The Boston Bruins ran through one of their toughest gauntlets of the season over the last week. They proved that they are indeed for real after taking nine of a possible ten points against the likes of the Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights and Lightning.
Saturday’s tilt with the lowly New Jersey Devils at TD Garden had all the makings of a trap game. The Bruins weren’t sharp at times, but they did just enough to get by in a draggy low-scoring affair.
“Can’t all be pretty one’s especially the way they play, they play hard and they’re aggressive,” Brad Marchand said postgame. “At the end of the day we got the two points, in the regular season that’s what you need. I’ll take it and we’ll focus on the next one.”
Here’s what we learned as Boston extended its point streak to 16 straight following its 1-0 triumph over New Jersey.
Bruins avoid a letdown
They came on the highest of highs after beating the Stanley Cup favorite Lightning on Thursday. But the Bruins knew they couldn’t have a letdown against a Devils squad that showcased an AHL-like roster two nights later. Marchand’s 27th of the season just 2:37 in marked the only tally that they needed on this night.
The Devils, in their second game of a back to back, didn’t give the Bruins much room to work with. The Bruins disrupted the Devils shooting lanes and clogged up the neutral zone, thus providing Tuukka Rask plenty of time to position himself to stop all 20 shots.
It wasn’t pretty and at times it wasn’t effective. But the Bruins got the job done and kept their point streak intact.
“You don’t want to settle for 1-0. You want to get the lead and looking to pounce on them and doing the right things. They’re a feisty team. They skate hard, good sticks, you know it was there,” Weymouth native Charlie Coyle said. “It may not be the exact lineup you see every night but those guys worked hard and so they made it tough. Like I said, we make sure we are solid defensively, that kind of takes care of things on that end. They’re going to get chances but you always want to keep pushing.”
Marcus Johansson against his former club
Going up against a former team isn’t anything new for Johansson. He had that distinction last season with the Devils in his first meeting against the Capitals after spending the first six years of his career in the Nation’s Capital.
This meeting against his second former club was anything but ordinary. After all, he was a member of the Devils up until Monday’s trade deadline that sent Johansson to Boston for a second-round draft pick in 2019 and a fourth-round selection in 2020.
There wasn’t anything to write home about with Johansson’s on-ice performance (one shot on goal, one hit and a blocked shot in 16:03 of ice time). But the Swede, not known as a talker, still made an impact by sharing some of the Devils’ tendencies with his new teammates.
“There’s some stuff that you have to know when you play opponents and I’ve been there for a while, so I know a lot of the stuff they’re doing and they do it well,” Johansson said. “I think we all knew that they were going to come out and work hard and that’s what they did. They made us earn it tonight, and it was a tough game. But we found a way to get it done.”
He had a quiet night, but the Bruins know what they have in Johansson. He provides that upgrade in the middle of the lineup they desperately needed.
Johansson and fellow newcomer Charlie Coyle even took a shift together on the third line during the third period as the Devils pushed for the equalizer. David Pastrnak’s return from injury could put the two trade deadline acquisitions together again in the coming weeks. But that’s a discussion for later.
Peter Cehlarik gets the doghouse treatment in the third
He spent most of the week traveling back and forth up I-95 from Providence to Boston following the trade deadline. Cehlarik’s week finally came full circle on Saturday when he replaced an injured Sean Kuraly (concussion protocol) for his first game in seven days.
Yet, it didn’t turn out well. The Czech saw himself on the bench during the third period following a night of miscues, including an ill-advised trip late in the second period and a blown 2-on-1 attempt. Those things happen, but there was more to Cehlarik sitting out the final 20 according to head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“Yeah, there were a few things we didn’t like. We’ve talked about allowing guys to play through
certain parts of their game and sometimes it’s better to sit and watch. Tonight, we chose the latter,” Cassidy said.
“There were some things we had talked to him about. It wasn’t the penalty. Penalties happen. It was a little more about his routes, responsibility away from the puck, managing it at the end of the second period in your own end. Those are things we’ve talked to him numerous times about, so we went a different route, and we’ll see where it leads.”
Sometimes benchings can send a message. Other times they can just simply provide a reminder to a certain player.
Cehlarik’s given the Bruins some bright spots in spurts during his stint in Boston. But what will his response be to Saturday’s benching?
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