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  • What we learned: Structured Bruins inch closer to playoff spot

    Tim Rosenthal March 21, 2019
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    What a difference a week makes.

    The Bruins traveled back to Boston seven days ago carrying a three-game losing streak — for the first time since early-December — following their 4-3 setback in Winnipeg. Now, they carry another three-game win streak and inched closer toward clinching their third straight postseason appearance following their 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins picked up right where they left off from their 5-0 thumping of the New York Islanders.

    Boston’s top line picked up right where they left off

    Bruce Cassidy didn’t have any reservations reuniting David Pastrnak with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

    Even with the rust following his long layoff, Pastrnak’s mere presence on Tuesday in his first game back provided a trickle-down effect in Long Island. He didn’t register a single point, but the crafty Czech playmaker created a handful of scoring chances and had a pep in his step in his return from a broken thumb.

    He got back on the scoresheet Thursday night along with his fellow linemates, proving once again that they’re one of the best trios in the National Hockey League.

    Boston’s top line accounted for eight of the team’s 13 points (three goals, five assists) and a plus-9 rating Thursday night. Their dominance on both ends of the ice, again, trickled down to the rest of the lineup.

    “I thought we had…I guess a lot of good read and react plays in the ‘O’ zone, and I think we could’ve had a few more [goals],” Bergeron told reporters postgame. “Defensively I thought we played well. We played tight [and] stingy. The chemistry was definitely back, and the communication is always key. So I thought we did that a lot of that tonight and we’ve got to carry that forward.”

    Unlike their win against the Islanders, the Bruins started slow against the lowly Devils. But they found their rhythm — and momentum — following Bergeron’s late first period tally on a beautiful no-look pass from Pastrnak.

    Each member of the top line had their own milestones Thursday night. Bergeron secured the victory with an empty netter to cap off his fifth career 30-goal campaign. Marchand’s three assists put him at 90 points for the first time of his career. And Pastrnak — admittingly still fighting off the rust — scored for the first time since Feb. 6.

    There’s no reason to put Pastrnak anywhere else in the lineup than with his two fellow 30-goal scorers. And again, this matchup doesn’t bode well for a Maple Leafs squad that carries over their same defensive issues from last year’s first-round series.

    Bruins D layers up

    Jake DeBrusk’s second period turnover leading to Drew Stafford’s first goal in 35 games marked the Bruins’ only blemish of the evening.

    And the last two games for that matter.

    Cassidy had another night of luxury handling minutes for his defensive core in Newark. All six of Boston’s blue-liners logged at least 15 minutes of ice time Thursday with Brandon Carlo leading the way at 22:19. Zdeno Chara clocked in at under 20 minutes (19:56) giving the 6-foot-9 captain a relatively lighter workload.

    Tuukka Rask made some quality saves, including a breakaway stop on Blake Coleman. But the Bruins D never gave the Devils much room to maneuver aside from their rare odd-man rushes early on, and made their goaltender’s night relatively easy again.

    The Bruins returned home from their last three-game road trip holding the Blue Jackets to one goal on 25 shots. They carried that effort into their first two games of this trip where they held the Devils and Islanders to a total of one goal on 35 shots.

    They’re taking care of the puck and staying structured defensively. Not bad for a Boston blue-line without three of its regulars in Torey Krug (concussion), Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk (both with upper body ailments).

    Kuraly exits after blocking a shot

    Sean Kuraly took his first shift of the third period alongside his new linemates Danton Heinen and Chris Wagner. It marked one of his last shifts of the evening, but he made the most of it before heading down the tunnel.

    Kuraly’s blocked shot in the hand area at the Devils attacking end ultimately sprung Heinen and Wagner for a 2-on-1 attempt. Heinen snapped home his 10th goal of the season past Marblehead’s own Cory Schneider to give the Bruins a two-goal cushion.

    Kuraly got an assist for his effort on Heinen’s tally. He tried to give it a go again a few minutes later when he returned to the bench. But the former Sharks prospect made his way down the tunnel again after his last shift of the evening — with Noel Acciari — during a Boston penalty kill.

    All four lines contributed to the B’s 10-goal outburst over the last two games. Kuraly has two of those 10 goals — both coming Tuesday night in Long Island.

    Kuraly’s energy and engagement in all three zones makes him a staple on Boston’s bottom-six. The Bruins will miss those traits if Kuraly misses any extended time.

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