by Bob Morello
Bruins offense is secondary
Over the last few weeks this very same Bruins Beat column has spewed about how Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was seeking secondary scoring help. Well, his request has been answered of late, as his team has rebounded from the news that their top goal scorer David Pastrnak would be sidelined for several weeks, by responding with 19 goals in the four games Pasta has missed (all Bruins victories). Currently in second place in the Atlantic Division, and also in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, the Bruins are currently riding a six-game win streak.
Monday night’s impressive 6-5 win over the San Jose Sharks was a modern day ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.’ When the smoke cleared in the morning on the East Coast, and the dust was just settling in the late evening on the West Coast, the two teams had combined for 11 goals, with the Bruins coming out with two very important points. The game was exciting in many ways: The Bruins had a goal disallowed, although the video appeared to show the puck entirely over the goal line – The Sharks had a whistle blown to stop their 2-on-0 rush into the Boston end due to the net being off the pins – and the game-tying goal by Bs forward Chris Wagner, was scored with what could have been called a high stick, that would’ve drawn a whistle and stoppage in play, and a disallowed goal. But, as been heard many times, ‘puck luck’ comes in many forms, and this was a night that had the Puck Gods working overtime.
Boston’s 8-0-2 record for their last ten is a result of the strong secondary scoring, something not seen with consistency around here for quite a while. The thought of having to play without Pastrnak was likely a mental weight, a weight that the team shed by scoring 19 goals in the four games without their top scorer. The charge put into the scoring by the defense corps was another plus in the win over the Sharks, with goals from defensemen Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy (his second game-winner in the last two games). This has been an important factor in the team moving ahead of Toronto in the standings, and has brought out solid efforts from players as Jake DeBrusk who has now scored goals in the last four games, along with adding five assists. The fourth line has also chipped in, delivering 3 goals and 4 assists, recent Providence Bruins call-up Karson Kuhlman scored his first NHL career goal Monday, playing in only his second game.
Pieces appear to be falling into place for the Bs; Rask is playing at the top of his game, although he allowed former Bruins’ 1997 #1 pick overall, Joe Thornton to post a hat trick at the age of 39, it was surely overshadowed by the unbelievable stops Tuukka made during overtime in beating the Sharks. For Thornton it was his first hat trick in over eight years, and the fifth of his NHL career.
While the Record was going to press last night (Wednesday), the Bruins were gambling for a win in Vegas. Boston had the momentum of their six game win streak, but the odds could’ve been diminished due to Vegas’ strong home record 17-9-3. With Jaroslav Halak scheduled to be in net for Boston, the Golden Knights were looking to improve on their sluggish 3-7-0 record for their last ten games. Rask will get a well-deserved night off, and enjoy his strong stats that include, a record of 20-8-0-4, including a 2.45 goals-against average, and a solid .918 save percentage.
The final game of Boston’s five-game road trip will be Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, a team that has moved up significantly in the standings recently – on Saturday (2/23 at 4:00pm) they will take on the Bruins in a rare matinee. The Blues are currently on a tear that includes an 11-0-0 win streak, and will definitely be a challenge for Boston. TD Garden ice will be the source of the next six games as the Bs will host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday (2/26 at 7:00pm), as the follow-up to their West Coast showdown, and on Thursday *2/28 at 7:30pm) they will take on the top team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning. On tap after that will be games with New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators. Coming up on this Monday, February 25 NHL is the NHL trade deadline. Bruins GM Don Sweeney will have some tough decisions to make, as to whether to stay with his current roster, or make some moves to upgrade for the Playoffs. Stay tuned!