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What we've learned from the Bruins' undefeated start to 2019-20 season

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What we've learned from the Bruins' undefeated start to 2019-20 season

Here’s What We Learned from a weekend where the Bruins took a 1-0 shutout victory over the Arizona Coyotes to push out to a 2-0-0 start on their four game Western Conference swing to begin the regular season.

1)      Jaroslav Halak looks primed to again take playing time from Tuukka Rask. The talk during training camp is that Rask would probably get more in the range of 50-55 starts this season after finishing with only 46 games played a season ago. He wouldn’t be taking any leave of absence this season, after all, and one would expect that Rask is going to get off to a better start than he did last season when he limped through October. Obviously Rask looked good on opening night and it doesn’t appear that we’re going to see his usually sluggish start, but Halak was even better stopping 35 shots in Saturday night’s shutout of the Coyotes. He was stopping breakaway chances and shutting down tic-tac-toe passing plays from Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller, and generally stepped up on a night when the Bruins weren’t really all that good against a young, hungry hockey team. This is all good news for the Black and Gold. If Rask stumbles a little early then Halak is there to step in and get the B’s through the early portion of the season again, and if not then Halak is going to again push Rask hard for playing time while making sure both are playing at high levels.

2)       The Bruins top line has thankfully knocked the rust off their game. They weren’t great on Saturday night either, but they were good enough to get the win against the Coyotes. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron teamed up with a first period goal late in the stanza after the entire team had struggled for most of the opening 20 minutes. It was vintage work by the B’s dynamic duo with Bergeron sliding a backhanded pass to Marchand in the face-off circle for a short side snipe past Darcy Kuemper. That ended up being the difference in the game, but it was also a byproduct of the top trio being much more in sync with 15 shot attempts from the three explosive forwards. They were generating offense and chances, and that’s exactly where they need to be for the B’s to enjoy sustained success. Saturday night was evidence it isn’t going to take very long for them to get back to their usual dominant level.

3)      It’s early in the season, but it sure looks like Charlie McAvoy is going to be the workhorse for the Bruins. He’s led the B’s in ice time in each of his first two games and is averaging 22:18 of ice time while playing in all situations and kicking in a little bit of offense thus far. Interestingly enough 42-year-old Zdeno Chara has also been under 20 minutes of ice time in each of the first two games even as others like Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo also topped 20 minutes in Saturday night’s win over the Coyotes. Many have screamed and cried about “load management” for aging players like Chara and Patrice Bergeron to preserve them for the long haul, including getting them at their peak in the playoffs. Whelp, it looks like the B’s are doing just that a few games into the regular season.

PLUS

*Brad Marchand had the game’s only goal, six shot attempts and was much better on Saturday than he was in Thursday night’s opener in Dallas.

*Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots, collected a shutout and was even better in his regular season debut than Tuukka Rask was on opening night. It’s such a good sign for the season that both B’s goalies are off to strong beginnings.

*David Krejci played nearly 16 minutes of ice time and looked solid after missing the opening night game with a lower body injury. He wasn’t a big factor on the score sheet, but his healthy return was really the big development in this one.

MINUS

*One shot attempt, one hit and one takeaway along with a 2-for-6 performance in the face-off circle for Par Lindholm. People can talk all the livelong day about him doing the little things out on the ice, but you usually have to search for the little things when a guy isn’t doing much of anything impactful out on the ice. I’m not seeing much thus far to his game.

*I didn’t love the decision to scratch David Backes based on a pretty solid opening night from the 35-year-old, but I guess I somewhat understand from a perspective of keeping him fresh when he’s in the lineup. Somebody had to sit to make room for David Krejci, though, and I guess it came down to Backes.

*After being dominant on opening night, Charlie Coyle was a bit of a non-factor on Saturday night. If Coyle really wants to become an impact player for the Bruins then he needs to be more consistent with the game we saw against Dallas.

Five bold Bruins predictions for 2019-20 season>>>>>

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Brad Marchand disses Ryan Lindgren after exchanging blows

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Brad Marchand disses Ryan Lindgren after exchanging blows

Brad Marchand had a feisty game against the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon that included notching his 51st assist of the season in the 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden. The Bruins left winger also got into it physically with a few Rangers players along the way, including former Bruins prospect and current Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren.

Lindgren lined Marchand up for a hit in front of the Rangers bench in the first period that the B’s forward sidestepped, and then the two scuffled in a sequence that landed Lindgren in the box with a retaliatory roughing penalty.

During a key stretch late in the second period, it was Lindgren again starting a shoving match with Patrice Bergeron in front of the New York net. Marchand stepped in to help defend his linemate during the scrum, but then got knocked off his feet by a nasty cross-check from behind by Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich.  

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The force of the impact knocked Marchand’s helmet off and sent him flying to the ice, but he ended up getting the only penalty called against him. The Bruins got the last laugh, though, when Charlie Coyle scored the shorthanded game-winner during the ensuing Rangers power play, and Marchand was spotted celebrating in the penalty box after the breakaway goal.  

After the game, the ever-quotable Marchand was asked about Lindgren by reporters in New York, and he let the bottom-pairing Rangers defenseman have it by unloading both of his verbal barrels on the youngster.

"He's not going to be a player there that's going to have a very long career,” said Marchand. “I'm not overly concerned about him. ... He's a good, steady defenseman ... All the best to him, hope he does a great job. But I can't see it."

Ouch. Marchand and the Bruins won on the scoreboard, and then again with the postgame chirps from Madison Square Garden.

Bruins-Rangers Talking Points: Charlie Coyle continues dominant play in B's win

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Bruins-Rangers Talking Points: Charlie Coyle continues dominant play in B's win

GOLD STAR: Charlie Coyle has picked up the scoring pace as of late with four goals in his last five games. And now he was scored in two straight games after picking up the shorthanded game-winning goal for the Bruins on Sunday afternoon.

Coyle was a dominant force again on Sunday against the Rangers from his third line center spot and has played with the same kind of strength, motor and relentless play that everybody saw from him in the playoffs last year. Even better, Coyle is now on a pace to get close to 20 goals this season for the Bruins, and his play in Sunday’s game was a beauty. He broke up a play at the Rangers offensive blue line, sped behind the New York power play and then threw a couple of moves at Alexander Georgiev before flipping a forehand bid past him late in the second period.

Coyle finished with the goal, a plus-2 rating, three shots on net and a hit and a takeaway in 15:57 of ice time for the Bruins.

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BLACK EYE: Pavel Buchnevich certainly made a statement about his game on Sunday. He was a team-worst minus-3 and he managed to miss the net with all four of his shot attempts.

But the biggest moment was his cheap cross-check to an unsuspecting Brad Marchand that knocked the Bruins forward’s helmet off as he squared up with Ryan Lindgren after the New York defenseman started trouble with Patrice Bergeron.

Buchnevich also had a giveaway in 17:14 of ice time as many of New York’s best players simply didn’t do enough in a game that the Rangers desperately needed to stay in shouting distance of the playoffs. But it’s amazing that Buchnevich wasn’t called for even a minor penalty for throwing a major cheap shot at one of the NHL’s best players.

TURNING POINT: The turning point for the game was the cheap shot Buchnevich threw on Marchand. Marchand was the only one whistled for a penalty as he cross-checked Lindgren while sticking up for his linemate Bergeron, and then Buchnevich came out of nowhere to knock the Bruins winger off the ice with a cross-check from behind.

The force of the Buchnevich two-hander knocked Marchand’s helmet off, but somehow there was no minor penalty called on him.

As the saying goes, though, the puck don’t lie. With Marchand in the box for what should have been matching penalties, Charlie Coyle scored on a shorthanded breakaway for the game-winning goal at the end of the second period.

HONORABLE MENTION: As has been the case for a number of games since the NHL All-Star break, Charlie McAvoy was one of the best players on the ice for the Bruins. McAvoy scored another goal when his point shot deflected off a Rangers body in front before fluttering in past Georgiev, and gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead in the game.

McAvoy finished with a game-high 24:52 of ice time, scored a goal, had five shot attempts and was a plus-1 rating while throwing two registered hits and blocking a couple of shots as well.

McAvoy played an elite, tough level at both ends of the ice and was pushing the envelope offensively in a way he wasn’t doing earlier in the season when his confidence wasn’t at an all-time high. McAvoy is playing his best hockey of the season right now and Sunday’s win was another example of it.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of assists in Sunday’s win for the Bruins despite scoring three goals. Brad Marchand had the lone assist on Patrice Bergeron’s empty netter while Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle’s goals were both unassisted earlier in the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He's not going to be a player there that's going to have a very long career. I'm not overly concerned with him." –Brad Marchand on New York Rangers defenseman (and former Bruins prospect) Ryan Lindgren after the two players scuffled a couple of times during Sunday’s matinee.