David Krejci

Talking Points from the Bruins' 6-3 win over the Blackhawks

Talking Points from the Bruins' 6-3 win over the Blackhawks

Here are my talking points from tonight's 6-3 win over the Blackhawks . . .

GOLD STAR: The Bruins needed somebody to step up with David Pastrnak out of the lineup, and on this night it was Danton Heinen. The Bruins' winger scored his ninth goal of the season while parked out in front of the net, and set up Boston’s insurance goal when he fed a wide open Brad Marchand after picking up a rebound in front of the net. Heinen had a goal, three points, a plus-2 and three shots on net in a very active 14:28 of ice time, putting together one of his best games of the season. He also fed Peter Cehlarik a perfect set-up for a third period power play goal that gave the B’s some breathing room. The elevation of Heinen to the top line with Bergeron and Marchand has really brought out the best in his game since moving there.

🏒 BRUINS 6, BLACKHAWKS 3

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Toews was locked up with Patrice Bergeron and his line for most of the night, and it turned out to be a pretty tough night for the Blackhawks captain. Toews didn’t register a single point, with only two shots on net in his 20-plus minutes of ice time, and he also finished with a minus-3 rating. Both Toews and Patrick Kane had been key figures in the now-defunct seven-game winning streak for Chicago, and the Bruins ended that streak by thoroughly neutralizing both Hawks stars on Tuesday night. At least Toews battled in the face-off circle, where he finished 13-for-25 when it was all over.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were down 1-0 more than midway through the first period after Tuukka Rask gave up a pretty soft goal to start things out. But they didn’t allow that to keep them down for an extended period and instead rattled off three unanswered goals through the rest of the first period before taking a big lead going into the first intermission. The Bruins scored their three goals in a span of 4:12 in the latter moments of the first period as Chicago began to break down in the defensive zone, and that was all Boston needed to take control of the game.

🏒 PASTRNAK'S OUT -- NOW WHAT?

HONORABLE MENTION: While Danton Heinen played one of his best games of the season, Jake DeBrusk also decided Tuesday was a good time to bust out of his slump. DeBrusk scored his first goal in over a month when he redirected a David Krejci pass down low, and rocketed it past Chicago goalie Collin Delia in the second perood. It was a goal that was a long time in the making for DeBrusk after he was dropped down to the third line for a couple of games, but in the win he had a goal, three points and five shots on net for his most productive game in a while. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy won his 100th game as the Black and Gold’s bench boss on Tuesday night in the 6-3 win over Chicago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s nice to win games like that. You know, it doesn’t happen often and it hasn’t been the way we’ve been winning, but you know, you have to be able to win games like that. It’s nice to win them like that. It was a fun one.” –Brad Marchand, on the Bruins scoring six goals en route to a pretty solid victory over Chicago. 

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Cassidy helping to spark B's offense with changes up front

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Cassidy helping to spark B's offense with changes up front

BOSTON – Don’t look now but the changes that Bruce Cassidy is making with his forwards are finally beginning to pay off.

After mostly leaving the Perfection Line productively intact in the first half of the season, the Bruins head coach has mixed things up and got another two points on Saturday with a 5-4 overtime matinee win at TD Garden. Danton Heinen has scored goals in each of the last two games after getting bumped up to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and David Krejci powered home a goal from the B’s second line in the win as well.

The mixing and matching has clearly worked well this time around for the Bruins.

“I thought [Heinen] was real good. He complemented that line well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He made some plays off the rush to get the puck to, early on, to Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] there off the rush and drive the net, kept some pucks alive, shot the puck when it was his opportunity to do that, finished a nice play by going to the net. Defensively, I didn’t see any issues either, so I thought that worked out real well for him and the group.”

🏒BRUINS 5, KINGS 4 (OT)

It remains to be seen how long those changes are going to stay in place, but it has to give the B’s organization some confidence that they may yet have some of the best answers to their roster problems with in-house solutions. It’s also very clear it brought a whole world of confidence to Heinen, after the 23-year-old struggled through the first 50 plus games of the season while failing to match the pace of last season’s rookie totals of 16 goals and 47 points.

But those struggles seem to be fading from Heinen’s memory now that he’s been charged with top line duties -- and with that, a prime spot on the right wing with two of the NHL’s elite players.

“I think it’s always just be hard on pucks, win your battles, you know, other things will take of itself after that. So, no I mean, Bergy and Marchy [Brad Marchand] they win so many battles and so I try to put a little pressure on myself to help them out there and get them the puck,” said Heinen. “Confidence is a funny thing, but felt good tonight. I think you automatically get a little bit of confidence when you see them going in. So yeah, I’m going to try to build off of it, keep on working, and yeah build off it.”

It will be interesting to see just how much the move ends up sparking Heinen’s game, and how much an elevated performance could raise his stock around the league ahead of this month’s trade deadline. But the other big part of this equation is David Pastrnak joining David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik on Boston’s second line.

The second line kicked in a goal in the third period of the Saturday afternoon win when David Krejci fired home a shot into a largely vacant net for his 12thgoal of the season. It was a key goal during Boston’s third period offensive outburst and it also offset a few defensive mistakes that left each of the line’s members a minus-2 for the game. David Pastrnak actually one of his more ineffective games of the season with no shots on net to along with the minus plays, and all three only combined for three total shots on net.

So Boston’s playmaking Krejci was appropriately self-critical following a game that the B’s barely escaped with their two points intact.

“Sometimes bounces don’t go your way but I think we stuck with it, even when we got scored on, and we came hard again in the next shift and we had some good looks,” said David Krejci. “Obviously there is no perfect game and we know that we have to be better in certain areas but at the same time we got two points. Tomorrow is a new game so we need to get good sleep and get back at it tomorrow [in another matinee against the Avalanche].”

But the bottom line is that a number of forward line changes that Cassidy made earlier this week are pumping up the Bruins offense, and making the Black and Gold a more difficult team to defend at this point. The hope is that it will make them stay longer in the playoffs than the Bruins team that crumbled in the second round vs. Tampa. 

Heinen is playing his best hockey of the season on Boston’s top line and Pastrnak has sparked Krejci in many ways with the chemistry now beginning to flow between fellow Czech forwards in Pastrnak and Krejci.

Nobody can say what exactly the Bruins are going to look like once the NHL trade deadline has passed at the end of the month, but it will arrive just as Boston seems to finally be finding some answers up front among the forward group. 

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What we learned in Bruins' victory over Capitals

What we learned in Bruins' victory over Capitals

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Sunday afternoon.

1. Finally, a victory over the Caps, but there are troubling signs for Zdeno Chara.
The Bruins won a big game and finally beat Washington for the first time in 15 tries, so there should be plenty of back-slapping and high-fiving as the B’s took care of their end of the bargain on a day when Boston dominated with wins from the Bruins, Celtics and, of course, the Patriots. Still, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Black and Gold as once again there were some troubling signs with the game of Zdeno Chara. 

The 41-year-old D-man looked slow at times and behind the play at many others as Alex Ovechkin repeatedly danced around him for scoring chances and offensive opportunities. There was a play late in the third period where Chara was late getting to the slot with the B’s protecting a one-goal lead, but was bailed out by a forward stepping in to help break up the play. It’s been three games since the bye week and NHL All-Star break and Chara has looked like he’s struggled in his skating game in each of those games. Truthfully, it's been going on for even longer than that. 

Certainly, it was part of Bruce Cassidy’s choice to mention the captain along with everybody else on “D” in his pointed postgame comments after a loss to the Flyers last week. The inclusion of Chara in the need for “buy-in” from the Bruins defense was almost unheard of in the past, and extremely notable. 

The question now is whether this is what Chara is going to be for the rest of this season and the playoffs, or whether a few games off sprinkled over the final few months will allow him to recover his best skating legs.

If there’s any hesitancy on Chara’s part to take a night or two off in the second half, he needs to get over that given the way he’s looked in some of Boston’s games lately. It could be that Father Time is just finally catching up with a future Hall of Famer, and there are going to be many nights when he’s struggling to keep up with the players he once handily shut down.

If that is the case, Chara is going to be exposed quickly in the playoffs, where you don’t get much recovery time and potential weak areas are exposed by good teams time and time again. One also wonders whether it would just be better to pair Chara with Brandon Carlo and make them a strict shutdown pair with limited offensive upside to their game, rather than task Chara with Charlie McAvoy as his partner. 

They have not looked good defensively while skating together and never was it more apparent than when Alex Ovechkin went through both of them with ease in the first period for a Grade-A scoring chance. Tuukka Rask was able to bail out both defenders in that case (and really did again in the third period with a litany of saves) but there are going to be some nights when he might not be able to if they don’t figure out a way to freshen up Chara a little bit over the next few months. Tom Brady was able to use questions about his age as a motivating factor for the Super Bowl. The Bruins have to hope that Chara can do the same exact thing.

2. Tuukka Rask again came up big in a massive game for the Bruins.
This time it was 24 saves against a Washington Capitals team that he’s been customarily bad against in his tenure in Boston. The save number wasn’t a big one, so clearly the Bruins as a whole did a very good job of limiting chances, possessing the puck and holding down the shot totals through the first 40 minutes. But within those few shots, the Caps got some pretty good chances.

Ovechkin cut through the heart of Boston’s defense, Chara and McAvoy, for a clean look in close in the first period that Rask was able to turn away. Then he made more saves on a second-period Washington power play that immediately led to David Krejci’s goal.

But Rask was at his best in the third period when Washington turned up the heat and the B’s defense was doing a lot of scrambling in their own zone. Rask made 11 saves in total that period and never showed a second of weakness or anxiety in stopping everything that came his way even as Boston’s players were having trouble getting the puck out of the zone. His sweeping glove save on a wide-open Travis Boyd in the slot was the signature stop of that final 20 minutes. Rask was the team’s MVP in a big, big game. We’ve seen this before in December, January and February from Rask in his hot streaks, but maybe something is different with him this time around. Either way, we should get a chance to see that for ourselves a few months from now.

3. Granted some of this is about Braden Holtby’s mastery of the Bruins, but there’s also a continuing issue with the B's offense. 
The Bruins got a whopping 39 shots on net in total and thoroughly dominated the first two periods, but only found the ability to finish off one perfect passing play with David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Krejci teaming for Krejci’s 11th goal. The power play couldn’t punch through despite a couple of early chances in the first period. Once again, the B’s top line looked bedeviled against Holtby. It continues to be clear that they need to bring in more scoring punch from the outside if they hope to be any kind of force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. If they don’t, they look like a team that’s going to be hanging on for a lot of one-goal wins in the second half and that is a difficult way to live on a nightly basis.

Plus
*Rask made 24 saves, including 11 in the third period, and became the all-time winningest goalie in the long history of the Bruins (win No. 253, surpassing Cecil "Tiny" Thompson) with a signature performance in the shutout win.

*Krejci didn’t have a great game per se with only a fleeting influence in the offensive end and a bit of a tough night overall in the face-off circle. Still, he continues to show some finish with his goal in the second period and he won a big D-zone draw with less than 20 seconds left to help ice the victory.

*Cassidy called out his defense after a few lackluster games in a row and the Bruins defenders went out with their goalie and pitched a shutout against the defending Stanley Cup champs. It sure looks like those words were well chosen after the Thursday night loss to the Flyers.

Minus
*The Bruins got the shutout and kept the Capitals best players off the board, but it was another game where Chara didn’t have great skating legs and seemed behind the play more than usual while totaling as many giveaways (three) as shots on net. If this becomes a consistent pattern, it will be a concern for the B’s.

*One shot on net and 4-for-13 in the face-off circle for the Caps' Evgeny Kuznetsov signaled a tough day at the office for the playmaking forward against the Bruins.

*Anyone messing with a Boston sports team on Sunday was a big, fat minus as the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots all took it home with different levels of stakes on the line. 

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