What we learned: Bruins bag Maple Leafs to snap the losing streak
The Boston Bruins carried a season-long four-game losing streak heading into Friday’s tilt in Toronto. Yet, their skid paled in comparison to the Maple Leafs’ inconsistent start to the 2019-20 campaign.
The capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd expected a little desperation from the two teams as they looked to end their respective slumps in this mid-November matchup. But the injury-plagued Bruins had a little more jump against Auston Matthews and company.
More importantly, the Bruins stayed assertive in all three zones. Their attention to detail — even with a somewhat sluggish second period — and opportunistic mindset led to a 4-2 victory. Here’s what we learned as the Bruins snapped their first four-game skid since November 2017.
Brad Marchand takes over in the third
We’ve heard this quote time and again from Cassidy: “our best players need to be our best players.”
Yes, it’s cliche, but it’s true. The Bruins need their best players to perform at a high level, especially when the team encounters roadblocks during an 82-game slate.
Marchand took those reigns during the final stanza. And he didn’t waste any time in putting the team on his back.
With the score tied 1-1, Marchand deked past Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly and banked home his own rebound past goaltender Frederik Andersen in only 11 seconds.
The Bruins needed another response from Marchand after Sami Kapanen netted his sixth of the year just 3:43 later. The veteran winger, playing in his 700th career game, scored his second rebound goal of the final stanza at 5:04 — and his 13th of the season — to put Boston ahead for good.
“Just trying to get it to the net,” Marchand told reporters about his approach that led to his two third period tallies. “The first [goal], especially, I was just trying to get it there and the second one I was trying to [shoot] a little bit higher, and I actually should’ve had a little more patience and gone to my backhand, but it worked out.”
It sure did work out for Marchand with this year’s Hockey Hall of Fame class — sans legendary Boston College coach Jerry York — in attendance three days ahead of Monday’s enshrinement on Toronto’s famed Yonge Street.
Tuukka Rask stands tall
He’s hardly the reason for the Bruins’ four-game skid, but it’s hardly a coincidence that Tuukka Rask’s slump went hand in hand with the team’s drought. And, like Marchand, the Bruins needed Rask to stand tall and stop the bleeding.
The Finn earned his first win since Nov. 2 following his 29-save outing Friday night. A Matthews tip — albeit with a high stick — and a defensive breakdown in back of his net on Kapanen’s third period tally marked his only two blemishes of the evening.
Aside from that, the Leafs rarely developed any second or third scoring chances. Rask’s steady rebound control along with punishing hits and quick outlet passes from Boston’s D kept Toronto from garnering sustainable attacking zone time.
“He was really good,” Cassidy said to the press about his starting netminder. “The first goal — from our perspective — we look at it us unlucky; from [their perspective] it’s a good hand-eye coordination play. The other goal, he’s trying to recover — we broke down and they made a good play. So I don’t fault him on either goal.”
“Rebound control was good,” Cassidy added about Rask. “I thought he kept the front of his net clean for the most part and no hairy moments from either. Nice, steady, solid game for him that we needed and we’re accustomed to, and he gave it to us.”
The Bruins needed a nice solid game. So did Rask.
“I think just for the team, you know we kind of let our game slip a little bit for the past four or five games,” Rask stated. “We played parts of good hockey, but we collapsed a little too much. And for myself, it was good to bounce back with a win. So we hope to build on this.”
Rask will have to wait to build on his latest effort as the Bruins will tab Jaroslav Halak for Saturday’s tilt with the league-leading Washington Capitals at TD Garden.
Anders Bjork showcasing he can do the “little things”
Bjork’s come a long way since his first two seasons. And no we aren’t talking about his stats — though he’s slowly starting to find a little consistency in the scoring department — but rather his assertiveness away from the puck.
The former Notre Dame standout moved up to the second line with David Krejci and Charlie Coyle as Cassidy dealt with another night of makeshift lines with Zach Senyshyn going on injured reserve after Tuesday’s shootout loss to the Panthers.
Bjork made the most of his season-long 16:29 of ice time; tallying a secondary assist on Coyle’s goal along with a hit and two blocked shots. But, again, the stats didn’t tell the whole story here. Just look at how he developed a scoring chance after shaking off 6-foot-3 defenseman Jake Muzzin early in the first period.
The Bruins envisioned Bjork as a top-six contributor upon his arrival from South Bend three years ago. He admittingly hasn’t lived up to expectations after injuries and inconsistencies plagued his first two professional hockey seasons.
But Bjork had a pep in his step at the start of training camp. He’s slowly, but surely rounding into a well-rounded three-zone player. His improved play away from the puck will only lead to positive results — both on the stat sheet and with the trained eye — in the long run.