What We Learned: Rask, Pastrnak, spark Bruins over Sens
The Boston Bruins ended their four-game Canadian road trip on a high note.
After securing just two out of a possible six points through their first three games in Western Canada, the Bruins picked up a much-needed win Tuesday night in Ottawa, defeating the Senators, 4-1.
“We need it. I think everyone knows that we can’t come up empty handed here tonight,” Bruins forward Ryan Donato told the press following the morning skate about Tuesday’s important matchup. “We all know the impact – this time of season – a game like this can have on our team.”
Once again, the Bruins’ top line did most of the heavy lifting and contributed three goals and five assists, thanks in large part to a four-point evening from David Pastrnak.
Here’s what we learned following Boston’s decisive victory at the Canadian Tire Centre.
David Pastrnak is really, really good
It is time to stop looking at David Pastrnak merely as just a young and promising first liner and start looking at him as one of the elite players in the entire National Hockey League.
The 22-year-old tallied four points against the Senators, including his ninth and tenth goals of the season — tied for first in the league with Auston Matthews — and a beautiful assist on David Krejci’s third-period power play tally.
His first-period goal Tuesday night was a product of his growing ice awareness and evident skill — or as ESPN’s John Buccigross would say, mitts of marinara. As Krejci and Danton Heinen worked to force a turnover in the offensive end, Pastrnak drifted into a pocket of open ice in the high slot, received a quick pass and ripped a laser under the arm of Sens goaltender Craig Anderson.
Pastrnak’s transformation into a complete player is truly a pleasure to watch. At 6-feet, 181-pounds there aren’t many defenders in the league that can handle the Czech’s rare combination of elite speed, vision and skill.
The fifth-year forward is an intriguing early Hart Trophy candidate with 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) in his first nine games.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 24, 2018
Tuukka Rask bounced back
Tuukka Rask’s critics are quick to point out his struggles during the first month of the season. His performance Tuesday night will quiet a few of those naysayers, at least temporarily.
Rask stood tall and, more importantly, looked confident during his 38-save outing. Too many times this season, Rask has either been wildly out of position or has given up soft goals that you wouldn’t expect a former-Vezina trophy winner to give up.
That wasn’t the case against Ottawa. Rask returned to his form of old, made several fantastic pad saves and fended off a few odd-man rushes. The lone goal he allowed came on a deflected shot on Ottawa’s third power play opportunity. Any NHL goalie would have problems stopping that.
His performance came at a pivotal point in the Bruins season, as Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins’ coaching staff are still contemplating which goalie to go with moving forward. Jaroslav Halak started the previous two games for Boston – both overtime losses – and has clearly been the better of the two up until this point.
Rask showed Tuesday night that the starting job is still his to lose and that he is still capable of leading this team.
The Finnish netminder wasn’t completely error-free, however, and gave Bruins’ fans a few heart attacks. To put it simply, Rask, now 3-2-0 on the season, might owe Brandon Carlo a steak dinner or two after the third year defenseman bailed him out twice with last-ditch effort saves.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 23, 2018
The Rask-Halak tandem is paying off in the early going for Cassidy and company. It will continue until one of them separates himself as the clear-cut starter.
The power play finally cashed in
The Bruins hadn’t scored a power play goal in any of their three outings on the current road trip. To make matters worse, they were 1-for-13 with a man advantage in their four games away from TD Garden.
Tuesday night, however, Boston’s power play unit came through in a pivotal moment. With the scored tied at 1-1 with 51 seconds left in the second period, the Bruins went on a 5-on-3 advantage and certainly capitalized. Krejci and Patrice Bergeron tallied momentum-shifting goals just 1:12 apart to change the game’s complexion.
Boston’s power play was the difference against their division rivals on Tuesday and had exactly what it was missing in Western Canada.
A potent power play is key for the Bruins in a tough Atlantic Division. Getting that back on track Tuesday night was a step in the right direction.