What we learned: Depth extends Bruins point streak to 18 games
After the Bruins started the season almost laughably plagued by injury, it seemed like things were finally settling down and back to normal with a 17-game point streak to show. Unfortunately for the B’s, “normal” has also come to mean Brad Marchand winding up in some sort of trouble with the Department of Player Safety.
Without their top scorer, a top-line defenseman in Charlie McAvoy, and Noel Acciari, the Bruins had to prove the depth they’ve been touting as their key to success could step up without a safety net. While it wasn’t the prettiest, a red-hot Patrice Bergeron sparked a full-team effort as the Bruins earned a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre Thursday night.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins extended their point streak to 18 games (14-0-4) — their longest since 1968-69.
Next man up
The B’s boast the best first line in the league, and the only one with three 20 goal-scorers, but the team’s ability to fill gaps when necessary might be just as important.
Thursday’s three goals came from Danton Heinen, Tim Schaller and Jake DeBrusk, who all happen to be left wingers below Marchand in the depth chart. Schaller replaced Marchand on the penalty kill, where his bar down breakaway occurred to give the Bruins a short-lived 2-1 lead early in the third.
“It proves we can win with anybody in the lineup,” Schaller told reporters postgame. “Obviously it’s a loss to not have them [Marchand, McCoy and Acciari] in the lineup, but today we got two points.”
DeBrusk and Heinen now have 11 goals apiece in their rookie seasons. DeBrusk’s game-winner, a wrister 8:40 into the third, featured some puck luck, as the puck deflected off Mike Condon’s pad into the net. But the work that went into it starting from the neutral zone — and the work that didn’t pay off early on — was no accident.
Anders Bjork replaced Brad Marchand in the lineup. He didn’t show up on the scoresheet save for a high stick in the first, but it seems he’s regained confidence through his stint in the AHL. That was most evident when he forced a turnover then drew a slashing penalty on Erik Karlsson in the second, but he created open space throughout his 13:58 of ice time.
Early momentum pays off late
Thursday marked the seventh consecutive game in which the Bruins allowed the first goal, but it was one of those games where the scoreboard didn’t indicate the pace — at all.
The Bruins ended the first with a 20-7 shot advantage and, obviously, a considerably longer time spent in the offensive zone despite trailing 1-0. As a testament to the confidence the team has built when coming from behind, they didn’t seem frustrated by the lack of puck luck and just kept pushing.
Boston had a 30-16 shot advantage, led Ottawa 11-5 in chances, and, more importantly, tied things at 1-1 after 40 minutes. The B’s stayed patient and finally got some of that coveted puck luck with DeBrusk’s game-winner in the third.
Patrice Bergeron does it all…again
Perpetual Selke contender Bergeron’s two assists paced the game, and his veteran presence no doubt instilled confidence in depth players. Most of his 42 points in 42 games (and his plus-24 rating) have come alongside Marchand, but Thursday’s two-point effort was sort of a statement — yes, he can play next to an inexperienced AHL recall, build up Bjork’s confidence, and rack up points for himself in the process.
Bergeron’s assist on Schaller’s goal, in particular, was key:
— Binge Sports (@BingeSports) January 26, 2018
Thursday marked another magnificent night for the league’s best two-way player.