Bruins

What we learned in Bruins' 3-2 shootout win over Golden Knights

What we learned in Bruins' 3-2 shootout win over Golden Knights

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobil Arena on Wednesday night:

1) Don’t look now, but the Bruins have the third-best record in the NHL. They've goten to that lofty spot on the strength of a seven-game winning streak and earning at least one point in each of their last 12 games, even without David Pastrnak in the lineup. It’s been a combination of many ingredients, but some have come to the forefront. First and foremost, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have heated up at the same time, giving Boston close to mistake-free play between the pipes every night. Rask is 6-0-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .912 save percentage this month, and in fact is playing even better than the numbers would indicate. Halak is 3-0-1 with a 1.42 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in February. He was strong against the Golden Knights, stopping 31 of 33 shots in the shootout thriller. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen have all been point-per-game players this month, and DeBrusk (goals in five straight games) and Heinen (three goals and eight points in eight games) have really stepped up their offensive game with Pastrnak sidelined. Then there’s the play of Charlie McAvoy, who is becoming the player the Bruins have been waiting for all season. He’s scoring clutch goals, creating offense, playing physical and doing all the little things that have made him a future No. 1 defenseman. He’s a plus-8 in 10 games while averaging a team-high 22:30 of ice time this month, and is making plays when the Bruins need it most: in the third period of games. Some of these things (hot goalies) happened earlier this season, while others (Heinen heating up, McAvoy stepping up his game) are happening for the first time now. Add Charlie Coyle to that group as well for third-line support and scoring punch, and maybe we should start thinking about the Bruins as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They’re playing like it now, and another move to add a top-6 winger would really fortify the season-long weaknesses on the roster and give the Bruins the kind of group that might give the Lightning a run for their money should they meet again in the later rounds of the playoffs. Either way, the Bruins are playing well enough to earn the respect of the fans and stoke the hopes that this season might provide something special at the end of the ride. This seven-game winning streak is proof the Bruins are legit, and it’s pretty impossible to deny at this point.

2) Jake DeBrusk continues to be a hot commodity for the Bruins, and a big-time producer with David Pastrnak on the sidelines. He now has goals in five straight games, five goals and 11 points in 10 games during the month of February along with a plus-6 rating, and has been at the heart of the current winning streak. Clearly he’s getting to the front of the net more and playing with a ton more confidence, but remember: When he was “struggling” he was still on a pace to score 25 goals. His next goal will be his 20th of the season and he’s currently on a pace for 27 goals and 41 points. So DeBrusk is having a pretty good season and has once again stepped up as the offensive option behind the big guns.

3) Let’s applaud Bruce Cassidy for his shootout choices on Wednesday night. Gone were some of the odd choices from their last loss in the shootout; instead, both Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were featured high in the lineup. Also credit Cassidy for going with the hunch of using David Backes after a number of Boston’s shooters had been stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, who foiled Cassidy's attempt to use a quick strike attack on the Golden Knights goaltender. Backes simply went in and beat MAF glove side with a wrist shot after many of the B’s had attempted to go five hole, and that was exactly the kind of change-of-pace shot attempt that was needed to win the game.

PLUS . . . 

-- In addition to his shootout game-winner, Backes had a strong game with five shot attempts, four hits and a 3-of-4 performance in the face-off circle. It was well-timed, as competition for playing time among the forwards about to get a lot tighter.

-- DeBrusk extended his goal-scoring streak to five games and continues to be the hottest goal-scorer among the forwards at a time when they need it without the injured Pastrnak.  

-- Halak kicked out a juicy rebound that set up the first Vegas goal, but otherwise he was outstanding in stopping 31 of 33 shots during 65 minutes and then facing down Fleury during the shootout.

MINUS . .

-- Noel Acciari had only a couple of hits and got worked in the face-off circle, losing 5 of 7 draws. He was also on the ice for a goal against. It wasn’t the typically strong night for the fourth line overall vs. Vegas.

-- One shot on net in 17:53 of ice time for Vegas' Max Pacioretty, who was pretty darn invisible against a Bruins team he’s very familiar with from all of the Boston-Montreal battles over the years.

-- DeBrusk made Shea Theodore look like a mannequin in the D-zone when he spun off him in the slot and sniped one past Fleury for Boston’s first goal of the game. It was probably a more spectacular play by DeBrusk than bad defense, but it was a weaker play on an otherwise pretty good night from Theodore. 

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Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Days later, the argument over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada that sparked his dismissal is still going strong. Now, the NHL’s greatest player has weighed in. 

Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stood up for Grapes when chatting with the Toronto Sun and WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show in separate interviews Thursday and called his former coach's firing “disgusting” and “definitely unfair.”

Cherry was fired on Monday by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada after his comments over the weekend on his "Coach’s Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" when he went on a diatribe about people not buying poppies to support Canadian military veterans.

The former Bruins coach - Orr played for him in the 1974-75 and '75-76 seasons - didn’t just stop with a statement supporting the military, and regrettably segued into singling out immigrants to Canada as a group not supporting the military enough publicly. Cherry, 85, started it all off by saying “you people that come here” and that set off a firestorm of criticism in the US and Canada against the analyst who has been part of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts for almost 40 years.

Cherry said on the Nov. 9 telecast: “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr’s words carry a lot of weight in the hockey world in Boston, where he won a pair of Stanley Cups while revolutionizing the game, and all over Canada, where he’s still revered as the greatest hockey player of all time.

And he’s sticking by his buddy, nicknamed Grapes, which is admirable.

“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr to the Sun. “The whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting. I know what he was saying. We all know what he was saying. He was saying we should buy a poppy. All of us. You can take it any way you want, but he isn’t a bigot.

“Yes, he’s my friend. But I have known him a long time and I know he is not a bigot or a racist. He is the most honest and generous guy there is. He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”

Orr told WEEI: "What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world, I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter." He added that Cherry is "hurt, but he's going to be fine. He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston. He is getting some wonderful support."

It’s still unknown exactly what awaits Cherry after his departure from Hockey Night in Canada, and it remains to be seen what Sportsnet will do to replace him with Brian Burke, Ray Ferraro and Mike Milbury mentioned as possible replacements for the bombastic analyst. 

While it was probably never going to matter when it comes to his ultimate fate with a corporate entity such as Rogers Sportsnet after Cherry's divisive, offensive language, it’s good to see that No. 4 still has Cherry’s back.

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Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

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Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Trent Frederic has largely been a bottom-6 center for the Boston Bruins when he’s received his shots at the NHL level in Boston.

So it will be a little different for the 2016 first-round pick when the 21-year-old Frederic gets back into the B’s lineup on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a physical left winger based on Boston’s need for healthy bodies up front. Frederic skated on the left side with Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen on a makeshift third line at Thursday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Frederic has just five points in 15 games for the P-Bruins this season and went scoreless in 15 games with Boston last season while mostly in the middle and admitted he hasn’t exactly hit his stride in the AHL as of yet this year.

“I’ve been playing hard and I’ve been playing well,” said Frederic. “It hasn’t exactly gone my way the whole year, but I keep battling through it and playing hard every game.”

Bruce Cassidy is interested to see if plugging the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder on the wing can free him up for some needed physicality and more offense. Those are a couple things the B’s are certainly a little light on up front with David Backes and Brett Ritchie both injured and out for Friday night’s tilt against the Maple Leafs. 

The move to left wing might be just the thing to allow the big, physical forward to tap into his inner power forward, though he did have a whopping 40 penalty minutes in his 15 AHL games this year. 

“We'll see if that frees him up to go out and be physical and play more his style, just straight-line game instead of overthinking it as a centerman," said Cassidy. "We're not going to bring him up as a left shot and throw him on the right wing, I think that's a little unfair. We're already kind of moving him to begin with to see where he's at."

Certainly the Bruins are getting a good look at their organizational depth with all of these call-ups to Boston this early in the season, and that could help them down the line when it gets closer to potentially dealing some of those young forward assets for more NHL help à la Marcus Johansson last spring. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for Friday's game based on Thursday’s practice:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Trent Frederic Par Lindholm Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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