What we learned: Bruins weather Lightning
“Speaking of injuries,” Bruce Cassidy said with postgame glee, “we didn’t have any tonight, so we’ll have 10 extra minutes tonight to talk about the game.”
Indeed, a rarity in the Hub of Hockey, while the revolving door of injured players keeps, well, revolving.
David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork out Wednesday. Bjork’s last goal came on Oct 19 with but two assists in his last five games, all while playing on the top line.
Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner back, and David Backes in the lineup after missing 17 games with diverticulitis; one assist in five games.
“He was physical,” Cassidy said about Backes, “you could tell there was a little rust, which we expected, but just having his presence out there.”
“I think the benefit might be that the surgery is normally done on older people that are maybe not in great shape,” Backes said after full-time duty of 18:58 ice time and 28 shifts. “I might’ve been able to beat the norm a little bit that way.”
Of the rookies, only Charlie McAvoy and DeBrusk have shown signs of handling the NHL 82-game schedule with the boys-against-men factor. McAvoy appearing in all 22 Bruins encounters with 11 points; DeBrusk missing his second game – first due to injury – with 12 points.
One outstanding facet of the game: McAvoy logging a whopping 28:11 ice time. Second was Zdeno Chara at 23:52.
“He’s an efficient player,” Cassidy said postgame, “he can handle it, but 28 is a lot. So we’ll have to take a look at that and try to get it to a more reasonable number, for sure.”
An emerging goaltender controversy? “There’s a lot of chatter lately,” Cassidy said after. Khudobin and Tuukka Rask, both saying all the right things about only wins that count and total support for each other’s role. Rask at 3-8-2 and Khudobin at 7-0-2.
“We get both goalies at the top of their game,” coach said, “we’re going to be a really good hockey club.”
It was a benchmark game for Rask. Andrei Vasilevskiy – 16-3-1 and 2.19 GAA – and his Bolts teammates shut out the Sabres Tuesday night, 2-0, in Buffalo.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins almost blew a three-goal lead, but still played one of their better 60 minutes of the season in the 3-2 final.
McAvoy goal disallowed – then allowed; Nash extends lead
At 7:27, a McAvoy blast was called back when Marchand interfered with Vasilevskiy. A Bruce Cassidy requested review showed no interference; Marchand and David Pastrnak assisting.
McAvoy, looking more and more the lead candidate for rookie of the year is also playing against the best night in and out.
“Playing against [Steven] Stamkos and [Nikita] Kucherov in that line was something that me and Zee [Zdeno Chara] were matched up against,” he said about his role and playing time, “it gets late in the game there, to see that he’s calling me back out there, that’s something I’m real appreciative of.”
“He’s a special player,” Cassidy said about McAvoy.
Chara hit the post with five minutes left. But Danton Heinen and Riley Nash went 2-on-1 with Nash taking the pass to pay dirt on a 15-foot wrister past Vasilevskiy at 17:13. Marchand getting his second assist.
Bruins outshot the Lightning, 19-5.
No letdown in middle 20; Tampa goal disallowed
Against Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving in that benchmark, the first 20 minutes one of Boston’s best of the season; the second quite the opposite.
Not to be Wednesday night when Torey Krug rifled a bullet past Vasilevskiy at 5:51 off a pass from Spooner with McAvoy also assisting to put the B’s up, 3-0.
Andrej Sustr’s 40-foot seeing-eye shot from the right point at 10:53 eluded Rask to put the Lightning on the board.
“They needed a break and they got one,” Cassidy said. “You know, they got a puck that kind of had eyes there and I think it gave them some juice.”
Tyler Johnson crashed Rask at 16:05 appearing to score the second goal. The review, however, showed the puck never crossed the line.
The B’s allowed one shot on Rask in the first eight minutes. 32-12 overall after two.
NHL’s No. 1 power play strikes early; B’s hang on
Brando Carlo took two for interference just 46 ticks into the final frame and Steven Stamkos – with 36 points in 24 games – sizzled his 11th goal by Rask at 2:10 to put the Garden crowd back on the customary edge of their seats.
“I didn’t think we lost at the start of the third,” Cassidy said. “I thought we just mishandled a few pucks, like to get into the power play situation we had a puck we mishandled, it jumped on us, and then we bared down and got it done.”
Rask held serve, however, and Boston escaped with a win on Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.
“Needed that one,” Rask said about his fourth win of the season. “Wins never come easy in this league.”
“He’s going to feel good about it and sleep well tonight,” Cassidy added.
That sentiment extends across the roster.