What we learned: Bruins get ‘heavy’ bounce back win over Blues
Bruce Cassidy hasn’t fared well this season against the pack of so-called “heavies” in the NHL. Those type of teams, in Cassidy’s own terminology, are strong on the puck, dish out the physicality, and play shutdown defense with the lead.
The Anaheim Ducks fit that bill perfectly; they displayed those three dimensions Tuesday night, en route to snapping the Bruins’ 18-game point streak with a 3-1 win.
“[It was] a good test for us,” the Bruins coach said postgame about the Ducks. “We haven’t seen as many of those [heavy teams] as we did early on in the year. We’ve just got to get re-acclimated with it. St. Louis will be more of that, so ask me again Thursday night how we handle it, and I suspect we’ll be better prepared for it.”
The St. Louis Blues are another “heavy” team. But this time, Cassidy’s bunch were prepared for the challenge.
Here’s what we learned as Boston got re-acclimated, turned the heavy tables their way, and skated off with a 3-1 home win in a contest reminiscent of the playoffs.
Better start pays off
On Tuesday, the B’s coughed up two unanswered goals in the first period and were outshot 15-5.
On Thursday, the shot count was still 14-9 in favor of the Blues after the first stanza. However, the Bruins were the team to take the 1-0 lead at 12:32, when David Krejci batted a flopping Jake DeBrusk rebound past St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen.
“I thought [the start] was good,” Cassidy said postgame. “I’m not sure the shot clock accurately portrayed…the pace of the game and how it was playing out.”
Torey Krug rolled one behind Allen and across the crease — but not over — to start the second. Later, at 7:07, Krejci put on a stick-handling clinic in the left faceoff dot before an Allen glove save denied a two-goal lead. A laser from Ryan Spooner in the slot at the 10-minute mark was halted by an Allen right pad. Thanks to efforts such as these, the second period shot total was reversed in Boston’s favor, 22-6.
The Bruins were 22-0-2 on the season when leading after two periods.
Patrice Bergeron put the home crowd on its feet midway through the final frame, when he launched a 20-foot missile from the right faceoff circle to double Boston’s lead. Later in the period, Blues alternate captain Jaden Schwartz corrected his second-stanza miss when he deflected home a 6-on-5 opportunity at 18:28. David Backes then sealed the victory against his former team when he deposited the puck, unassisted, into an open net with less than a second on the clock.
The final shot total was a whopping 46-33 in favor of the Bruins after the 14-9 start.
Spooner paying dividends on second line
Throughout Thursday night’s tilt, Cassidy kept Spooner on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk. He assisted on Krejci’s and Bergeron’s tallies to extend his point streak to three straight games.
The Bruins were 0-for-4 on the power play in Tuesday’s affair. By contrast, the Black and Gold needed just 20 seconds to convert off of Bergeron’s tally after St. Louis was slapped with a penalty in the third. The goal was Bergeron’s fifth of the season and his 10th point in the last seven games; Spooner’s assist was his 11th point in the last 13.
“They [the players] like to buzz up ice,” Cassidy said about the eventual game-winning goal, “so good trap entry, try to get puck possession quickly; we did that. We’re always looking for Bergy in the bumper if it’s there. He has got a hot stick. He has been dynamite from that area all year, and it was our first option.
“Ryan Spooner I think is doing a really good job on the wing, and handling that responsibility,” Cassidy assessed. “He even won a key draw for us on a four-on-four situation, so I like the line. I thought they did a really good job playing every aspect of the game –- winning pucks, playing with pace through the neutral zone, attacking the net.”
Rask task rolls on
“Since mid whatever it was – November,” Cassidy said, “[we’ve] had stellar goaltending.”
He’s certainly not wrong.
Two sparkling saves in the last minute of the first period, along with his defense holding the Blues to just six second-period shots, led the way to Tuukka Rask’s 20th win of the season. Another glove robbery on Schwartz’s backhander from five feet at 1:45 in the third (the aforementioned miss) further highlighted the effort of the game’s No. 1 star.
“I don’t know if you can even call it a response [game],” Rask offered with regard to Thursday’s contest. “Obviously we bounced back and got the win, but the last game — despite the first period — we played a hell of a game. And then today, I think we got better as the game went on.”
“He was our best player tonight and for a reason,” Zdeno Chara said about his goaltender. “He made some big saves and that [early third-period one] was one of them.”
“I thought we did a really good job keeping it clean in front of him for the most part,” Cassidy said about Rask’s play, “but those [late second period stops] were two big saves, and he wanted to match the other guy.”
Rask is now unbeaten in 19 straight games, good for fourth-most in team history behind Frank Brimesk (23 in 1940-41), Pete Peeters (31 in ’82-83) and Gerry Cheevers (32 in ’71-72).
“Ask me again Thursday night how we handled [a heavy team].”
Those were Cassidy’s words following the 3-1 loss to the Ducks. Thursday night was a different story.
“We just got sick of losing,” Cassidy offered in humorous tone after losing the first in 19 games Tuesday, deferring the comment to NESN. “I give that one to Brick [Andy Brickley] and Jack [Edwards]; they said that one.”
“I thought we managed the puck well,” Cassidy added, in more seriousness, about the 3-1 triumph. “We were on our toes, trying to close off space and forecheck hard and get pucks to the net. I thought we saw a lot of that in the second period, where we took over. A lot of positives, and I think at the end of the day, we were the better team for the 60 minutes.”