Was that 19-game point streak just a mirage? Or was their recent three-game skid a fact that the Bruins were due for a couple of stinkers following their impressive two-month run?
Some of these answers will come over the last few weeks of the season, but the initial response upon their return home from their recent road trip got them back in the win column.
Saturday’s Bruins-Blue Jackets tilt wasn’t pretty. Yet they accomplished a few feats that plagued them during their recent stops in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Winnipeg.
They had trouble finding the back of the net, but the Bruins made up for that with structured defense, solid puck possession and a better start. It all came together when Brad Marchand shimmied his celebration a la Conor McGregor following his walk-off goal in overtime.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins earned a hard-fought 2-1 OT win over Columbus.
Patrice Bergeron added another milestone.
Unlike McGregor — Boston’s guest of honor Saturday night — Bergeron doesn’t need to say much. He let’s his play do the talking.
And he let his 800th career point speak for itself on Saturday night. The five-time Selke winner gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead with a nifty backhand tally on their first power play of the evening.
Bergeron started his night joining Bobby Orr, Rick Middleton, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and Ray Bourque as the only players to notch 800 career points in a Bruins uniform. He ended his night with career point No. 801 after setting up his longtime partner in crime Marchand for his 15th career overtime tally.
“We know where each other is going to be on the ice mostly at all times. I knew he was going to try and open up on that one and I tried to find him,” Bergeron said about setting Marchand up for his overtime winner. “You could tell that I think that they were a little bit tired and that’s what happens in overtime. It’s not easy when your shift gets extended and it’s only 3-on-3 so things are opened up and we found a way and we got the bounce so we’ll take it.”
Bergeron and company will take any victory they can get, especially this late in the season.
Jaroslav Halak shined when the Bruins needed him
He didn’t have a heavy workload, but Halak backstopped the Bruins when they needed it.
Unlike the three-game trip, the Bruins defense stayed true to their systematic roots. In the rare instance that Columbus — playing its second game of a back to back — got past Boston’s layers, Halak provided the last line of the defense with his timely saves.
The journeyman netminder made 24 saves in all, including 16 in the final two periods and three in overtime. He matched Jonas Korpisalo stride for stride and gave the Bruins a chance to win with quality stops on the likes of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Zach Werenski.
“We had a lot of good things in the first period and throughout the whole game,” Halak said about the team’s effort. “We all knew we had to come here and play a solid game and we did.”
Tuukka Rask needed a breather after giving up nine goals in his last two starts that included an early exit during their first meeting with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. He got that needed rest Saturday as Halak helped the Bruins to an important victory.
Halak went through his own rough stretch prior to the bye week. He’s looking more like the goaltender that Bruins fans saw at the start of the season. This gives Bruce Cassidy the luxury of having two quality goaltenders that very few teams have.
“He’s gaining traction again. His game’s solid. We needed it tonight because we didn’t score enough – or, a lot, sorry. We scored enough to win but not a lot, so good for Jaro,” Cassidy said about Halak (6-1-0 in his last seven starts). “He’d tell you right now he’s comfortable I think with his last number of starts. There might be one in there or a few here and there, but I think he’s been good.”
The Bruins are slowly getting healthier
Lost in the St. Patrick Day weekend celebration was Jake DeBrusk’s return to the lineup. His stat line wasn’t anything to write home about (zero shots on goal and one hit in 19:32 of ice time), but the Edmonton native didn’t miss a beat in his skating and puck pursuit after missing five games with a lower-body ailment.
DeBrusk’s return gave the Bruins a small step in the right direction on the injury front. They’ll take another step forward when David Pastrnak (broken thumb) joins the team on their upcoming four-game road trip beginning Tuesday night in Long Island against the Islanders.
Both Matt Grzelcyk and Marcus Johansson will resume skating activities when the team embarks on their second to last trip of the 2018-19 regular season. But the Bruins won’t have Torey Krug at their disposal for a little while as he enters concussion protocol.
They aren’t out of the woods yet, but Cassidy’s bunch is slowly getting healthier. That’s all you can ask for as they inch closer toward another likely first-round matchup with the Maple Leafs in three weeks time.
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