The Bruins got an early jump on the weekend and played the 2nd of a pair against the Penguins this afternoon at the TD Garden. The B’s were in desperate need of a complete game as the results haven’t been great as of late. Going 3-2 over their last 5 during the homestand is not what the doctor ordered. Doesn’t sound so bad? Well the other teams they’ve played besides the Pens are the Devils and the Sabres, both of whom are a looooooooooooong way out of the playoff picture.
After a less than stellar effort on Thursday, Bruce Cassidy and the coaching staff were expecting a much better result based on Butchie’s comments over the last few days. His message has been clear and consistent, he is looking for a solid 60 minute effort and to eliminate the defensive lapses that have plagued the Bruins over this stretch. His unhappiness was evident in the lineup he rolled out for the matinee. Smith replaced Pastrnak on the top line, not just for a period, but for the game and the start. Message sent. On a positive note, Kuraly was back after missing the last 6 while in the NHL COVID protocol and he centered the 3rd line with Coyle and Bjork as his wingers. The kids handled the 4th line responsibilities with Studnicka as the pivot between Frederic and Senshyn. On the backend Kampfer and Tinordi were swapped in for Carlo and Lauzon. Carlo unfortunately is classified as week to week again, while Lauzon got the health bomb. Jaro Halak was in net as Rask is still not cleared for play.
The Pens got on the board first with a fluky goal that was redirected 2x before going under the crossbar. Matheson’s wrister from the point went off Coyle’s stick before Jankowski got a piece, sending it up and over Halak’s shoulder to get Pittsburgh out to a lead in the first. Halak looked strong early as he was out on top of his crease challenging shooters and limiting angles. The Bruins had some trouble setting up in the Pens end, with only the Krecji line generating zone time. The biggest change that I noticed was that the Bruins’ D-men were conscious of the weak side winger that was killing them the last game. They never let a Pens winger slip behind them when they flew the zone and that helped stymy the Pittsburgh breakout. Good coaching leads to be able to adapt to the your opponent.
The Bruins took the lead with 2 goals in the first 34 seconds of the 2nd period, First up was Bergeron as Marchand found him in the slot to tie up the game. Next was Pastrnak when Krecji found him out front. What did those goals have in common? Both were created off the forecheck, both had a big body crashing the net (Smith with Bergy and Ritchie with Pasta), both shots were within 10 feet of the blue paint and both were the low-to-high simple play that has eluded the Bruins as of late. The Pens weren’t going away easily however, and they answered back with a pair of their own to retake the lead 3-2. One thing I will say about these goals, when the Bruins defensemen are leaving their feet to try and block the passing, it’s not a good sign. Nothing worse on the highlights than to see a spoked B sweater go sliding out of frame as the puck goes in the net. Marchand tied it back up when he converted a Grzelcyk pass (that I believe was intended for Smith at the right post) from the high slot. Grz showed off his edgework as he took a mini tour of the Pens end and then as he came from behind the net, he slung the puck from the RW circle to Marchy in the slot. All tied up again, new game.
Letang and Marchand go waaaaay back
After a scrum behind the Pens net was sorted out the sides were skating 4 on 4 with less than 2 minutes to play in the period. Pasta drew a penalty and on the ensuing 4 on 3 power play, Krecji lit the lamp to put the B’s back up. After spending most of the PP on the perimeter, Marchand skated left across the slot where he went back against the grain to hit Krecji at the right post with a slap pass for the tap in: 4-3 good guys. But they weren’t done yet. With 20 seconds left in the frame, McAvoy found Smitty in the slot where he one touched the puck back up ice to Marchy who went over blocker on DeSmith to send the boys to the room with a 2 goal lead.
The 3rd had an increased tempo and a “good dose of the nasty” as Homeboy Jack likes to say. Ceci made it 5-4 after a brutal non call on Halak clearly rattled him. Gotta love the empty barn being able to pick up the players talking on the ice. Halak’s “What the F$%#!!” was clearly audible over the NESN feed and I can’t say I blame him. I don’t want to complain about the officiating only when the Bruins lose, so let me just say this wasn’t their finest performance. Questionable icing calls and complete misses on penalties were the norm for the afternoon, none worse (in my opinion of course), then the aforementioned play. If you’re the trailing referee how do you miss this play? More on the zebras later.
Pasta got his 2nd of the game after an open ice hit by Ritchie on Matheson sent him and Pasta in on a 2 on 1 down low in the Pens zone. Ritchie with the sauce pass to Pasta in the slot and he went over the glove to put the Bruins back up by 2 with less than 7 minutes left to play. The teams traded chances the rest of the way and both goalies were making 10 bell saves. The Bruins got a late power play when Pasta picked Letang’s pocket and went in for the empty netter. Letang gets the gate for hooking but the Bruins weren’t awarded the goal? (again see my earlier comments re: the officials). The Bruins go on the PP with the hockey equivalent of the prevent defense and decide to try to play 4 corners against a hungry Pens PK. Of course they give up a shorty to make it 6-5, I mean that’s still Sidney Crosby out there! A softy for sure, but they shouldn’t have been playing passive on the power play. On the ensuing faceoff, Sid draws a high sticking penalty on Bergeron. I mean it was a penalty, but he sold it for sure. Faceoff in the Bruins end with the Penguins’ goalie pulled so it’s a 6 on 4 and former South Shore King Charlie Coyle wins the faceoff. The Bruins work it out of the zone and Coyle finds Marchy at the red line for the ENG to cap off his hatty.
If you’ve made it this far, I salute your tenacity. This blog def got away from me and thank you for your support. Up next for the B’s is a home and home against the Flyers.
- Complete game effort from the Bruins. They played the whole 60
- Top 2 lines with scoring. Personally I like Pasta with Krecji
- Never gave up no matter what happened during the game. No head hanging, no looking up at the rafters, they were committed to getting the 2 points and you could see the difference.
- Still instances of carelessness with the puck. Need to clean it up.
- Halak would of liked the shorty back, that was a softy.
- As much as I’ll give kudos to the coaching staff for the lineup and the adjustments, that passive power play (a PPP?) was tough to watch. And that’s the 5th shorty given up this year.
- Marchy gets his first hat trick of the season and the 4th of his career. Earning the “A” every day.
- Krecji’s apple was the 500th of his career and he’s the 7th Bruins player to achieve that. Stud.
- Bergy is now in sole possession of 4th place all time in points as a Boston Bruin. Legend.