What We Learned from Bruins: Don't count on any Cup Final hangover early in season

What We Learned from Bruins: Don't count on any Cup Final hangover early in season

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and their 3-0-0 start on successful, season-opening Western swing, which concludes tonight in Colorado.

1) The Bruins are again winning and off to a great start.

There’s a common misconception out there that the B’s would have struggled out of the gate if they suffered from any kind of “Stanley Cup Final” hangover from last season. In actuality, a fast start is exactly what you might expect to see from a team that was still playing high-level hockey four months ago rather than one hitting the links since early April. The skills weren’t quite as rusty, the timing wasn’t that far off and pretty much everything was still intact for a team returning most of its group from the Cup Final in mid-June. 

So, the fast start isn’t much of a surprise, especially considering they had a gimme game against Arizona thrown into the middle of the trip. The hangover is going to hit the Bruins when the season starts to feel a little long for them. They are going to be dragging in February or March, what is commonly referred to as the “dog days” of the NHL season. Not close enough to the playoffs, but far away from NHL All-Star weekend and the bye week that each of the 31 teams now gets in the regular season. 

That wall is going to be there if the Bruins hit it, as they expect to. So a few wins and piling up some points early in the season are mandatory for the Black and Gold and they're doing just that. When the hangover hits, they'll be more difficult to come by.

2)  Maybe Tuukka Rask should hydrate a little more in Las Vegas the next time around? Just sayin’. 

I’m sure they have plenty of water and Gatorade in Vegas, right? Seriously, it’s a good thing that it just amounted to cramping and dehydration at the end of a long, challenging game against a very good Vegas team with a late rush. It could have been worse if it was some kind of pulled muscle or groin issue for the Bruins goalie who's had both of those in the past. Still, the Bruins players may want to make sure they are properly hydrated the next time their road swing heads through Vegas.  

3) The Bruins got their first true quality win of the season.

The Bruins dusted themselves off after falling behind 2-0 Tuesday night, they saw the Perfection Line completely go off in their first really dominant showing of the season and they also managed to compete against a deep, dangerous and talented Golden Knights group that really came after them in the third period. 

Sure, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty got their points and made their plays in a game that Vegas clearly wanted to play in an up-and-down, back-and-forth pace, but the Bruins got the stops when they needed to against a team they could easily find themselves up against if they are lucky enough to return to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Sure, the wins on the road against Dallas and Arizona were solid, and the Stars even made the playoffs last season. But the Golden Knights are a bonafide power team in the West and the Bruins should have been dragging a bit by the third game on a week-plus long trip through the Western Conference. The fact they weren’t is a great sign for them.

*Rask stopped 31 shots, including 15 saves in a very event-filled second period, and stood tall against a late Golden Knights push while battling the effects of dehydration at the very end. Rask is off to his best start in a long time.

*The Perfection Line finished with three goals, seven points, 12 shots on net and 25 shot attempts in a dominant offensive performance while finally getting their timing down. It was obviously expected given the caliber of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but it puts the Bruins back on their regular existence once those top guys get going. It’s no coincidence it was the highest offensive output of the season for Boston.

*A goal and two points in 21:45 of ice time for Torey Krug. It’s been a good start for the notoriously slow-starting Krug and that could lead to his best season ever in his walk year. Wouldn’t that be special?

*Matt Grzelcyk was limited to just one shift in the first period and 11 minutes of ice time after blocking a shot with his left foot. The good news is that Grzelcyk is good to go and avoided injury.

 *One shot on net, two hits and a goalie interference penalty that led to a Golden Knights PP goal for Brett Ritchie. He is going to be a healthy scratch tonight in Colorado, so clearly he didn’t impress in the win over Vegas with a bit of an invisible game.

 *No shots on net and a 4-for-11 face-off performance for David Krejci in 16:49 of ice time. He’s still knocking the rust off, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. But that grading on a curve isn’t going to last much longer.

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-3 win over the Golden Knights

Talking Points from the Bruins' 4-3 win over the Golden Knights

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak was flying from beginning to end with his best game of the season while scoring his first goal of the season. Pastrnak also had two assists along with a plus-1 rating in 19:26 of ice time and a number of offensive chances created through his skating, his playmaking and his work with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. This was, by far, their best night of the season as they combined for three of the team’s four goals, 12 shots on net and 24 shot attempts while completely getting on track offensively. It would appear that the rust is finally off the Perfection Line.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask appeared to be injured at the very end of the game after holding things down in the third period to protect a one-goal lead. He stayed down in the crease for a few moments and then needed help getting off the ice. It appears to be nothing as Rask said to reporters following the game that it was just cramping amidst the Vegas heat after a busy game where he made 31 saves with a frenetic ending. Likewise, Matt Grzelcyk appeared to have suffered a left foot injury when he blocked a shot in the first period that forced him from the bench, but he also appears to be okay after returning in the second and third periods.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins faltered early in the game when a couple of defensive coverage mistakes led to the Golden Knights being up by a couple of goals. Then the Bruins' best players decided enough was enough and began scoring. By the end of the first period, scores from Pastrnak and Marchand evened things up and then the Bruins kicked it into offensive gear in the second period to put Vegas in the rear-view mirror. It was all about the first period, though, as the B’s pulled themselves off the mat, led by their best players.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rask fought through some cramping problems at the end of the third period to secure the win. Rask finished with 31 saves and was a rock in the third period as the desperate Golden Knights began throwing everything at the Boston net. He made just six saves as the Bruins defense stiffened in the third period as well, but it was a mad scramble at the very end with Rask once again playing midseason hockey just a few games into the season. Rask has struggled historically in October, but that doesn’t appear to be the case this season after back-to-back wins to start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – The number of team-leading hits for Karson Kuhlman, who actually played pretty well when he was dropped into a bottom-six role as Bruce Cassidy switched around the lines.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We battled back. There was no panic. We just kept pushing. Our power play came through for us. At the end of the day, the third period was solid. We played the right way and I like the way we closed out the game.” –Bruce Cassidy, to NESN postgame about a solid effort for the Bruins after battling back from an early 2-0 deficit.

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Tuukka Rask says he's okay after being helped off ice at end of Bruins' win

Tuukka Rask says he's okay after being helped off ice at end of Bruins' win

As the Bruins rushed the net to congratulate Tuukka Rask on his 31-save effort in a hard-fought, 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, something seemed wrong. 

The goaltender briefly stayed down on the ice, was slow getting up and had to be helped off the ice.

What looked ominous doesn't appear to be major. Rask told reporters he'll be fine and it was just cramping from the heat in the T-Mobile Arena

“He either had a little bit of a muscle pull or some dehydration, or both," B's coach Cassidy told NESN in a postgame interview. "I don’t think there’s anything structurally wrong.”

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