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  • What We Learned: Bruins stay hot following Winter Classic

    Matthew Castle January 4, 2019

    Following a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at historic Notre Dame Stadium, the Bruins headed home to take on the red-hot Calgary Flames in game No. 41.

    Amidst all speculation of a hangover effect, the Bruins picked up right where they left off from their New Year’s Day victory.

    Boston’s offense was firing on all cylinders and churned out six goals — courtesy of David Pastrnak, John Moore and multi-goal outings from Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand — en route victory over the Western Conference-leading Flames.

    Yet, neither team had a night to remember defensively, as Calgary tallied four goals of its own in a losing effort.

    “We’re kind of rolling right now,” Marchand said after Boston’s third consecutive win. “I think we have to be happy to come off of such a high last game with the Winter Classic and coming home, it sometimes can be kind of a letdown, but I thought we played really well.”

    Now officially halfway through the season, the Bruins sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 50 points and are on pace to reach the ever-coveted 100-point mark.

    Well, I feel good about it, to be honest with you. I mean right now we’re halfway through the year, and, as you said, game 41 and we’re at 50 points. So, if we replicate the first half we’re at 100 points,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’d like to think we’ll get better, simply because a lot of the guys that were out that are key contributors are now healthy and the only one left is Charlie [McAvoy]. Charlie’s progressing well.”

    Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 6-4 win over Calgary at TD Garden.

    David Pastrnak and Johnny Gaudreau take center stage

    Wednesday night, the NHL released the 2019 All-Star rosters consisting of 40 names. Among those selected to participate in the festivities in San Jose on Jan. 26, were David Pastrnak and Johnny Gaudreau.

    The duo of elite-caliber wingers showed up to Causeway Street and put on quite a performance and each finished the game with a goal and an assist. Their impact went beyond the stat sheet.

    Gaudreau, who now has 61 points through 42 games, gave Boston’s defense problems all night and constantly got behind it for clear-cut breakaway chances. Luckily Jaroslav Halak was up to the task on most of his chances or else the former Boston College speedster might have changed the outcome by himself. The Salem, New Jersey native eventually broke through and snuck a shot past Halak on an extremely awkward angle in the third period.

    Cassidy was almost at a loss for words on how to defend Gaudreau in his postgame press conference and chuckled at the fact that he lost count of how many chances he had.

    “We ran through the gamut with Gaudreau. I think he got behind a few of our guys, so we just tried something different,” Boston’s third-year bench boss stated. “Well, we won the game. He scored the goal, but I thought it was probably his worst opportunity of the night. Typical him. He’s smart and sees a little opening when the goalies – I don’t know if cheating’s the right word – and scores.

    Pastrnak wasn’t too shabby either.

    The 22-year-old Czech tallied his 25th goal of the season on a third-period power play and ultimately changed the course of the game.

    With the game still in the balance and the Bruins up just a single tally, Torey Krug and Pastrnak barreled up ice with speed. Krug — intentionally — fired a laser of a slap-pass to the end boards and directly onto Pastrnak’s stick.

    “Yeah, we actually had that in our pre-scout. They stack the blue line pretty hard, and we were going to do it the first entry when we were all together in the first period,” Cassidy noted.

    Pastrnak did the rest.

    “I think we’ve done it three times this year where we’ve actually gotten a chance off of it,” Krug said about the designed play. “A great play by [Pastrnak] to collect it and bring it to his backhand. It’s a good courage-play to bring it to the backhand because you don’t know who is coming from the other side. Obviously, it turned out to be a big goal in the game.”

    This is the last time Pastrnak and Gaudreau showcase their all-star talents in a Bruins-Flames matchup this season. It won’t be the last time that they share the ice together. The two talented wingers will share the spotlight again in another few weeks during All-Star weekend.

    Kevan Miller’s 300th game

    It’s rare that a team like Bruins struggles with toughness, but this year’s squad rarely showcased a glimpse of the “Big Bad Bruins.” Kevan Miller’s return to the lineup at least eased the discussion of the Bruins needing an enforcer.

    Suiting up for his 300th career NHL game, the 31-year-old bruiser made his presence felt against Calgary.

    In the early stages of the second period, Miller delivered a bone-crushing hit on Michael Frolik and very nearly sent him into the Calgary bench. A dazed Frolik got up wanting to engage in fist-a-cuffs. But he had other ideas when Miller began to drop his gloves.

    The Bruins certainly need Miller’s physical presence during the second half of the season.

    Special Teams Miscues

    Despite having the league’s fifth-best power play, the Bruins can’t seem to help themselves giving up goals down the other end. In fact, it’s beginning to happen on a regular basis, as they lead the league with nine shorthanded goals allowed

    The Bruins found themselves in a prime position to strike first with a 5-on-3 opportunity early in the opening period. It didn’t go the way that Cassidy drew it up.

    Mark Jankowski picked up a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and waltzed right into the attacking zone untouched. Following a harmless wrist shot, several Bruins, including Pastrnak, stood around aimlessly and watched Frolik as he tapped in a rebound attempt to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

    The Bruins offense bailed them out on this night, but it goes without saying that they need to clean up their mistakes, especially on the power play. Otherwise, high-caliber teams like Calgary will make them pay.

    Against high-caliber teams like Calgary, they will eventually make you pay if you keep giving them easy chances.

    “As the year goes on we’re going to have to start locking it down a little bit because those are big goals in timely situations,” Krug said. 

    The Bruins need timely goals — and a better defense — Saturday night in their final showdown of the season against the Sabers

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    Matthew Castle

    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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