What we learned: Bruins continue their winning ways
Well, Saturday’s Bruins-Islanders game had a little bit of everything: physical play, quality chances for both teams, head-scratching officiating – you name it.
In the end, the Bruins tamed the high-tempo Islanders and delivered one of their better well-rounded performances of the year. Here is what we learned from the B’s 3-1 win – their eighth in 10 games.
Jake DeBrusk comes to the rescue, eventually gets rewarded
He may not be quite the enforcer as his father, Louie, but Jake DeBrusk came to the aid of one of his fellow first-year teammates.
As Charlie McAvoy got up slow following a hard hit by Casey Czikias during the second period, DeBrusk made sure that the Isles forward answered the call at the 4:03 mark. It might have cost him an instigator and a questionable 10-minute misconduct, but the act of DeBrusk aiding McAvoy wasn’t lost within the Bruins dressing room.
DeBrusk wasn’t done there. Shortly after serving his 17 penalty minutes, the Edmonton native netted his sixth of the season on a beautiful spin-o-rama shot at 6:45 of the third to extend the Bruins lead to 2-0.
“Yeah, it was a bit of a different scenario to say the least,” said DeBrusk, who entered Saturday’s contest with a grand total of zero career penalty minutes in his young career.
“You know, it was something that happened and I honestly didn’t try to get an instigator or anything like that, you know, it was just one of those things you can’t control and I watched the period in here and just felt a little out of sorts and just wanted to get back in action and wanted to make the first shift a good one and was lucky enough to cash in on a goal.”
He might have only had 7:52 of ice time, but DeBrusk made the most of his night in his second game back from an undisclosed injury. The 2015 first rounder has seven points (three goals, four assists) in the eight games following his first career healthy scratch back on Nov. 11.
The good and bad of Brad Marchand
Toeing the fine line is something that has followed Marchand throughout his NHL career. For every good thing he’s done, there have been plenty of bad moments during the veteran’s tenure.
Saturday was yet another example of that. Marchand extended his point streak to five games with his power play goal to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 10:51 of the second.
Although he got under the Islanders skin for most of the night, the worst side of Marchand was front and center after making a B-line towards John Tavares and landed a high hit on the Isles star. Marchand received a five-minute major for interference but could receive a stiffer punishment assuming the NHL Player Safety Department reviews the incident in the coming days.
Head butting in the NHL?
Well, this might be the one new thing that everyone has learned, or at least it appears that way.
As the chippiness escalated in the third period, one had a feeling that things could have gotten a little out of hand. It didn’t reach a boiling point, but between Marchand’s untimely penalty on Tavares and grizzled veterans David Backes and Andrew Ladd renewing acquaintances from their Central Division days, there was plenty of tension in the first Bruins-Islanders meeting this year.
The one bizarre incident came at 11:47 when Backes was assessed a five-minute major – and a 10-minute misconduct – for headbutting Ladd as the former Blackhawk got in the face of the ex-Blues captain in response to a hit on Thomas Hickey. No question, it was a head-scratching call on Backes, but that will likely lead to another player safety review in addition to Marchand’s earlier actions.
With Backes out and Frank Vatrano serving the five-minute major, the Islanders cut the lead to 2-1 on Anders Lee’s tip-in shortly after the power play expired. Danton Heinen answered a few minutes later, delivering the dagger with the empty netter.
‘Goaltending controversy’ finally put to rest
Yes, this topic has been discussed ad nauseam. Yes, Tuukka Rask struggled through the middle of November, and yes Anton Khudobin was riding the hot hand as the injury-plagued Bruins were struggling to meet Cassidy’s standards.
Bruce Cassidy made a good decision to ride Khudobin. He made a better decision not to get up into the talk of any potential ‘goaltending controversy’ as Rask worked out his kinks with goaltending coach Bob Essensa during Khudobin’s hot streak.
Those kinks have been worked out, and Rask is now riding the hot hand.
From his rebound control to his positioning and post to post movement, Rask is finding his groove. As the Islanders made their push for the equalizer in the second and third periods, Rask made several timely saves including a flashy glove stop on rookie Matthew Barzal to keep the B’s 1-0 lead intact.
All in all, the 2014 Vezina winner made 31 saves – 14 alone in the second period – to improve to 7-8-0 on the year.
Rask is 4-1 in his last five starts with five goals allowed, a 1.10 goals against average, .955 save percentage and one shutout. Since his last loss to the Oilers on Nov. 26, Rask’s GAA has dropped to 2.43 and his save percentage is now up to .912.
“I’ve said it before. I thought we played good games in front of him at the start of the year, with the exception of maybe the first two weeks. But some things happen where pucks are going in off us as well. So it’s where we need him to be,” Cassidy said about Rask. “We are a better team when he’s on his A-game. And you get Anton on his A-game and we’re dangerous.”