Three up, three down: November 16, 2016
Over the last two weeks, there were several positives for the Boston Bruins that it was hard to narrow the list to three up. Equally, there wasn’t much to be negative about either and putting together a list of three downs was even more difficult.
So which Bruins are trending up and how much will we be nitpicking with the negatives? It is time to find out on the latest edition of three up and three down.
We’ll start as usual with the ups.
Tuukka Rask (again)
We’re breaking away from the norm of putting a Bruin on the ups for the second straight time. But really, we’d be doing a disservice if Rask wasn’t mentioned on this list.
It’s not worth arguing anymore – Rask is off to the best start of his career. Entering Wednesday’s slate, Rask leads the league in three of the four major statistical goaltending categories: wins (10, tied with Carey Price), goals against average (1.54) and shutouts (3, tied with Sergei Bobrovsky and Devan Dubnyk). Rask’s .945 save percentage ties him for third with Andrei Vasilevsky and is three thousandth’s of a percentage point behind co-leaders Price and Dubnyk.
After Sunday’s win in Colorado, Rask became the second Bruin in history to be victorious in 10 of his first 11 starts joining the esteemed Gerry Cheevers in that company. One day later, the Finnish netminder earned first star of the week honors after going 4-0-0 with a pair of shutouts, a 0.75 goals against average and .970 save percentage.
Rask will look to continue his strong play this week when the Bruins take the ice on Thursday in a potential goaltending duel against Dubnyk in Minnesota.
Any good goaltender can make a defense look good and vice versa. Sure, Rask had to make some clutch saves at times, especially in Arizona, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the Bruins defense had one of their stronger weeks of the season so far.
On two occasions, the Bruins defense allowed 20 or fewer shots on goal during their busy week. Against the Canadiens with Zane McIntyre starting that total was 23. They’re also getting goals from their blue-line as well as Colin Miller notched his first of the season in Montreal as did Torey Krug against Columbus two nights later.
Aside from looking good on the stat sheet, the fewer shot attempts they allowed the easier it is for the Bruins to “play fast.” In four of the five games this week, the Bruins outshot their opponents and settled on a pretty smooth transition game. From crisp outlet passes in their own end to establishing a strong forecheck, the Bruins defense trended upwards during a busy week.
With each game, Pastrnak is maturing into a well-rounded player.
His 10 goals place him in a four-way tie for second with Mark Scheifele, Sidney Crosby and Michael Grabner; two behind league leader Patrik Laine.
Many aspects need to be taken into consideration with Pastrnak’s hot start. Certainly playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is coming a long way. His shot has improved significantly to add to his offensive creativity. His play away from the puck, though, has come a long way since his rookie season.
Whether it’s finding time and space in the offensive end or improving defensively, the 20-year-old’s game is coming into form. That is an encouraging sign for the Bruins and their 2014 first round pick.
And now for the dreaded task of trying to find some downs during the recent Bruins’ success. It’s nitpicking time.
How in the world is Patrice Bergeron trending down one might ask? How can this happen when he continues to do what makes him the player that he is like winning faceoffs, killing penalties and playing sound defensive hockey?
Again, it’s time to nitpick. He is did everything but find the scoresheet in the last five games. This marks the second time this season that Bergeron hasn’t scored a single point in at least five straight contests. In comparison to last year, Bergeron’s longest scoring drought was four games and that only happened on one occasion.
This is not an indication of Bergeron struggling. Instead, we’re here just pointing out a mere fact that he is doing everything but getting points. Don’t shoot the messenger, folks.
Against the Canadiens, Miller was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce that gave him his first goal of 2016-17. One night later, he found the back of the net again, only this time he beat Tuukka Rask. Thankfully for Miller teammates were likely laughing with him following the 5-2 win against Columbus.
“Yeah I know Colin Miller has got a goal and he got a second one tonight,” Claude Julien said with a chuckle during his postgame press conference six days ago.
Miller skated in his usual spot the very next game with John-Michael Liles before being replaced by Joe Morrow on Sunday. With Kevan Miller likely returning soon, it will be interesting to see where Miller ends up as the Bruins get another healthy body back on their blue-line.
Jimmy Hayes (again)
He started the week as a healthy scratch and ended the week having extended his drought to 30 straight games without tallying a point. Slowly, but surely, Hayes is coming around though and hasn’t been as much of a liability skating with fellow fourth liners Dominic Moore, Tim Schaller, Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly this week.
Assuming Frank Vatrano is still on pace to return in December, time may be running out for the former BC Eagle to show what he’s capable of. At least this week was an encouraging one – despite not getting on the scoresheet again – for Dorchester’s own.