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Talking Points: Bruins guns, big and small, step up in Classic win

Talking Points: Bruins guns, big and small, step up in Classic win

Here are Joe Haggerty's talking points from the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Blackhawks in the Winter Classic. 

GOLD STAR: Sean Kuraly got the honors with the game-winning goal against Buffalo, and he gets the very same with the game-winner in the second consecutive game as the Winter Classic hero as well. It was Kuraly that jumped toward the front of the net after a strong, physical shift from the fourth line, and was ready to hop on a puck after a Matt Grzelcyk point shot bounced off Chris Wagner and went right to him in front of the net. Kuraly, of course, had the big celebration after the game-winning play and truly was one of Boston’s best players during the entire game. Kuraly finished with five shots on net, eight shot attempts, a couple of hits and was 5-for-10 on face-offs while getting a ton of shifts at the end of the game along with Patrice Bergeron’s line.

BLACK EYE: Patrick Kane didn’t necessarily have a bad game as he managed to get five shots on net, and had a breakaway at the end of the first period that really could have broken the game a different way for the Blackhawks. But Tuukka Rask was able to stop Kane on the breakaway, he didn’t bust through with any actually points on his seven shot attempts and he ended up on ice for one of the Boston Bruins goals in the loss for Chicago. In order to win games likes the Winter Classic, a team’s best players have to rise to the occasion and actually produce. Kane wasn’t able to do that despite some chances to contribute for the Blackhawks.

MORE WINTER CLASSIC

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was pretty clearly surviving the second period despite being outshot 16-10 and actually going into the final intermission with a tied score thanks to a power play goal at the end of the second period. It was a great individual play by Patrice Bergeron as he went on a back-check to get the puck back, and then went straight to his normal slot area for the bumper position. There he was in the right place at the right time when a David Pastrnak pass ricocheted to him in front and he was able to throw a backhanded shot at the net for the game-tying goal. It was exactly what was needed for the Bruins to stave off Chicago’s momentum and set up for a third period where the Black and Gold won the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: The first half of the game was controlled more by the Blackhawks than the Bruins, but it was David Pastrnak that kept the B’s right in the middle of things with some big plays. Pastrnak scored Boston’s first goal to make certain they went into the dressing room tied for the first intermission, and it was a great play with No. 88 patiently waiting down low for Patrice Bergeron to get the puck to him. Then it was Pastrnak with the deflected pass in the second period that bounced right to Bergeron in the slot for the power play goal that tied the game up at 2-2 apiece. In all Pastrnak finished with a goal and two points in 19:44 of ice time along with six shots on net and a whopping 11 shot attempts in a very active game. Clearly Pastrnak liked being in the out of doors playing the Winter Classic for the first time.

BY THE NUMBERS: 469 – The number of games played for Tuukka Rask in a Bruins uniform after Tuesday’s Winter Classic, the top number of games played for the B’s in franchise history. The fact it was a win was clearly cherry on top of the sundae.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was my first one and everybody was doing it, so I said 'I've got to do it.' I don't even know what it was for because the sun wasn't even there." –David Pastrnak, on opting for the eye black on a gray, cloudy day for the Winter Classic at Notre Dame. 

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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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