Bruins

What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 comeback win in over the Oilers on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

1) The Bruins continue to be a dominant force in the third period.


That's a testament to their superior conditioning this season and the way they use their depth to overwhelm opponents in a 60-minute game. The Bruins scored their three goals in the third period to come all the way back from a two-goal deficit and have now outscored opponents 68-38 in the third this season in a jaw-dropping statistic. Basically, the Bruins are a plus-30 in goal differential at the time it matters most. They outshot the Oilers 14-6 in those final 20 minutes and continued pouring it on after they’d hit a couple of posts and missed some golden scoring chances earlier in the game. Some of that was certainly a testament to their resolve and character as they just keep on coming even when they’re getting a little frustrated by the game’s circumstances. Still, some of it is also about a clear time in the game where the Bruins have owned just about all their opponents this season. The third period is theirs.

2) Noel Acciari is finally looking healthy and back to form on the fourth line.


Acciari went through a 10-game scoreless drought and wasn’t playing up to his usual physical standards while he was playing through a lower-body injury in January. Acciari sat out for a couple of weeks to rest the injury, came back midway through February and in the past couple of games is finally back to the hard-hitting, hard-charging factor on the energy line (two hits and a couple of takeaways in his 13 minutes of ice time) that can actually provide a little offense. Acciari’s wraparound goal in the third period was important, too, as he spearheaded the three-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes. The Rhode Island kid now has seven goals on the season and has a legit chance of hitting double-digits this year if he can remain healthy down the stretch, which will always be a challenge given his no-holds-barred style.

3) It’s time to stop fooling around with the trades for left-shot D-men and sign Zdeno Chara to a contract extension.


Chara was immense shutting down Connor McDavid and holding him to two shots and continues to play excellent shutdown defense the past month against some of the top scoring stars in the league. Who can forget the way he completely smothered Auston Matthews in Toronto’s last trip to Boston as the B's gear up for another meeting with the Leafs on Saturday night? Chara has been an excellent warrior, leader and sort of an on-ice coach for the young D-men on the Bruins this season. He’s done everything that Boston has asked of him. Before making a blockbuster trade for a Ryan McDonagh or any other left side D-men that could ostensibly be seen as a long-term replacement for the Bruins captain, they should take care of things with Chara and try to get him locked down ahead of the playoffs. Nobody suspects it’s going to be an issue for the player in any way, shape or form and clearly, a contract year has brought out the best in a player who's a team-best plus-26 on the season. But I don’t think there’s that much more for Chara to prove about their still being gas left in the tank. It’s a reasonable assumption that he can play to this level next season at 41 as well. Certainly, he’s going to have his rough moments when the Bruins play 16 games in March and the playoff grind will always be a challenge for a 40-year-old, but Chara has already proven that Tom Brady isn’t the only 40-year-old ageless wonder still doing his thing in Boston these days.

Plus


*Bruce Cassidy deserves plenty of credit for switching out Riley Nash and David Krejci in the third period while still trailing. That proved to be the impetus behind the B's final two goals. Nash fed a crashing Matt Grzelcyk for the tying strike with his new linemates, and then Danton Heinen fed Krejci for the winner to put the B’s on top for good. Those are masterful adjustments from the B’s coaching staff.

*Chara played 22:39 of ice time while completely shutting down McDavid, had five shots on net and five blocked shots in a yeoman’s effort on the second night of back-to-backs. You know, 40-year-old players aren’t supposed to be able to do that stuff. Impressive,

*David Backes won a key one-on-one battle with Drake Caggiula along the side boards to set up Krejci’s goal, had five shots on net and was a stalwart, physical beast for the Bruins against a pretty rough-and-tumble Oilers crew.

Minus


*No shots on net in 13:22 for Milan Lucic. He did have six registered hits, but he wasn’t noticeable at all in a game where you’d expect the motor to still be running high.

*The same can be said for Patrick Maroon, who had a shot on net and a hit along with a minus-1 rating in 17:23 of ice time for the Oilers. If that was an audition to be a member of the Bruins, he didn’t really do a heck of a lot to impress them after killing them the past few years.

*One shot on net in 13:43 of ice time for Ryan Spooner, who was dropped to the third line with Nash in the third period. The Oilers might be a tough match-up for Spooner given their size and strength, but he’s got to find a way to be effective against those teams down the stretch.

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With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Now that Matt Grzelcyk has put a full NHL season under his belt and holds a two-year NHL contract for $2.8 million after signing with the Bruins last week as a restricted free agent, it’s on to becoming the best player he can be.

The 24-year-old posted an impressive three goals and 15 points in 61 games last season as a rookie who really never looked back after winning a job early last season.

Grzelcyk showed excellent skating wheels and a real knack for breaking the puck out of the defensive zone without a lot of hesitation or costly mistakes normally associated with a first-year D-man. Even better, he managed to avoid opponents taking advantage of his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame. Now, Grzelcyk is looking to remove some of the weaknesses in his game. 

“I don’t ever want to be too comfortable and I always want to make sure I earn everything that I get,” said Grzelcyk, while talking about his new deal in the Bruins dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday afternoon. “It helps from a piece of mind standpoint to not constantly be looking over your shoulder, but there’s still a lot of competition. I’m looking to forward to coming into camp stronger and healthier, and ready to earn my ice time.”

Some of that is about the obvious: as one of the smallest D-men in the NHL, he'll need to get bigger and stronger. Grzelcyk is also looking to improve his shot from the point, a skill that could make him a much more attractive candidate on the Bruins power play. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are the main trigger men on the PPs with big cannon shots from the point. That’s the kind of company Grzelcyk would like to join if he can turn his long-distance shot into a weapon.

“I can always get bigger and stronger. That’s something I’m always working on,” said Grzelcyk. “I think offensively I can use my feet to my advantage more on the blue line and obviously my shot is pretty much the No. 1 thing I’m looking to improve this [upcoming] year. I’m working hard toward that, so hopefully, that will pay a difference come training camp.”

“[I really learned] what I need to do to be successful and help the team, which is using my feet to my advantage. I think that’s huge as a smaller defenseman. Just getting that number of games under my belt and knowing what I have to do each night on the ice to get the wins, it gives me a lot more confidence and allows me to work more on my weaknesses.”

Clearly, a bigger shot and a bigger role in the offense would mean bigger point production for Grzelcyk, but it remains to be seen how high his offensive ceiling can be after a promising NHL beginning.

The question now is, how much bigger his role might be next season after averaging 16:44 of ice time last season as a bottom-pairing D-man? There is certainly room to grow, but it will all depend on how the rest of the roster comes together this fall after what’s expected to be a fairly action-packed offseason for Bruins GM Don Sweeney.  

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Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Appearing Friday morning on Toucher & Rich, 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson spoke about the Bruins' chances at signing former NHL All-Star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, saying he thinks they might have a leg up on other teams due to their cap space.

Kovalchuk, 35, was regarded as one of the NHL's premier scorers for much of his tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, before returning to his native Russia in the summer of 2013 to play in the KHL full-time. He most recently won a Gold Medal with the makeshift "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team at the 2018 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament.