What we learned: B’s special teams dominate 7-4 win over Hawks
Seems like yesterday that two Original Six teams went toe-to-toe in the Stanley Cup final; Chicago prevailing, 4-2, over Boston. Since that 2013 playoff series, the Bruins struggled to make the postseason — let alone make any significant runs to June play — while Chicago paraded Lord Stanley again in 2015.
They met up for a home-and-home matinee series Saturday at TD Garden then Sunday back in the Windy City with the 2017-18 season and the current tables turned 180 degrees. Boston chasing a shot at the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the league, while the Blackhawks are mired in last place in the Central Division.
The Black and Gold came in on cruise control, winning all five games on the current homestand, the last three in dramatic fashion with Brad Marchand netting two overtime tallies and a last-minute game-winner in regulation.
Any game against the Hawks always takes on an added buzz. Here’s what we learned as another red-light barrage broke out at TD Garden Saturday and the Bruins became only the seventh team in NHL history to sweep a six-game homestand following the 7-4 victory.
Three straight new faces face Bruins in net
Tuesday it was Detroit’s Jared Coreau; Thursday, Philadelphia’s Alex Lyon. Saturday, J-F Berube became the third consecutive goaltender to play his first-career game against the Bruins.
Berube, with a 2-2-0 mark on the season, fared no better than the former pair, although his 5-on-5 log read only one goal. It was the variety of others that did him in.
Red-light barrage highlighted by four-goal third
Add ‘em up: One shorthanded, four on the power play, two at even strength with one an empty-netter. Not often that variety shows up on any NHL scoring sheet.
It was a red-light display for Boston, beginning with a rare one-two punch of a shorthanded and power-play variety.
With Marchand in the box (see below), Sean Kuraly intercepted a pass at his own blue line and won a footrace to Berube’s doorstep. His bid was denied, but Noel Acciari was Johnny-on-the-rebound for his eighth of the season and Boston’s 10th shorthanded of the season at 11:27.
Thursday night, the B’s went scoreless on all three power-play opportunities. Saturday, they converted four.
Jake DeBrusk sent a seeing-eye pass across to a solo David Krejci. His 10-foot laser at 14:10 beat Berube with Nick Holden also assisting for a point in each of his four games on Causeway Street. That pair would replicate the same outcome mid-way in the game for Krejci’s second power-play goal to tie the game at 3-3; Brian Gionta also assisting.
“I thought, through two periods,” Cassidy said, “we were okay, and that’s what the result was looking like: we’d just be okay. So, it’s kind of – the ball is in our court if we want to push, and we did.”
Indeed. The four-goal final 20 began at 6:23 when Riley Nash shoveled a left-wing pass to a streaking Brad Marchand whose shot rebounded to streaking Pastrnak on the right wing.
Gionta then put a rebound home on the man-advantage at 8:02, his sixth point in five games. DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk assisting.
Rick Nash scored the fourth PP goal at 9:18 with Torey Krug and Marchand assisting.
“Well, it might be 1-A and 1-B now,” Cassidy said about his two power-play units playing like one in the same. “The [Rick] Nash goal was obviously a nice play we talked about making, but the other goals are will to win pucks, tire them out, make a play because you’ve got skill, and that’s what happened.”
“Gio [Gionta] was really good tipping the pucks and battling in front and he got rewarded,” Krejci said about the new power-play combo. “It’s good for him. He’s been a really big help on our power play.”
Sean Kuraly put the proverbial top on the sundae with an open netter with 22 ticks left; Tim Schaller and Zdeno Chara assisting.
“If we get into these [high-scoring] games,” Cassidy said about the possible negative effect, “we’ve got to be comfortable winning them, just like the 2-1 games. Now, we don’t want it to become a pattern, and we’re going to work hard on that, but it is what it is right now.”
“We’ve shown that we can play every kind of style of hockey,” Rask added, “and I think that’s not concerning. I think that’s more of a good sign in a team.”
Rask task on course?
Tuukka Rask played Thursday after sitting out the previous two games with a very minor lower-body injury as described by Bruce Cassidy.
“We’ll see how he recovers tomorrow,” Cassidy said Thursday. “That’s probably the best test; see if he’s sore or just your typical game sore.”
Rask had a tale of two games Saturday with four goals on his first 19 shots. After Boston jumped out to a two-goal lead, the Hawks fought back to 2-2 in 30 seconds. Jonathan Toews’ 20-foot wrister beat Rask at 14:27; Erik Gustafsson’s left point shot had seeing eyes to twine just 30 seconds later.
John Hayden, just recalled from the AHL Saturday morning, beat Rask on a routine 15-foot shot from the left dot at 6:37 of the second frame to put Chicago up, 3-2. Matt Highmore put the Hawks up, 4-3, at 15:46 on another routine save, a 15-foot shot from the right faceoff circle.
All four of Chicago’s goals came 5-on-5. Maybe one was screened, but the other three goals were pretty much routine shots – and customary saves for Rask, who then pitched a shutout in the final 20, stopping all eight shots.
“At this point, I think everybody is sore,” Rask said postgame dismissing any concern. “Never injury sore.”
Brad Marchand, a frequent interview for the NHL Department of Player Safety with five career suspensions, including a five-game one this season, drew a two-minute penalty for interference in the first period. He left his feet to seemingly avoid a collision with Anthony Duclair who left the game with an apparent knee injury.
“I expect they will [look at it],” Cassidy said, “because it’s Brad, but when I looked at the replay, it looked like two guys just turning trying to get the hell out of the way from each other.”
“I was coming up ice and I think he was coming down the forecheck and we both got caught in the train tracks,” Marchand followed, “and we both didn’t know which direction to go, but we just kind of tried to avoid each other.”
“I think he will miss maybe one or two weeks,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said postgame about Duclair.
The Bruins close their home-and-home with the Blackhawks tomorrow. The Department of Player Safety would have to react quickly with any potential discipline, but Marchand may escape this time according to Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston.