It’s only the fourth game but judging from some of the reaction from Bruins fans after being swept in their home-and-home with the Colorado Avalanche, the sky might as well have been falling.
No, it wasn’t that bad, nor was their game against the Coyotes in Arizona on Saturday night a must win. But the Bruins still needed to show something and play to their style after they laid two eggs against the Avs.
It wasn’t all perfect for the Black and Gold as their decision making with the puck and sloppy play through a good chunk of the first 20 minutes put them in a hole following Mario Kempe’s first of the season. A response came 36 seconds later after David Pastrnak tipped in Zdeno Chara’s slap shot to even things up.
The Bruins’ offense took off from there. From Chara’s monster night to fellow veterans Brad Marchand and David Krejci making timely plays and Anton Khudobin picking up right where he left off in the preseason, the Bruins – without Patrice Bergeron for the fourth straight game – bounced back with a solid 6-2 win over the winless Desert Dogs.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins pack for Vegas hoping to end their first west coast trip on a high note.
Chara sets the tone
Ok, so the Bruins’ captain may not be considered an elite NHL defenseman anymore. But the ageless wonder continues to defy father time and can still contribute in several capacities.
With the Bruins looking for a response, they got just that from the Chara. From shutting down the Coyotes top trio of Max Domi, Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller – along with fellow defensive pair Brandon Carlo – to crashing the net for his first of the season (at 5:03 of the second period) and setting up Brad Marchand on a breakaway for his third tally in four games (at 16:21 of the second), the 6-foot-9 blue-liner led by example again and put the Bruins on his back.
Chara became the fourth Bruin to score a goal after turning 40 – joining Jaromir Jagr, Mark Recchi and Johnny Bucyk. “The Chief” is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, while Recchi will be enshrined next month. It’s hard to imagine Chara – and obviously Jagr – not joining that illustrious group in Toronto when all is said and done. That may not come anytime soon, though.
Fourth line controls the energy
There weren’t many silver linings coming out of Denver on Wednesday. The play of the fourth line was one of a short list of positives.
For a second straight game, the trio of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Danton Heinen gave the Bruins some timely offense.
On Wednesday, Schaller’s tally cut the Avs lead to 4-2 giving the Bruins a little bit of life. That energy carried over into Saturday as the trio wore out the Coyotes and got another timely goal from Schaller in the third to answer Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s power play tally 23 seconds later as the Black and Gold regained their three-goal lead late in the third.
With Riley Nash replacing Bergeron on the top line and Noel Acciari out for the next several weeks, Schaller, Kuraly and Heinen have kept the fourth line stable as Cassidy and company manage through a rough patch in the early going.
Bjork joins Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy with first NHL goal
Opening night was a night of firsts for the aforementioned trio of youngsters. Each tallied their first NHL regular season point with DeBrusk and McAvoy also adding a goal for their first multi-point night(s) of their career.
In his fourth career game, the former Notre Dame standout found the back of the net late in the third. Not a bad way to cap off the 6-2 triumph for Bjork and for a Bruins team that had five multi-point players on the night (Chara, Marchand, Pastrnak, DeBrusk and Heinen).
Whether this is a sign of things to come is anyone’s guess, but Frank Vatrano isn’t doing himself any favors. In hopes of bouncing back and playing to his potential in 2017-18, the former UMass-Amherst standout found himself watching Saturday’s game from the press box. Austin Czarnik, who was a scratch on Wednesday. took Vatrano’s spot with Matt Beleskey and Ryan Spooner on the third line.
He may not be the best 200-foot player but Vatrano has shown flashes of potential with his quick shot and offensive instincts. When he doesn’t have those, however, his game takes a hit. That may put him behind the proverbial 8-ball once Bergeron, Acciari and David Backes heal up.