Bruins

What we learned in the Bruins' 7-3 win over the Panthers

What we learned in the Bruins' 7-3 win over the Panthers

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center that clinched a playoff spot for the Black and Gold.

1) Zdeno Chara is finally beginning to show some signs of age at 42 years old, but with that age and experience come some pretty great career accomplishments as well. Chara had a special day on Saturday as he signed a one-year contract extension for $2 million plus $1.75 million in incentives that will give him another season in Black and Gold. Then he went out and played 25 plus minutes in a throwback performance while scoring his 200th career goal that puts him in rarified air with only 22 other D-men in the history of the NHL. It’s that kind of offensive production, longevity to go along with being the best shutdown D of his generation that has already punched his ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Last night’s win in Florida that was pushed along by his offense and defensive work was just another reminder of how consistently excellent he’s been in a Bruins uniform since arriving, and how important Chara’s leadership, work ethic and talent have been to Boston consistently being a playoff team during his tenure with the team. It was nice to see Chara show some child-like enthusiasm after he scored as well along with some neat sentiments following the game that the goal was dedicated to his father. "I would like to dedicate this goal to my dad,” said Zdeno Chara to reporters in Florida. “He brought me to hockey and he was always very supportive...last few weeks he was joking about when I was gonna score." Early in his career with the Bruins, Chara was hesitant to share about his off-the-ice life and didn’t really talk all that much about his family. So it’s pretty great to see him sharing those kinds of things with fans, media and his teammates alike as he moves toward the end of a brilliant career with the Black and Gold.

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2) Noel Acciari is stepping up his game at the right time of year. Acciari has slid back into his fourth line center spot with David Pastrnak’s return to the lineup, and on Saturday night he was centering David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom. Acciari scored his second goal of the road trip when he blasted home a centering pass from behind the net from David Backes in the first period, and then he dropped the gloves for an epic tilt with McKenzie Weegar in the second period. Acciari was channeling PJ Stock during the fight as he just kept throwing windmill left-handed punches in a big flurry until he finally dropped Weegar to the ice in a brawl that really energized the Black and Gold. Acciari finished an assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick in what would have been a pretty cool thing for the fourth line grinder out of Rhode Island, but Acciari finished with the goal, a plus-1 rating and four shot attempts in 12 plus minutes of energy and physicality.

3) Connor Clifton has been very strong since coming up again to the Bruins from the AHL. On Saturday night he picked up his first point while assisting on the Noel Acciari goal that kicked off the scoring for the Bruins. He also topped 16 minutes of ice time, a plus-1 rating, four shots on net and a couple of blocked shots, and hasn’t looked out of place at all in the late season intensity of the regular season. Clearly Clifton probably doesn’t have a place in the B’s playoff lineup if everybody is healthy, but he’s playing well enough to earn consideration nonetheless given how strong he’s been at both ends of the ice along with a pretty strong workload. The 23-year-old was just as impressive in his first go-round with the Bruins as well, so it wouldn’t shock this humble hockey writer to see him in the B’s lineup should injuries hit at some point during the postseason.

PLUS

*Noel Acciari scored the B’s first goal, manned the middle for the fourth line and dropped the gloves for a memorably ferocious hockey fight with McKenzie Weeger. It’s been a good road trip for the Rhode Island kid.

*Zdeno Chara topped 25 minutes of ice time, scored the 200th goal of his NHL career and did all of that after signing a one-year extension with the Bruins on Saturday morning. That’s pretty good stuff for the 42-year-old.

*Steve Kampfer was actually really good for the Bruins with a goal and five shots on net while maximizing his performance in a little over 12 minutes of ice time. The reserve D-man has been ready to go since he got his recent shot and he deserves credit for that.

MINUS

*The Bruins were 25-for-65 in the face-off circle, which is under 40 percent success and pretty horrendous for the usually very-good B’s men in the middle.

*Henrik Borgstrom was a minus-3, had zero shots on net and was 1-for-6 in the face-off circle while stinking up the joint in under 10 minutes of ice time.

*Two shots on net, three giveaways and a minus-3 rating for Jonathan Huberdeau, who certainly won’t be showing the film of this game to the NHL Awards voters when it comes time for Selke Trophy consideration.  

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Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

BOSTON — Much as they did last season, the Bruins have an offensive balance issue this year despite winning five of their first six games to start the regular season.

Sure, it’s great that the B’s are 5-1-0 and that David Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top five in both goals and points after his four-goal outburst in Monday afternoon’s win over the Anaheim Ducks. But a look at the Bruins stat sheet also shows a real top-heavy problem when it comes to their offense. Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have scored 11 of the team’s last 14 goals over the last five games, which is great for them and not-so-special for everybody else.

Aside from the aforementioned red-hot Perfection Line, fourth-line center Sean Kuraly is the only other Bruins forward who's scored even more than just a single point this season, and he’s got two assists in six games thus far this year. Some of it is about some very slow starts to the year offensively for some of Boston’s skill players, some of it is about injuries that have dogged David Krejci early in this year and some of it is about two goals called back against Colorado that would have padded Jake DeBrusk’s stat line a little bit in the early going.

 
BRUINS POINT LEADERS  
David Pastrnak 10
Brad Marchand 9
Patrice Bergeron 5
Torey Krug 4
Sean Kuraly 2
11 Players with  1

Clearly Bruce Cassidy is concerned and said it was a front-burner issue for him after watching Pastrnak drop four goals against the Ducks on Monday afternoon.

“It’s not in the back of my mind. What’s on the forefront of my mind is more the other guys, what could we do to help them get going?” said Cassidy, when asked if the top-heavy nature of his offense was in the back of his mind after Monday’s victory. “What can they do themselves to help themselves? As a coach, is what I’m thinking about.

“I’m happy they’re on, they’re going and the power play unit’s found their mojo again. That’s good. But my mind’s more on the other group. How can we help them out? We’ll keep looking at it.”

The disappointment has been across the board as the second line hasn’t done much outside of the goals called back against the Avalanche, and Charlie Coyle has been silent along with the rest of the third line since a good opening game against Dallas. With young wingers like Karson Kuhlman, Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen yet to get going this season, perhaps the time has already come for the Bruins to dip into the minor leagues and call up Anders Bjork.

The once highly regarded prospect had an excellent training camp before being one of the last cuts to Providence, and the 23-year-old Bjork is off to a hot start with the P-Bruins, piling up three goals and five points in his first four games. He’s bringing speed, offense and two-way play to the table for the P-Bruins as he did in his best moments in Boston while healthy over the last two seasons, and it was a foregone conclusion he’d be back up with the Bruins at some point this season once he got his game going.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Providence last weekend to watch Bjork play in person, and saw for himself that the young winger is operating at a high level right now while finally healthy.

Whelp, it’s going right now in Providence in a big way. So perhaps it’s time to send a non-performer like Kuhlman or Par Lindholm down to the P-Bruins, and bring up a guy in Bjork that could add a little spark to a slow-starting group of Bruins forwards this season.

It can’t hurt for a Bruins team that’s once again searching for ways to diversify a top-heavy offense that was the exact same issue this hockey club faced for most of last season as well.

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Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

BOSTON — Sometimes the best perspective on something can be collected by going outside any given organization to get some thoughts.

Certainly the Bruins were critical of themselves even as they were beating the Ducks on Monday afternoon to get off to a 5-1-0 start to the season, and Bruce Cassidy went so far as to call the second period “exceptionally poor” for the Black and Gold while getting outshot 16-6. Still, we’re talking about a hockey team that’s won five of its first six games with four of those games coming on the West Coast to start the season, and also a team coming off a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

For all the criticism and tough love that the Bruins get from within and from their own fan base still heartbroken from last June, it’s easy to forget there are at least 20-25 other NHL teams that would gladly switch places with them in a heartbeat.

That’s something Anaheim head coach Dallas Eakins reminded everybody about after watching David Pastrnak score four goals to take down his team Monday afternoon.

"I think there’s lots of lessons that we can all learn from this organization,” said Eakins. “The way they transitioned their organization maybe five years ago and where they’re at today, how fast they play. You can see why they were 60 minutes from a Stanley Cup ring. There are lots of lessons to be learned."

Clearly Eakins is impressed with the way the Bruins have gone from a big, slow juggernaut capable of beating down other teams to a fast, skilled group that dazzles while still paying attention to things like defense and goaltending, and team toughness. And there’s also the power play that scored eight seconds into its first possession in the first period, and has top PP unit members in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk that have been playing together for a while.

"The one [top] unit has been together for a while. The [guys on the power play] don’t even have to look up. They know where everybody is. They’ve been together. They’ve been dangerous for a while,” said Eakins. “The thing they do incredibly well is that you rarely see a guy stickhandle with the puck. That’s habit-based and it’s something obviously they’ve worked on and they believe in.”

It sure sounds like Eakins has been admiring the Boston Bruins, and an old adversary from the AHL coaching days in Bruce Cassidy, from afar before taking over the head coaching gig in Anaheim this season.

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