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  • What we learned: Bruins extend win streak to four

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    What we learned: Bruins extend win streak to four

    Bob Snow December 23, 2017

    The weather outside Saturday afternoon, indeed, frightful; inside TD Garden, however, the Bruins’ faithful feeling quite delightful. Pick any number of reasons for such in the last game before the Christmas break with a matinee meeting against the Detroit Red Wings.

    How about a possible season-high four-game streak after wins this week over Columbus, Buffalo and Winnipeg? Or enjoying a dramatic reversal in scoring goals with a 12-3 advantage over those three after languishing among the bottom of the NHL in red-light productivity? Or another two points over Detroit after a come-from-behind overtime win in the Motor City just 10 days back?

    The Bruins taking points in 12 of their last 13 games against the Red Wings at 11-1-1, including a current 5-0-1 streak. Make that 13 of 14 and 12-1-1.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins gave the Hub of Hockey an early gift in the 3-1 final.

    Backes returns after baby Backes arrives

    Thursday’s confluence of date and event was Charlie McAvoy scoring the winning shootout goal on his 20th birthday. Saturday another as David Backes and his wife, Kelly, welcomed the best gift of all at 1:12 a.m. Saturday morning – Dawson Michael.

    “He was great – inspirational on the bench,” Cassidy said about his veteran. “Big smile on his face coming in today, and why not? A nice, healthy baby boy and everyone is doing well. He was really dialed in.”

    Backes missed Friday’s practice, but was back with 21 shifts and 19:07 ice time, and dialed in with two assists.

    “I got about four hours [sleep] two nights ago and about three hours last night,” the proud papa chimed. “After what I saw my wife go through birthing that baby, I figured I could come on a few hours of sleep earlier today and get it done.”

    Veterans lead the way

    While the rookies took many of the headlines all week, Saturday it was the Bruins’ three leading scorers, teaming up at 6:11 of the third period to give Boston the 2-1 lead. Brad Marchand (31 points) threaded a pass across to Patrice Bergeron (24) who fired it home from the slot to former UMaine standout Jimmy Howard’s left; David Pastrnak (33) also assisting.

    “We have talked a lot about the young kids,” Cassidy said, “but our veterans – we addressed after the game – they are the guys that were dialed in today. It was definitely our older guys that did the lion’s’ share of the work.”

    Bergeron sealed the deal with 14 seconds left into an empty Wings’ cage; Backes assisting.

    The foursome accounted for all of Boston’s offense.

    Rare pair gets teams on the board

    Not often a power-play goal is followed by a short-handed tally. That happened when Detroit took two consecutive penalties at 12:47 and 13:19 of the first 20 to give Boston a 5-on-3 advantage. Marchand took Howard to school with a 10-foot bullet short-side from the bottom of the right dot off a Bergeron pass to tie Pastrnak for the team lead with 15; Backes with the assist and an early gift.

    “[Brad] did steal [the puck], Backes said. “I was wondering why he was grabbing it. It was my first point with the new baby. “We’ll find a special spot for that in his new room.”

    A minute later Frans Nielson rifled a 15-footer five-hole past Rask for the shorthanded goal at 14:38.

    The Bruins entered Saturday with a 13-1-1 mark when scoring first.

    Make that 14-1-1.

    Oh Captain, my Captain

    “I think a lot of people [take Zedeno for granted],” Cassidy said. “I don’t. “You can’t say enough about his ability to defend. He starts transition; he wants to be involved in that part of the game. He is just a guy with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart, knows how to win. I think that permeates throughout our lineup. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is the same way up front. I think these young guys are learning lessons every day on this.”

    Another former UMaine standout, Gustav Nyquist, rolled one behind Rask for the lead goal halfway through the second period. But B’s captain Zdeno Chara reached behind and guided the puck away to preserve the deadlock.

    The game’s No. 1 star played 21 shifts in 22:52 of ice time and a plus-1 – at age 40.

    “I knew [Tuukka] didn’t have full control,” Chara said, “and it’s going to happen – you’re going to have to make that save occasionally and that was the time that I did.”

    Rask task keeps rolling along

    “Well, got rid of the [bad] bounces,” Rask said about his recent run. “Finally they are going our way a little bit. I think we are playing such a good team defense that it helps my job a lot.”

    As Tuukka Rask goes, so go the Bruins.

    That Rask task in full momentum with No. 40 earning points in eight straight games entering Saturday’s contest at 7-0-1. Make that 8-0-1 after. He has now played in 10 of the team’s last 12 games with a sparkling 1.45 goals against average.

    “There were some funny goals going in off our guys,” Cassidy concurred, “ones rattling around; you don’t see many of those. There were some posts and in, now they are posts and out. He was playing fairly consistent hockey, just wasn’t getting a lot of breaks.”

    Garden legend performs during second intermission

    Rene Rancourt continued his long-standing tradition of singing Christmas carols to the crowd. Last year, Rancourt belted out “Blue Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” while decked out in a red vest and Santa hat. This year, a redux of each with “Home for the Holidays,” “Let it Snow,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Feliz Navidad.”

    Skip the break with all the recent success?

    “When you are winning, you always want to be out there,” Cassidy said. “Normally I would say yes, but I think it comes at a good time for us. We have had a heavy workload.”

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