Bruins

Who are these Boston Bruins? We'll start to find out on this road trip

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Who are these Boston Bruins? We'll start to find out on this road trip

BRIGHTON, Mass – Are the Bruins the unwitting victim primed for a hockey beat-down that we saw on opening night against the Washington Capitals?

Or are the Bruins the team that pummeled the NHL’s weak sisters out of Buffalo, Ottawa, Edmonton and Detroit by outscoring them 22-6 over the last four games, including a perfect 3-0-0 homestand where they crushed the Senators, Oilers and Red Wings?

The answer probably lies somewhere in between with the 7-0 loss to the Capitals being much more of the outlier, but there is still plenty of unknown about this year’s edition of the Bruins after losing to the reigning Stanley Cup champs, and then squashing four of last season’s worst teams right afterward. The Bruins will start to answer those questions when they head on a four game road swing through Canada that includes three stops in Western Canada this week against the Flames, Canucks and Oilers before stopping in Ottawa for another chance to slap around the Senators.

Bruce Cassidy wasn’t going to discount any of Boston’s four straight wins just because those teams weren’t any good last season, but even the Bruins head coach knows that a few more challenges are going to beneficial for the Black and Gold.

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“We need to take care of business at home after our start, and I think we did that,” said Cassidy. “We got progressively better away from the puck, which made us better with the puck. We’re finishing well, obviously. Our top line is scoring and the power play is contributing. Now you take it on the road, and Calgary has started off well.

“It’s always a tough swing no matter what. I know people talk about the schedule a lot. I remember last year in the first five games we lost to Colorado twice and to Vegas, and we thought ‘Wow.’ That’s why I never like to get ahead of myself with the teams that we’re playing. We’re playing the schedule in front of us, and they both ended up being playoff teams. So you never know how it’s going to shake out. We just need to take care of business, and now we need to do it on the road.”

Certainly it’s not going to be a murderer’s row on the road trip either when faced with Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa, but three of those four teams have winning records at this early juncture of the season. Beyond that, the Bruins will be dealing with Edmonton’s home opener after their long odyssey back from a season opener in Sweden, and they’ll be facing a different challenge simply being so far away from home.

“It was important to have a good home stretch before heading out West because we knew that was coming up,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s going to be important that we rely on what we’ve been doing well here in Boston. We just need to bring that with us. I think it’s going to good to go on the road for a little bit. It’s like a 10-day trip. You want to start on a good note. But it was good to get things on track and play the hockey that we want to play.”

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The positives, of course, are that there will be team-bonding, and that the Bruins have traditionally been a strong road team over the last few years. But it’s all now a proving ground during the regular season to see if the Bruins can at least match the 112-point group from last season, or surpass it with a team more readily built for the playoffs.  

The next four games in Canada aren’t going to make-or-break for the Bruins, of course. But they will either reinforce the goal-scoring juggernaut that everybody saw lay waste to unwitting opponents at home last week, or open up a new set of questions about some of the soft spots on this current edition's roster.

Are the Bruins going to find a permanent answer for the third forward on the David Krejci line?

Will the third line finally get settled with David Backes in the middle, or will it continue to be in flux until they find a combo that can give them the two-way play they absolutely need for depth up front?

Can the Bruins power play and top line continue to carry this Bruins group, or will the one-dimensional nature of their offense catch up them once again just like it did in the second round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring?

Stay tuned to the answers to these questions and more as the Bruins continue to build their team identity with the first long road challenge of the season starting Wednesday night in Calgary. 

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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.