Bruins

What we learned in Bruins' 5-1 win over Devils: Bruins' top line at its peak

What we learned in Bruins' 5-1 win over Devils: Bruins' top line at its peak

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

1) The Bruins have their chemistry back on the Perfection Line. Certainly, the two goals for Patrice Bergeron and the three-assist night for Brad Marchand would be proof positive of that, but it was the second-period goal where each of the three forwards touched the puck that really showed them back at full force. Patrice Bergeron won the offensive zone face-off and pushed the puck down low to Brad Marchand, who found David Pastrnak cutting right to the net for the tap-in goal that gave the B’s a 2-0 lead. New Jersey would cut into that lead before the period was over, but three goals in the final period — including an empty-netter for Bergeron — capped off a great night for Boston’s high-powered top line. It also included Pastrnak’s first goal since returning from his thumb injury. In all. the line totaled three goals and eight points to go along with eight shots on net.

2) David Backes had himself a great night and really seems to have settled into a secondary contributing role with the playoffs around the corner. He was really good throughout the game with a team-high five shots on net and nine shot attempts overall, and was consistently putting pressure around the front of the New Jersey net. He was then rewarded for his efforts with an empty net goal in the third period and might even have an outside chance at 10 goals for the season if he goes on a hot streak at the end. As it is, Backes is at least showing that he’s going to be a factor at some points during the playoffs even if it’s not every night and that is exactly what the Black and Gold are looking for.

3) Three wins in a row and the Bruins have allowed just two goals in those three games while playing shutdown hockey against Columbus, the Islanders and New Jersey. Certainly, that’s not that much of a big deal against an Isles team that’s been dreadful offensively this season, but they still held them to just 13 shots on net for the game. That’s pretty darn impressive, and they allowed just 22 shots on net and no more than a couple of scoring chances to the Devils on Thursday night. Once again, it was an airtight defensive effort with no Torey Krug and no Matt Grzelcyk in the lineup, and Connor Clifton once again played strong all-around hockey with a plus-3 in 18:50 of ice time to go along with three shot attempts and four registered hits for his efforts.

Plus

--Patrice Bergeron finished with a pair of goals, three points and a plus-4 and made a great play winning an offensive zone face-off that set up the game-winning goal in the second period.

--Three assists for Brad Marchand in the game, which puts him up to 90 points for the season and could make him the first 100-point player for the Bruins in a long time if he finishes with a flurry.

--David Pastrnak scored his first goal since coming back from his thumb injury, had five shot attempts and once again looks like he’s ready to return to form.

Minus

--Stefan Noesen had no shots on net and a minus-4 for the game. I’m not even mad. I’m just impressed by how bad he was.

--It looked like Sean Kuraly suffered an injury in the third period when he blocked a shot with his hand that immediately went the other way for a Danton Heinen breakaway goal. It would be a big blow to the B’s if Kuraly is gone for any period of time.

--Damon Severson was a minus-3 with four giveaways in 23:29 of ice time for the Devils, and was a mistake waiting to happen against a Bruins team that he’s had pretty tough luck against in the past.  

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Bruins considering adding Karson Kuhlman back into lineup for Game 6

Bruins considering adding Karson Kuhlman back into lineup for Game 6

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins rookie Karson Kuhlman has been a healthy scratch for the last couple of games, but it looks like the speedy, smart young forward might draw back in for do-or-die time with the Black and Gold.

Kuhlman was among the top-12 forwards during the line rushes for the Bruins at Saturday’s practice at Warrior ice Arena, and Bruce Cassidy indicated that the former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout is knocking the door to get back into the lineup.

“We might make a few adjustments. Tuukka is going to be in the net and then we’ll go from there,” said Bruce Cassidy of his Game 6 lineup. “We’re considering [Kuhlman]. Certainly he’s played well for us and he adds an element of speed and responsibility.”

The 23-year-old Kuhlman suited up for the first three games of the series against the Maple Leafs and finished with an assist and six shots on net in three Stanley Cup playoff games with the Black and Gold. It appeared that 34-year-old David Backes would be the odd-man out if Kuhlman draws back into the lineup for Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena. Backes played under five minutes in Friday night’s Game 5 loss to the Maple Leafs, and has increasingly had difficulty making an impact in the series as his skating game has slowed against Toronto.

With that in mind trading out Backes for Kuhlman would up the speed factor for the B’s against a Maple Leafs team that’s controlled them in the series with their speed and skill level.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairing against the Maple Leafs for Game 6 based on Saturday’s practice:

LINE COMBOS

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Johansson

Heinen-Coyle-Kuhlman

Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner

D-PAIRINGS

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Moore

Rask 

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Bruce Cassidy on underachieving Bruins: "We have to reach our level if we expect to advance"

Bruce Cassidy on underachieving Bruins: "We have to reach our level if we expect to advance"

BOSTON – When the first round playoff series against the Maple Leafs is over with and the Boston have either advanced or started making tee times, one thing will remain true about the games played. It feels pretty clear at this point that many people, the fans, the media and perhaps some people in the B’s organization as well, vastly underestimated how difficult things would be against the Maple Leafs, and just how much that Toronto team has grown in a season.

One would have assumed that the Bruins would be the victorious team in a scoreless defensive battle that went into the third period before the first goal was scored. That assumption would have been wrong in Game 5 as Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen scored third period goals to pace the Leafs to a tight, defense-heavy 2-1 win over the B’s at TD Garden.

The Bruins have now lost two of their three home games in this series and have been held to just one goal in two of those three defeats at TD Garden. It’s a far cry from the Leafs team that ranked 20th in the league in defense during the regular season averaging three goals allowed per game, and the B’s are learning that the hard way.

Clearly some credit is due to the Maple Leafs for the way they’re playing, but Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy also sounded like he’s pretty tired of watching his team fail to get to their highest level of play in this series.

“This is a whole new group, and they’ve got to find their way. That was the message [to the team]. There was a lack of urgency in our play [in Game 5]. At times it was there, but in general I don’t think this team has reached where it can get to in the playoffs in terms of team play,” said Cassidy. “We’ve had pockets of it and we’ve played well at times, with value for both of our wins. But we have to reach our level if we expect to advance.”

While it’s clear that the Bruins aren’t playing at their level best, it’s also about the Maple Leafs improving from last season. It’s almost as if adding a world class two-way center in John Tavares and a shutdown defenseman in Jake Muzzin have made the Maple Leafs significantly better than they were last spring.

“We obviously would like to see them generate more, but there’s not a lot of room out there. We’ve said it. I think Toronto has done a better job defensively on us. We have to fight our way through it, find different ways to crack at it, and I think we did out there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought we got some goals [in Game 4] because we caught them in between on a pinch. We recovered a puck, got it to the top of the crease for the Marchand goal.

“Obviously, our power played helped, but we did get three even-strength goals, and I thought tonight we were having a tough time.”

So what are the Bruins to do if they want to change things in the series?

It starts with getting offense from Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak given the overwhelming success the Bruins have enjoyed when they get on the score sheet, and it continues with getting Jake DeBrusk going after he was a key offensive figure with five goals in last spring’s first round series. It sounds like the Bruins think part of the problem has been worrying too much about what Toronto is doing, and not putting enough into dictating terms in the series with their own play.

One would expect that’s going to change in Sunday’s Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena with the B’s backs against the proverbial wall.

“We’re all capable of so much more, especially collectively as a group. We have the ability to beat anyone in this league and play at the top consistently, and we showed that throughout the season,” said Torey Krug. “Now we reach this point where both teams are working hard. They’ve done a good job, but I think we just need to play up to our potential, focus on ourselves and make them adapt to us. Don’t worry too much about what they’re doing and instead focus on ourselves.”

If the Bruins carry through with all of their real talk following Game 5, there will be probably be a good result in Game 6 and an ensuing Game 7 at TD Garden next week. If they don’t then everybody will be left to wonder how this 107-point team from the regular season never quite made it to that level once they hit the Stanley Cup playoff circuit in April. 

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