Establishing momentum before a lengthy road trip always gives a team something to look forward to. The Bruins had that in the form of an eight-game point streak — and three wins in a row — heading into Friday’s tilt with the lowly Anaheim Ducks in Orange County.
Again, it wasn’t pretty, but Boston took care of business against an Anaheim squad just days removed from canning coach Randy Carlyle following arguably its worst three-month stretch in recent memory.
Here is what we learned from the Bruins’ 3-0 victory at Honda Center.
Jaroslav Halak picks up where he left off
The Bruins didn’t bring their crisp play during certain spurts, especially on the defensive end. That’s where Jaroslav Halak came in.
The journeyman picked up where he left off from his last start against the Avalanche — where he allowed one goal on 36 shots — and notched his fourth shutout of the season. Halak stood tall with timely saves on the penalty kill and his quality rebound control and looked more like the version we saw at the start of the season than his rough two-month stretch prior to Boston’s bye week.
“He was good for us,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley regarding Halak. “When we broke down, he was there for us and good for Jaro [Halak]. He works hard, he’s a good goaltender and he’s a good person, so we want him to have success.”
The Ducks’ ongoing issues have no end in sight, apparently. Friday marked the fourth shutout since Dec. 22. They’ve scored a mere nine times over the last nine games and seven since returning from their bye week.
The Bruins had some issues possessing the puck and letting the Ducks forwards get behind them in the defensive end at times. But they stayed structured and gave Halak time and space to track the puck and stop all 30 shots he faced.
Brandon Carlo growing into a bonafide shutdown defenseman
Cassidy has a luxury that very few coaches have in today’s NHL: a pair of young right-shot studs on the back end that will anchor the team for year’s to come. The well-rounded Charlie McAvoy has the top right shot spot down to a T. Brandon Carlo is right behind the former Boston University standout in the pecking order.
It took him nearly 200 games — a common threshold for talent evaluation at the NHL level — to come to fruition, but Carlo has found a comfort level at the professional ranks. The 2015 second round pick has gone from a raw and physical specimen to a bonafide shutdown defender that can pair with anyone from giants like Zdeno Chara to skilled puck movers such as Torey Krug.
Carlo’s confidence is at an all-time high and it shows every time he touches the ice. The Colorado Springs born blue-liner has little issue with communicating with fellow teammates and backing them up when needed. Such was the case Friday. Carlo stood his ground on odd-man rushes and even got good closing speed on a mini-breakaway attempt from Richard Rakell in the second period.
He’s even chipping in offensively from time to time and did so again when Noel Acciari tipped in Carlo’s slap shot from the point to give the Bruins the 1-0 lead in the opening stanza.
The Bruins missed Carlo during their playoff appearances the last two years following a late-season injury to their 22-year-old blue-liner. Having a healthy Carlo this postseason can only help them in potential postseason matchups with the Maple Leafs and Lightning — if they make it past the first round.
They may not having the offensive traits as some of their teammates like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci (to name a few), but don’t call Wagner, Acciari and Sean Kuraly a fourth line by any means.
The ‘WAK’ line contributes in the goal scoring department when needed. That’s one of several traits they display in a bottom-six role. Their defensive I.Q. and high energy shifts give opposing third and fourth lines nightmares with every shift.
They’ve played their role so well to the point where Cassidy assigns them against opposing top lines on occasion. Wagner, Kuraly and Acciari drew that assignment again in Anaheim, going up against the Ducks top trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Richard Rakell and 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. Indeed, the ‘WAK’ line held the Getzlaf, Rakell and Perry line in check with their edgy one-on-battles and physical prowess.
Oh, and they contributed offensively too with Acciari’s first period tally and Wagner’s empty-netter against his former team to secure the two points.
The Bruins will take goals any way they can find them as David Pastrnak nurses his thumb injury. It just so happened that a pair of their tallies came from unlikely sources in their second game without their leading scorer.
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