Jaroslav Halak is slowly but surely panning out to be one of Boston’s best free agent acquisitions in recent memory.
The Slovakian net-minder notched another stellar outing to an already impressive start to the season, making 37 saves and allowing just a single goal against the reigning Western Conference champions.
Halak, now 6-1-2 on the year, was a commanding presence again in his second start in as many nights. The veteran preserved the three-goal lead with his excellent rebound control and quick reactions to tipped shots destined for the back of the net.
“We’ve seen it from day one, we knew he was a good goaltender. I couldn’t sit here and tell you that I thought he was going to be leading the league in save percentage or goals against but we knew he’d be solid,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about Halak. “He’s certainly exceeded expectations and it’s what is required right now. He’s getting lots of starts and guys are confident in front of him.”
With Tuukka Rask attending to a personal matter, the Bruins will rely even more on Halak, especially during another western road trip that begins Wednesday night in Colorado.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Bruins’ potent top line led the charge offensively with a pair of goals.
David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have combined for a league-best 70 points this season. With four points Sunday — following a nine-point outburst against Toronto — the dynamic trio made the Golden Knights the latest victim of their leaguewide demolition tour. Malcolm Subban’s last-ditch effort save in the third period prevented an even bigger night for the threesome.
It’s getting to the point where it is far more surprising if they don’t score a single goal than record upwards of ten points in a game. This is the crazy world that Bruins’ fans are living in.
Their rare combination of speed, skill and chemistry makes cross-ice tic-tac-toe passes almost routine for them while allowing them to transition from defense into offense in a split second. Marchand’s second period tally is a perfect example of those traits coming to fruition.
And it’s not only just what they can do offensively but also what they can do defensively.
Bergeron, a four-time Selke winner, is notoriously one of the best defensive forwards in the game. That trait is rubbing off on his partners in crime as both Pastrnak and Marchand have vastly improved defensively.
The confidence and determination with the top line’s two-way prowess against other formidable trios instill confidence throughout the locker room. Even with their early-season secondary scoring issues, the Bruins will always have a chance to win whenever Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak touch the ice.
Speaking of secondary scoring, the Bruins are constantly searching for consistency from their bottom-six forwards, particularly from the third line. They got a glimpse of that on Sunday.
Anders Bjork and line-mates Danton Heinen and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a jump in their step Sunday night. The trio set the tone when Bjork fed a beautiful 2-on-1 feed to Heinen for the game’s opening goal.
“I thought they had a good weekend. Obviously getting a goal helps when you’re young. It was a good goal and they did it the right way,” Cassidy said. “You get your bottom-six chipping in and that’s what it’s going to take for us to win on a consistent basis. At the end of the day, you need balanced scoring to do it every night and we are starting to see that in the last three games.”
The third line has been a cast of interchanging parts that just seemed to not mess with each other during the first two months of the season. Sunday night was different.
Bjork played with tremendous confidence, and that’s something that Bruins fans have been waiting to see since his arrival to Boston. The former Notre Dame standout is one of Boston’s fastest skaters — second only to Pastrnak in my estimation — but often passes up quality scoring chances when they present themselves.
That wasn’t the case against Vegas. Bjork was deking around defenders and stood out in doing so.
“I think when you do something right, you get good confidence from that. I think I try to do that and I try to build and incorporate other things into my game,” Bjork said following his solid performance.
Having the best line in the league helps, but a good third line can go a long way toward bigger and better things.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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