What We Learned from Bruins: Don't count on any Cup Final hangover early in season

What We Learned from Bruins: Don't count on any Cup Final hangover early in season

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and their 3-0-0 start on successful, season-opening Western swing, which concludes tonight in Colorado.

1) The Bruins are again winning and off to a great start.

There’s a common misconception out there that the B’s would have struggled out of the gate if they suffered from any kind of “Stanley Cup Final” hangover from last season. In actuality, a fast start is exactly what you might expect to see from a team that was still playing high-level hockey four months ago rather than one hitting the links since early April. The skills weren’t quite as rusty, the timing wasn’t that far off and pretty much everything was still intact for a team returning most of its group from the Cup Final in mid-June. 

So, the fast start isn’t much of a surprise, especially considering they had a gimme game against Arizona thrown into the middle of the trip. The hangover is going to hit the Bruins when the season starts to feel a little long for them. They are going to be dragging in February or March, what is commonly referred to as the “dog days” of the NHL season. Not close enough to the playoffs, but far away from NHL All-Star weekend and the bye week that each of the 31 teams now gets in the regular season. 

That wall is going to be there if the Bruins hit it, as they expect to. So a few wins and piling up some points early in the season are mandatory for the Black and Gold and they're doing just that. When the hangover hits, they'll be more difficult to come by.

2)  Maybe Tuukka Rask should hydrate a little more in Las Vegas the next time around? Just sayin’. 

I’m sure they have plenty of water and Gatorade in Vegas, right? Seriously, it’s a good thing that it just amounted to cramping and dehydration at the end of a long, challenging game against a very good Vegas team with a late rush. It could have been worse if it was some kind of pulled muscle or groin issue for the Bruins goalie who's had both of those in the past. Still, the Bruins players may want to make sure they are properly hydrated the next time their road swing heads through Vegas.  

3) The Bruins got their first true quality win of the season.

The Bruins dusted themselves off after falling behind 2-0 Tuesday night, they saw the Perfection Line completely go off in their first really dominant showing of the season and they also managed to compete against a deep, dangerous and talented Golden Knights group that really came after them in the third period. 

Sure, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty got their points and made their plays in a game that Vegas clearly wanted to play in an up-and-down, back-and-forth pace, but the Bruins got the stops when they needed to against a team they could easily find themselves up against if they are lucky enough to return to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Sure, the wins on the road against Dallas and Arizona were solid, and the Stars even made the playoffs last season. But the Golden Knights are a bonafide power team in the West and the Bruins should have been dragging a bit by the third game on a week-plus long trip through the Western Conference. The fact they weren’t is a great sign for them.

*Rask stopped 31 shots, including 15 saves in a very event-filled second period, and stood tall against a late Golden Knights push while battling the effects of dehydration at the very end. Rask is off to his best start in a long time.

*The Perfection Line finished with three goals, seven points, 12 shots on net and 25 shot attempts in a dominant offensive performance while finally getting their timing down. It was obviously expected given the caliber of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but it puts the Bruins back on their regular existence once those top guys get going. It’s no coincidence it was the highest offensive output of the season for Boston.

*A goal and two points in 21:45 of ice time for Torey Krug. It’s been a good start for the notoriously slow-starting Krug and that could lead to his best season ever in his walk year. Wouldn’t that be special?

*Matt Grzelcyk was limited to just one shift in the first period and 11 minutes of ice time after blocking a shot with his left foot. The good news is that Grzelcyk is good to go and avoided injury.

 *One shot on net, two hits and a goalie interference penalty that led to a Golden Knights PP goal for Brett Ritchie. He is going to be a healthy scratch tonight in Colorado, so clearly he didn’t impress in the win over Vegas with a bit of an invisible game.

 *No shots on net and a 4-for-11 face-off performance for David Krejci in 16:49 of ice time. He’s still knocking the rust off, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. But that grading on a curve isn’t going to last much longer.

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David Krejci forced to exit Bruins win with injury

David Krejci forced to exit Bruins win with injury

BOSTON – David Krejci made it through a few games without incident after a lower-body injury kept him out of the season opener, but had to leave Monday afternoon’s matinee midway through the game with something that’s assumed to be related to the same injury.

Krejci exited the first period early and then made it through two more shifts in the second period before exiting entirely in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden. There was no real update following the Bruins win, so it’s unknown if the playmaking center is going to be able to suit up for Thursday night’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Obviously, he left [the game]. He tried to play through it, but didn’t come back. We’ll see how he is. [Tuesday]  is an off day, so Wednesday we’ll have a better idea. How did we play through it? We had to use other people, obviously, more.

“We put [Joakim] Nordstrom in the middle in the third. We put [Chris] Wagner in the middle a couple of times, so good to have those guys that can move around. I tried to get Charlie Coyle extra minutes. Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] always going to play his minutes, and I’m willing to bet that [Sean] Kuraly’s minutes are up too. That’s what happens. You’ve got to plug someone in there. I thought they did a good job going in there. We moved some people around and at the end of the day got through it, and hopefully Krech is good to go against Tampa.”

If Krejci can’t play on Thursday then the Bruins would likely go with Par Lindholm centering the second line as he did in the first two games of the season. The biggest concern, obviously, is if the injury to Krejci is going to be something that’s going to hamper him for a long period of time. Krejci has one assist in four games while averaging 17:01 of ice time since coming back from injury, and was just beginning to round into form after getting pretty much zero game action in the preseason. 

Krejci played 81 games last season in an impressive show of good health, but it looks like all those games played last season might just be taking a toll on him this season already. 

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Ducks

Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Ducks

Here are Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-2 win over the Ducks Monday afternoon to win their fifth game in six tries to open the 2019-20 season. 

GOLD STAR: Who else but David Pastrnak? Pastrnak scored four goals for the first time in his NHL career and joined a pretty elite Bruins club that also includes Patrice Bergeron, who did it a couple of seasons ago. Pastrnak now has six goals on the season after his four-score outburst on Monday afternoon, and is in the middle of a Bruins Perfection Line that is humming on all cylinders right now after needing a game or two to get going this season. The four-goal game and the six goals in six games once again raises the question of whether Pastrnak is ever going to be able to score 50 goals in a season, and it’s something he certainly has a chance at if he can remain healthy. In this game, Pastrnak scored in all kinds of different wants including a PP strike on a one-timer from the circle, a finished goal on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush and a redirection while paying the price in front of the net.

BLACK EYE: Troy Terry was a hotshot college hockey prospect when he came on the scene a couple of years ago after starring with Ryan Donato in the Olympics. But he’s off to a brutal start this season with zero points in six games, and had no shots on net with a minus-2 rating in 16:39 of ice time for the Ducks in Monday night’s loss. He certainly looks like his confidence is low right now for a Ducks team that’s scraping and scrimping for offense, and that was reflected in what we saw on the ice. Man, if the Ducks didn’t have Rickard Rakell they would be a seriously anemic offensive team. It will be part of the growing pains for Anaheim to see if guys like Terry are going to be a part of the long term solution, and it sure hasn’t looked that way in the early going this year.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins, it was getting their second goal of the game in the second period after largely getting outplayed by the Ducks while getting outshot 16-6 and hanging onto a slim 1-0 lead. The Bruins killed off a couple of Ducks power plays and then they scored on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand feeding David Pastrnak just as an Anaheim power play had ended. The goal gave the Bruins a little bit of breathing room and set them up for a third period where a couple more Pastrnak goals allowed them to pull away in the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins goaltending continues to be a big story of success for the Bruins. Halak wasn’t perfect as he allowed two goals during the game, but he was pretty darn close in the second period when he stopped 15-of-16 shots as the Ducks clearly outplayed the Bruins in the middle 20 minutes. Halak stopped a couple of odd-man, 3-on-1 rushes during that period of time and allowed the Bruins to get their stuff back in order, which they did when they scored to make it a 2-1 game late in the second period. Both Halak and Rask have been among the league’s best goalies to start the season for the Bruins and it’s making a major difference for them.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 – the number of goals for David Pastrnak, which also gives the Bruins Perfection Line 11 of the last 14 goals scored by the B’s overall in their last five games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “What’s on the forefront of my mind is more the other guys, what could we do to help them get going? And what can they do themselves to help themselves? So that, as a coach, is what I’m thinking about. I’m happy [the top line] is on, they’re going, the power play units found their mojo again, so that’s good. But my mind’s more on the other group. How can we help them out? We’ll keep looking at it.” –Bruce Cassidy, on the top-heavy nature of the Bruins offense right now relying on their top guys and top PP unit to score.

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