Jack Studnicka

Bruins winning games despite 'some passengers', truly sluggish starts

Bruins winning games despite 'some passengers', truly sluggish starts

BOSTON – The Bruins are drifting into a dangerous pattern over the last few weeks.

It’s now two straight games where the Bruins have sleepwalked through the first 30-40 minutes of the game before eventually finding their game in the third period on the way to a victory over a beatable opponent. On Wednesday night, it was the lowly Ottawa Senators. And on Friday afternoon, it was a 3-2 overtime victory against an improving but still not totally ready for prime time New York Rangers squad at TD Garden.

Some of it is normal fatigue during the regular season as the Bruins were playing their third game in four days with a Friday matinee making for quick turnaround time, and some of it might be the Bruins missing their best two-way forward in Patrice Bergeron out with a lower-body injury.

But some of it was simply about the presence of “passengers” in the Bruins attack, which is something that head coach Bruce Cassidy acted on during the comeback win on Black Friday against the Blueshirts. It was something Cassidy alluded to before the game even started when he pointed toward younger players like Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and others that could provide the Bruins with some much-needed energy.

“I know our team is always going to eventually find their game. I want them to find it sooner, and eventually we did get to our game and play our type of game. I think lately, we’ve found ways to win because we’ve got good players; we’re a good team, but we’re not playing our…we’re trying to get to that 60-minute game like everyone else in the National Hockey League. As a coach, that’s what you’re always looking at a little bit, the result but also the process for us,” said Cassidy. “You always want to win, but I think for us, we’re trying to build that process to get where we want to go, and that’s equally important.

"[It’s] great to get the two points. I thought we certainly pushed in the third and overtime to do that. I’d just like to see it happen a little sooner.”

As Cassidy alluded, the B's elite goaltending and the epic offensive tear that David Pastrnak is on will erase a lot of blemishes, and they helped do that again on Friday against the Blueshirts. 

The lineup juggling actually led to the B’s first goal in the second period as Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly and 20-year-old Jack Studnicka were lumped together on a line with the usual center Studnicka playing the wing for the Black and Gold.

It was a time in the game where Danton Heinen was on the bench after a lazy second period turnover off the side boards that led to New York’s second goal, and was an easily diagnosable part of the “passenger” problem.

“I just didn’t think we had it as a group. There were some guys…we had some passengers, not a trait of our team, but [on Friday afternoon] we did. So, we mixed it [up]. I thought Jack [Studnicka] could give us some energy. He wants to prove he can play at this level, so you’re going to get the effort no matter what; we’ll fix the mistakes along the way. The effort was there on that goal,” said Cassidy. “So he ended up on the wing. I know he’s played there a little bit. It’s not what we want to do going into it. We will do it if we have to.

“Don’t expect him to start on the wing his next game. We want him to work the middle of the ice, but we’ll always have a conversation what’s best for the group. We want him to be a center and learn to play center first.”

The Cassidy mixing and matching led to Studnicka beating a delayed icing call to keep a play alive toward the end of the second period, and Sean Kuraly eventually redirecting a long Jake DeBrusk wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist for signs of offensive life from the Bruins.

It was that goal that gave the Bruins momentum headed into the second intermission and led to a much better third period and explosive overtime for the two points.

It all started, however, with Cassidy diagnosing a problem that’s been present for the Bruins for the last few games, and may continue to require adjustments on the fly from the head coach before the team rights its game completely.

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Bruins' Jack Studnicka to make NHL debut after impressive AHL start

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Bruins' Jack Studnicka to make NHL debut after impressive AHL start

It’s certainly not easy to make an NHL debut while also replacing a star player in the lineup, but that’s what it amounts to for 20-year-old B’s prospect Jack Studnicka getting ready to make his first NHL appearance on Tuesday night. 

Studnicka, of course, is in because Patrice Bergeron is out indefinitely with a lower body injury and didn't make the two-game road trip through Montreal and Ottawa. 

Even better for Studnicka is that his debut is going to be in Montreal at the Bell Centre against the Canadiens in a big Atlantic Division showdown between the longtime rivals. Studnicka has nine goals and 18 points along with a plus-7 rating in 21 games for the Providence Bruins in his first full professional season, and the 6-foot-2, 175-pound center has certainly impressed with his play down at the AHL level thus far this year.

“[Studnicka] has been very consistent. He’s been scoring a lot. He’s killing penalties and he had [a shorthanded goal] the other night, so he’s been playing well in all facets of the game. Our concern in his first recall will be how strong he is going to be,” said Bruce Cassidy of the 2017 second-round pick who played his junior hockey in Oshawa and Niagara. “So we’ll see. He’s handled it well down [in Providence]. When we call guys up from Providence, we want to reward the best player. Every once in a while, we go outside of that because there’s a line match-up issue, or a position issue. But I’ve been told he’s arguably been their best player, so hopefully just stay out of his way and just let him play to see where he’s at.”

Stunicka will get placed into a big spot right out of the gate against the Habs, befitting his standing as the top Bruins forward prospect in the system. Studnicka will center Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle on the second line behind David Krejci centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and essentially the Bruins will be loading up on their top couple of forward lines while leaving a third line of young forwards that Bruce Cassidy can bench if he needs to. 

It's a good test for Stunicka, who is the organization's best shot at a young top-6 center able to aid Bergeron and Krejci, as both those centers hit their mid-30's when injuries and age are beginning to gnaw away at their overall ability to effectively handle the workload and responsiblity. 

Here are the projected Bruins forward combos and D-pairings based on reports out of Montreal ahead of Tuesday night’s Bruins/Canadiens game with Jaroslav Halak expected to get the start against his former Canadiens club:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Jack Studnicka Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Sean Kuraly Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

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Patrice Bergeron (lower body) out for next two Bruins games with lingering injury

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Patrice Bergeron (lower body) out for next two Bruins games with lingering injury

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The plot thickens with Patrice Bergeron’s lower body injury as the star center won’t make the upcoming two-game road trip through Montreal and Ottawa after missing Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

This news comes after Bergeron had returned for a couple of games and posted five points after missing two games with the same lower body injury, an issue that’s believed to have cropped up when he fell awkwardly after being hauled down during an offensive zone face-off in the win over the Maple Leafs a couple of weeks ago in Toronto.

At the very least that means Bergeron will have missed two stints with the lower body injury and four of the last six games with what’s believed to be the same groin-area injury that’s been bothering the 34-year-old over the last few seasons.

“Lower body. He’s not going to travel. Other than that, there’s no timeline on it. We just want to make sure when he’s in the lineup that he’s not putting himself at further risk [for injury] so now the staff will stay on top of it,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who said that he hadn’t delved too deeply into the diagnosis of Bergeron’s injury, but didn’t rule out the possibility that it could lead to a midseason surgery to fix it like the injury that Sidney Crosby recently had repaired in Pittsburgh. “It’s the same area [of injury] so they think this is the best way to go for now.”

With Bergeron out of the lineup, that means David Krejci will again bump up to center Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak after excelling with them in the two games that Bergeron missed last week. Charlie Coyle will then center Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the second line.

With Bergeron and Brett Ritchie also out of the lineup with a recurrence of his upper body infection in the last few days, the Bruins have called up young center Jack Studnicka and versatile forward Brendan Gaunce for the road games against the Canadiens and Senators.

The good health news at practice?

David Backes (upper body injury) made it through practice in a no-contact jersey and defenseman John Moore practiced in a regular jersey, though he isn’t expected to be available to play this week. It’s expected that Jaroslav Halak will get the start on Tuesday night against the Canadiens after Tuukka Rask replaced him due to illness last Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Monday’s practice with Bergeron and Ritchie both out:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork Sean Kuraly Jack Studnicka
Joakim Nordstrom Brendan Gaunce Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Jaroslav Halak

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