Bruins

What We Learned in the B's 2-1 win over Dallas on opening night

What We Learned in the B's 2-1 win over Dallas on opening night

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at American Airlines Arena.

1) Charlie Coyle showed on opening night that he’s ready to pick up right where he left off during the playoffs, and where he was as Boston’s best player during training camp. Coyle finished with just a single assist and had only one shot on net in 16:49 of ice time, but he was a dominant force when it mattered for Boston. It was Coyle that forced a turnover on a won board battle against the side boards just before Brett Ritchie’s goal, and it was the third line center that controlled puck possession on the PP before Danton Heinen got the puck in a scoring position for the game-winner. For good measure Coyle also jumped in front of goalie Ben Bishop to screen on that goal as well. That was all good enough offensively to carry the B’s to victory, and showed how important it is for Coyle to step up as a third line center with offensive capability on nights – like Thursday – when it’s clear that Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak don’t have it. With a full season of Coyle transforming the third line into something viable and dangerous, it could be a game-changer for the Bruins in the best way possible.

2)  After not getting much of a read on what Brett Ritchie could do in a training camp where David Krejci barely played, it’s good to see the new B’s power forward contribute like he did on opening night. Ritchie played 12:55 of ice time, threw a couple of hits and leveled three shot attempts including a goal on his first shot attempt as a member of the Bruins. Perhaps some of it was a little extra jump in his step playing his former team in the Dallas Stars, or it was just the adrenaline of opening night. But if Ritchie can bring some production, some toughness and his size/strength package on a nightly basis in a noticeable way, the Bruins will have something here in the kind of player they could use more of. It’s an encouraging start for Ritchie in Black and Gold.

3) Was it my imagination or was David Backes definitely moving around better on Thursday night? It sure looks like the 35-year-old’s skating work this summer has turned into a real benefit as he was moving around without difficulty in a game that was being played at a very high pace. Backes teamed with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner for an excellent power line that took back some game momentum with an extended puck possession shift toward the end of the second period. Backes finished with four shot attempts and a hit in 10:45 of ice time and was looking to make plays rather than laboring to keep up with the play. We’ll see what happens when the strain of the regular season workload has its effect, but Backes looked like a guy that’s going to be able to help the Bruins on opening. That’s a big development coming off the seven goals and 20 points he struggled to produce last season.

Plus

*Charlie Coyle playing a dominant role in setting up both goals for the Bruins, played strong two-way hockey and looked like the fast, big and strong asset that he was for the Black and Gold during last season.

*Brett Ritchie scored on the first shot of the game for the Bruins after picking up a loose puck following a won battle along the boards by Charlie Coyle. For a player that didn’t show much in training camp, it was an important start to the year.

*Tuukka Rask made 28 saves overall, but was massive in the third period with 16 saves while protecting a one-goal lead with a desperate Dallas group throwing everything at him.

Minus

*Jack Edwards calling it “hockey karma” when Roman Polak suffered an apparent head/neck injury after going head-first into the boards following brief contact with Chris Wagner. C’mon Jack, you’re better than that.

*A combined three shots on net for the Bruins Perfection Line with David Pastrnak missing on all three of his shot attempts in the game. Their struggles were obvious 5-on-5 and the first PP unit featuring all three also struggled mightily during their first game of the season.

*David Krejci isn’t healthy to start the regular season and didn’t play on Thursday night. It didn’t impact the result obviously, but it’s an early sign of concern for a team that could realistically be facing bumps and bruises all season.

Haggerty's Talking Points from Bruins' win over Stars>>>

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Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Alex Ovechkin left no doubt about his 700th career goal in the NHL when he scored it on Saturday afternoon, and good for him.

It came from the opposite face-off circle from where No. 8 does most of his damage for the Washington Capitals power play, but it was still an Ovie one-time rocket that he roofed past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s really the way any milestone NHL goal should be for a legendary NHLer like Ovechkin.

It was one of many things to celebrate about the NHL on a jam-packed Saturday in February and it also reminded everybody the 34-year-old Capitals star is the premier goal-scorer and game-breaker of his generation. With 42 goals already on his ledger for this season while on a pace for 57 goals, it’s also clear the Russian scoring machine isn’t all that close to slowing down either.

He may pass by Mike Gartner (708 goals) on the all-time list as early as this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals could be attainable for Ovie as well. He’d have to play until he was 40 years old and continue to average 40 goals per season, but Ovechkin has put himself in position to at least have a shot at the Great One.

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It all begs the question as to which player will be next to hit the 700 goals milestone in the NHL.

Steve Stamkos may get there with 422 career goals at 30 years old with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s probably got the best chance of any NHL player over the age of 25 years old. He’s on pace for 39 goals this season and would need to stay on that pace until he was 37 years old to reach that mark, a possibility given his work ethic, his status in Tampa Bay, and an offensive game that’s centered around his one-timer on the power play.

But the guy with perhaps the best shot to get there in the future?

It’s got to be 23-year-old Bruins superstar David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 45 goals after scoring two more in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to the Canucks, and is on pace for 60 goals and 115 points in a monster season for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak is going to finish this season close to 200 career goals at just 23 years old, and arguably has 15 good seasons in front of him based on dazzling offensive skills once again prominently reliant on a deadly one-timer from the face-off dot.

All Pastrnak has to do is average 35 goals per season until he’s 38 years old to reach the 700-goal milestone at 38 years old, and he’ll get close to 800 career goals if he can average 40 goals per season over the next decade-and-a-half. Obviously, it’s dependent on Pastrnak remaining healthy and productive for a long, long time, but the Bruins right winger is in a position to accomplish some of these things after entering the NHL as its youngest player during his 2014-15 NHL rookie season.

Certainly, Pastrnak’s coach thinks he can get there, and the winger should be in line for massive numbers as long as he’s part of the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I’m going to say Pasta because I love the kid, and he’s young, and he’s scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked who might be the next 700-goal guy in the NHL. “I think it’s always about health, it’s always [about] are you surrounded by good players to help you? I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. [Pastrnak] has got good support. Yeah, I think he’s one of those guys. I haven’t looked close enough to [Steven] Stamkos’ age to see what – because you always have to project, but in terms of the younger guys, Laine could be that guy because he has such a terrific shot; you tend not to lose that. He’s always going to be on the power play. That’s what’s helped Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] obviously to be able to maintain his sort of marks on the power play.

“But I think a lot of it has to do with health. I would have to think about that one a little bit more about which guys probably after two, three years. Is [Nikita] Kucherov in that mix? Does he score enough, or does he pass too much? Brayden Point scores a lot of goals, but he’s also a disher at times. I think it does take a certain amount of shot-first mentality if you’re going to challenge that many. Auston

Matthews probably has to be in that conversation as well, the way he shoots the puck. There are guys out there, [but] it’s probably just a little early to predict with those younger guys.”

Similar to Pastrnak, the 22-year-old Matthews would need to average 35 goals per season for the next 15 years to get to the 700-goal mark. That’s a doable thing for a former No. 1 overall pick and a player that’s on pace for 56 goals of his own this season for the Maple Leafs. The same with 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who will finish with around 170 career goals after this season and would need to average 35 goals per season until he was 39 years old to reach that mark as well.

Put all of it together and it feels like Pastrnak and Matthews are the two most likely candidates to be the next 700-goal guys in the league, so let’s put this article in a time capsule and release it 15 years from now to how it all actually played out.

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

GOLD STAR: There were plenty of strong candidates for the Canucks in their blowout win, but give the credit to Tyler Toffoli for scoring a pair of goals in his second game for Vancouver since coming over in the trade with the LA Kings.

Toffoli is already making an impact with points in each of his two games for the Canucks while injuries are impacting their roster, but he was especially strong on Sunday with the two goals, three points and a plus-3 rating in 14:50 of ice time.

Beyond that, he matched Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat for the team-high with five shots on net as well while showing the Bruins what they missed out on by peeling back on the Toffoli trade talks. He was an impact player for the Canucks while Ondrej Kase continues to be on the sidelines hurt and not ready to play quite yet for the B’s.  

BLACK EYE: No shots on net and a minus-4 rating for Danton Heinen on a disastrously bad night for Boston’s second line. Heinen and David Krejci both tied for the team-worst with the minus-4 ratings and there was zero offensive push from Krejci, Heinen and Jake DeBrusk while an incredibly hungry, rested Vancouver team was waiting for them.

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The problem now for guys like Heinen is that their days with the Bruins are numbered now that Ondrej Kase is coming into the fold with a mandate to take opportunities away from them. It might even be that Heinen gets dealt given the surplus of middle-6 forwards on this Bruins roster right now. Heinen made a compelling case to not be a guy that sticks around in the loss to Vancouver.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were only losing 2-1 after the first period of play and things didn’t seem so bad for them at that point. But the weight of playing five back-to-back games this month finally left some collateral damage with the B’s when they fell apart in the final 40 minutes of the game.

Sloppy puck possession and good old-fashioned lack of execution led to three more goals being scored by Vancouver in the second period despite being outshot by a 12-8 margin and the rout was one once it was a 5-1 deficit for the Black and Gold. Truthfully, the Bruins never felt like they were in this game at all and they proved it with the way they played in the last couple of periods against the Canucks in humbling, embarrassing defeat.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak scored a pair of goals to push the Bruins sniper to 45 goals on the season. Pastrnak continues to lead the NHL in goals scored and is now pushing toward 50 goals scored on the season with just five remaining until he reaches a historic plateau that hasn’t been done in the Bruins uniform since Bruins President Cam Neely did it himself during his prime years in Black and Gold.

Pastrnak finished with the two goals scored and six shot attempts for the Bruins, but even he finished a minus-2 rating while just about every forward line didn’t get it done on multiple levels for the Bruins.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 – the number of years since the Canucks had a player with a Gordie Howe hat trick prior to Bo Horvat getting it done for Vancouver in Sunday’s win.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Tonight clearly we were not the better team. We didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t do what was required to win and we didn’t have much luck our way either. I think we’ve got the full value for a majority of the wins we’ve had coming out of the break, but tonight they were the better and hungrier team. - Bruce Cassidy, on the NESN postgame about the 9-3 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver.