What we learned: Bruins extinguish Flames’ win streak
Entering Wednesday’s contest with the Bruins, the Calgary Flames found themselves winners of 10 straight. The Bruins, winners in 11 of 14 since Bruce Cassidy took over, looked to be the lucky team to end the Flames’ streak.
The win wasn’t pretty by any means, but two points are two points and the Bruins will take them by any means necessary.
Snapping Calgary’s streak with a 5-2 victory, the Bruins pull themselves within three points of the second place Ottawa Senators and four points back of the Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens and Senators meet three times in a seven-day span that includes a home-and-home set this weekend. With two games left against the Sens for the Bruins, the top seed in the Atlantic is anyone’s game.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins picked up their second win in as many games on their trip through Western Canada.
Marchand the new league leader:
Thanks to a mishandling of the puck by former Bruins’ backup Chad Johnson, Brad Marchand was able to pick up his league leading 36th goal of the season. With his assist on David Pastrnak’s empty net goal, Marchand also jumped into a tie with Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid for the league lead in points with 76.
There is no denying Marchand has been on absolute fire of late and has the heart of the Bruins offense. Marchand now has 11 goals in his last 10 games and continues to prove his case to be this year’s Hart Trophy recipient.
Won’t Back[es] down
Things didn’t look good for David Backes late in the first period. After losing balance in the corner, Backes slammed hard into the boards where it appeared he had injured his knee. Unable to put any weight on it, Backes was helped off the ice and was sent back to the Bruins’ dressing room where it looked like his night was over.
The only issue here: Backes is as tough as they come. The veteran returned in the second period and on his second shift back from leaving the game, Backes gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead in the second. With his 15th of the season, the former Blues captain notched a pivotal goal that turned out to be the game-winner.
Penalty kill comes up huge
The Bruins have the league’s best penalty kill percentage in all of the National Hockey League, killing off 86.4 percent of their penalties. But what the Bruins PK units did Wednesday night against the Flames was nothing short of spectacular.
Not only did the Bruins kill off all three Flames’ man advantages, they did not allow a shot on goal in any of Calgary’s power play opportunities. The Bruins did a great job taking away shooting lanes and clogging the passing lanes, not allowing Johnny Gaudreau and company to generate anything on the man advantage. It was a perfect night for the Bruins penalty kill.
Rough night for backup goalies
With Tuukka Rask earning a night off, and Flames starter Brian Elliott out with the flu, the two teams turned to their backup goalies Wednesday night. It certainly was a night to forget for Anton Khudobin and Chad Johnson.
From Johnson’s mishandling of the puck that led to Marchand’s tally to Dougie Hamilton’s goal from the red line, there were some ugly goals scored north of the border Wednesday night. Unfortunately for Johnson, things didn’t get any better after Marchand’s tally as he allowed four goals in total.
Despite some shaky moments, Khudobin settled down a bit after the Hamilton goal and allowed the Bruins to run away with the victory.
Pastrnak hits 30
With his empty netter – and his second tally of the night – Pastrnak has hit the 30 goal mark for the first time in his young career. Pastrnak joins Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews as the only players since the lockout to notch 30 goals and 30 assists before hitting the age of 21. Marchand and Pastrnak have turned into a dynamic 1-2 punch and have been the key(s) to the Bruins offense this season.
Pastrnak has already doubled his goal total from a year ago and is nicely developing into one the game’s young stars.