What we learned: shorthanded Bruins overcome adversity vs. Bolts
Facing the high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning without Zdeno Chara was a tall task (no pun intended) in and of itself for the Boston Bruins heading into their first matinee of the season Sunday at TD Garden. Facing the Bolts with just five defensemen after John-Michael Liles (upper body injury) left the game following a violent collision to the boards in the first period put the Black and Gold in a deeper hole.
Turns out that wasn’t the case.
Facing another case of adversity early on in the 2016-17 season, the Bruins dug deep against the Lightning, who came into Sunday’s matchup having scored the second-most goals in the National Hockey League with 69. From double shifting defensemen to their previous offensive struggles, the Bruins battled through and were sparked by a three-goal second period.
Here is what else we learned from the B’s 4-1 victory over the Lightning on Causeway Street.
Shorthanded blue-line in [on-ice] transition
From the time Liles went down nearly five minutes in, Claude Julien needed to ask more of his defense particularly with all of them having to double shift. Towards the end of the first, the Bruins were down to four defensemen as Torey Krug’s fight with Nikita Kucherov sent the combatants to the penalty box for their fighting major.
From the time he started the major to the time it finally concluded near the midway point of the second, the Bruins D stayed afloat and kept the Lightning’s offense in check as they allowed just one puck past Tuukka Rask on the afternoon.
“We locked them down. They obviously had their share of chances, but when they did get their chances Tuukka stood tall for us,” said Krug, who notched a pair of assists and was one goal shy of completing the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. “Under the circumstances, we did a good job of stepping up.”
With Chara and Liles out, the five defensemen consisted of Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan and Colin Miller and Brandon Carlo. Through their collective effort, the Bruins were able to transition down the other end of the ice and find their offensive groove with David Backes, David Pastrnak, Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes finding the back of the net.
Speaking of Hayes…
The monkey is off his back
One has to go back to February 24th when Hayes last lit the lamp. That’s a span of 278 days and 35 games since his goal against the Penguins on that late winter night.
With the Bruins ahead 2-0, Hayes finally got the monkey off his back deflecting a David Krejci feed past Ben Bishop to put his team ahead by three at 17:33 of the second period. As good as his goal was, his celebration where he mocked a monkey toss was equally as entertaining for the 17,565 in attendance.
“It’s been awhile,” a relieved Hayes said with a smile. “To be able to contribute and get a goal should help us move in the right direction. That’s what the plan is.”
That feeling translated to the bench with Hayes’ fellow teammates.
“You saw the way the bench reacted [to the goal],” said Krug, who snapped a 14-game goal drought after scoring his first of the season against the Blue Jackets on November 10th. “He’s a good guy in this room and we were all pulling for him, so it’s great to see him back on the board and hopefully he can keep it going as well.”
Hayes and the rest of the Bruins will look to keep it going on Tuesday in Philadelphia for their first matchup of the season with the Flyers.