The snowy conditions outside set a perfect stage for the Winter Classic rematch between Bruins and the Blackhawks at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Chicago rolled into town boasting a seven-game win streak as the Bruins lost leading scorer David Pastrnak to a thumb injury. Yet Boston, much like they did on New Year’s Day, got the best of its Original Six counterparts.
Unlike the last tilt at Notre Dame, the Bruins didn’t wait until the third period to seize control. Despite trailing 1-0 on Tuukka Rask’s blunder, the B’s exploded out of the gates and set the tone with three first period goals
Brad Marchand provided a four-point effort, while David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen each chipped in three points to keep the Blackhawks at bay and propel the Bruins to the 6-3 victory.
“We got results tonight. The buy-in, I thought our fourth line was physical, played their game, controlled pucks low. Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] line was Bergy’s line. They matched up today against [Jonathan] Toews,” Bruce Cassidy said following his 100th win behind the Boston bench. “We did a real good job with that, especially the second period. The goalie made some terrific saves, but we stuck with it and eventually did get rewarded.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins will carry a three-game win streak into their upcoming five-game west coast trip.
Bruins rally without Pastrnak
Pastrnak’s growth into a well-rounded player is one of the highlights of Boston’s 2018-19 season. The fifth-year forward leads the team in goals (31) and points (66) and was one of two players — Krejci being the other — to suit up for every contest before sustaining his thumb injury following a team event on Sunday.
The Bruins will most certainly miss Pastrnak’s skillset and production over the next two weeks. They’ll need to showcase their depth during this tough stretch. Tuesday’s six-goal outburst — with tallies from five different players — marked a step in the right direction as secondary scoring wasn’t an issue on this night.
“It obviously doesn’t help when your best forward goes down, but we are pretty confident in our depth,” Rask said.
Boston put up a six-spot in Pastrnak’s first DNP of the season. Now the Bruins will shift their focus to their upcoming 11-day road trip on the west coast as they look to run through a tough gauntlet against teams fighting for playoff positioning.
“We’re going to need contributions from everybody with Pasta going down for a bit,” Marchand said after tallying a goal and three assists.
The resurgence of Danton Heinen
With his sophomore slump rearing its ugly head, Cassidy had no choice but to bench the defensively reliable Heinen. But something has happened to the 23-year-old that has drastically changed his game for the better. We call it the Patrice Bergeron effect.
In another attempt to find more balance throughout his lineup, Cassidy moved Pastrnak to the second line with Krejci and a rotation of left-wingers featuring DeBrusk and Peter Cehlarik. Heinen also benefitted from this as he moved up to skate with Bergeron and Marchand and looks like a completely different player since joining the dynamic duo.
“I think I’m just trying to think less now, not put too much pressure on myself. It’s obviously an honor to play with those guys, and it’s a great opportunity,” said Heinen, who has three goals and four assists over his last four games. “I think my mindset is not to try to look for them all the time, too much, or not try to get away from just playing on instincts. So, yeah, that’s kind of my mindset.”
Heinen was terrific Tuesday as he finished the night with a goal and two assists. He’s looking less timid and more confident in his decision making as seen from his assist on Cehlarik’s fourth of the season to give Boston a 5-3 lead.
“I think he understands that he’s been given a nice opportunity here, and he’s going to the dirty areas for that line, getting rewarded, making plays around there. You go there enough, especially with those guys, the puck will end up there, so good for him. I’m happy for him,” Cassidy said about Heinen. “He’s a good kid, he works hard, he’s a pro, he’s accountable away from the puck, he’s willing to block shots when need be, and this is part of the game that’s more enjoyable.
DeBrusk breaks scoring drought
DeBrusk once sat third on the Bruins with 14 goals. Then he stopped scoring entirely.
Well, he’s finally back on the scoreboard again. The second-year forward gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead after tipping in Krejci’s pass for his 15th goal of the season — and first since Jan. 8.
“It’s something that’s long overdue and something that I needed to be honest with you. Obviously, didn’t do my normal celly, but it was just nice to get on the board to help the team,” DeBrusk said.
“Personally, very frustrating to be honest with you. It actually got to me a little bit, but at the same time I understood that there are peaks and valleys to your seasons and that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and when you get through it, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and hopefully I’ve gotten through that.”
A visibly upbeat DeBrusk took a big step forward following his three-point night. The Bruins need similar efforts out of their streaky second line left winger during Pastrnak’s absence.
“He’s a streaky guy,” Cassidy said. “He’s still young, so I think it affects him mentally if you’re not on the scoresheet, so I think it, hopefully, it’s a sign of more, but we’ll see.”
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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