruins power play has come to the rescue with a goal in the closing moments of the second period. It has been a savior on more than one occasion for the B’s this season and has given them lifts when their five-on-five play has let them down, and that’s exactly what happened in a middle 20 minutes where the B’s really didn’t play very good hockey. Instead it was Patrice Bergeron firing home a backhanded shot through traffic from the slot after a David Pastrnak pass deflected off a body in front and went right to the blade of his stick in the perfect spot. Once again Bergeron in the right place at the right time. It’s really the story of his life, isn’t it? 

No shots on net through 12:24 and a minus-1 rating for Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, so apparently the experiment of putting him on the right wing isn’t really amounting to much. It’s not hard to see why it might not work given that he’s not exactly muscle-bound when it comes to puck battles and board-work, and playing outside the center position could just exacerbate some of his tendencies to fade during games with passive play. JFK was not very noticeable at all in the first 40 minutes.

Sean Kuraly continues to score big goals for the Bruins. This time it was the go-ahead and ultimate game-winning goal for the Bruins in the third period of the Winter Classic. It was Matt Grzelcyk that wound up and wobbled a point shot toward the Chicago net that bounced off Chris Wagner in front, and went directly to Kuraly crashing hard from the slot area. Kuraly put it into the open net and then went speeding to the corner glass for his trademark goal celebration. Kuraly also scored the overtime game-winner last weekend in Buffalo as well, so the fourth line center now has two-game winning goals in two straight games.

HIGHLIGHTS

KREJCI NEARLY PUTS THE B'S ON THE BOARD EARLY

PERLIN PUTS THE BLACKHAWKS UP 1-0

PASTA TIES IT UP 1-1

RASK STOPS KANE ON THE BREAK

KAHUN GIVES CHICAGO THE LEAD 2-1

BERGERON STRIKES BACK TO TIE IT 2-2

KURALY'S CLUTCH GOAL PUTS B'S UP 3-2

GAME SAVING STOP BY RASK

MARCHAND PUTS THE GAME ON ICE WITH EMPTY NET GOAL

BRUINS RECORD: 22-14-4

BOX SCORE

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Watch Bruins break out into fake line brawl at the end of practice

Watch Bruins break out into fake line brawl at the end of practice

The Bruins have clearly been stuck in a rut as of late while losing back-to-back regulation games for the first time this season, and stuck in a three-game losing streak where they developed some bad habits at the end of an eight-game winning streak.

It’s not really that big of a deal for a B’s hockey club that still holds a double-digit lead in the division, but a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night really didn’t set them up for a promising road trip with Washington, Tampa Bay and Florida all on the schedule for the rest of the week. With that in mind, the Bruins opted for a little stress relief at the end of Tuesday’s practice in Washington as things devolved into a chaotic, raucous faux line brawl on the ice.

It all started with Tuukka Rask giving up a goal at the end of a game at practice and then smashing his stick repeatedly over the crossbar, and then mass chaos ensued with a sea of Bruins players tackling each other on the ice.

It’s fun to see the Bruins blow off some steam and show they can have a little fun amidst a frustrating stretch, but it would also be nice to see them play with the same kind of energy in their games after sleepwalking through the first portions of games during their current losing streak.

In the old time hockey days, a team might have pre-planned a line brawl situation on the ice to snap out of a slump, or change the energy at a time when the schedule is getting demanding on the players with the Christmas break still weeks away.

But these days the Bruins will have to settle for a little phony shoving and play-punching against each other at the end of practice with the real thing — a big, tough customer in the Washington Capitals — getting ready to host them for a potential Eastern Conference Final preview on Wednesday night.

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How Bruce Cassidy could shake up lines to give struggling Bruins a jolt

How Bruce Cassidy could shake up lines to give struggling Bruins a jolt

Hard times have arrived for the Bruins, at least temporarily.

Boston has lost two regulation games in a row for the first time all season and three games in a row for just the second time all season while falling into complacency with a massive 11-point lead in the Atlantic Division over the next closest team in Florida.

Since dropping eight goals against the Canadiens in an embarrassing blowout win at the Bell Centre a couple of weeks ago, the offense has also slowed down for the Bruins with 16 goals scored over the last seven games. Some of it was about Patrice Bergeron being out of the lineup with a lower body injury, but some of it might also be the team literally crying out for some changes among the forward group combinations.

Now with Bergeron back after scoring a goal against the Senators on Monday night, Bruce Cassidy can actually fool around with his tried and true combinations.

With that in mind, here’s a modest proposal for some line combinations that might just work for the Black and Gold with it feeling like things have gotten a little stale over the last week as ennui seems to have struck with a Bruins team not getting pushed by anybody right now:

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Anders Bjork

This is perhaps Boston’s best chance to mix and match their forward lines while looking to get some diversity in their scoring attack during 5-on-5 play. Bjork brings the same kind of skating speed and youthful exuberance that David Pastrnak already brings to this line, and it seems that now Bjork understands the doggedness and two-way responsibilities he’ll need to pay attention to in order to stay at the NHL level.

Best of all, playing with Marchand and Bergeron could give Bjork more scoring opportunities and really boost his confidence to turn into the goal-scoring source he was projected to be when he first signed with the Bruins. The trick would be switching Bjork from left wing to his off-wing on the right side where he’s had challenges in the past, but it seems like he’s better-equipped to deal with it now that he’s healthy and a couple of years into his NHL career.

Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-David Pastrnak

There are Bruins fans everywhere clamoring for Krejci and Pastrnak to play together given their natural, Czech-born chemistry and some of the success that they have had in the past. Sliding Pastrnak down to the B’s second line would really make each of Boston’s top two lines formidable in their own right, and make them much more difficult to defend while not being quite as top-heavy as they are with the Perfection Line.

The one concern in the past has been that Pastrnak doesn’t score at quite the same rate when he’s away from Bergeron and Marchand, and that DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak can probably be exploited a bit defensively. That’s part of the reason Danton Heinen is with them right now given his attention to detail playing a strong two-way game. But Krejci and Pastrnak can be fun to watch and could bring some pizzazz to the second line.

Danton Heinen-Charlie Coyle-David Backes 

This would be a return to the third-line glory years of a couple of seasons ago when Heinen and Backes were the two wings and Riley Nash was the center who seemed to bring the best out of them. This line certainly wouldn’t be the fastest given that Coyle is the best skater of the three, but it would be offensively viable with all three forwards capable of scoring 15-plus goals in a season.

Also, the massive size of both 6-foot-3, 220-pound Coyle and 6-foot-3, 215-pound Backes would give the Bruins' third line a heavy, thumping style of play that could wear down other teams while playing the puck possession game. They wouldn’t be all that dynamic, but it could be a really effective third line if the top two forward lines are based on speed and skill.

Chris Wagner-Sean Kuraly-Brett Ritchie

Certainly an argument could be made for Joakim Nordstrom to be here and really he’s done nothing to get taken out of the lineup. But this humble hockey writer’s opinion is that the fourth line isn’t playing with the same jam and physicality as consistently as they did last season, and that is a big-time need on this Bruins team this season.

So this combo could be a big, heavy and punishing group capable of both playing against other teams' top lines and bringing energy, thump, or whatever is needed for a group that is going through the motions right now. A lot of it comes down to Ritchie, though, who needs to play to his size and strength more often if it’s all going to work. Otherwise the Bruins might as well just go with Nordstrom and utilize Ritchie as their extra forward until the light bulb goes off for him.

Bonus line combo: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Charlie Coyle

This isn’t likely to be a line combo you’ll see much unless injuries hit, but shifting the big, strong Coyle to the wing and bringing his power forward game to the top line could be a great match.

Certainly Coyle might not be the shoot-first presence that one is usually looking for at the right wing spot alongside Bergeron and Marchand, but the one consistent way to frustrate that line is for a big defensive corps to wear them down physically while pushing them away from the net. It’s what the Tampa defense did successfully in the playoffs a couple of years ago and it’s what St. Louis was able to do against them in the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Coyle would make it a lot more difficult to push around the other two parts of the Perfection Line, and that could be a successful look against bigger D-men personnel. It would require Par Lindholm to be inserted into the lineup (and Backes or Ritchie scratched) as the third-line center, but that’s entirely doable based on Boston’s forward depth.

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