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  • What we learned: Halak and Bruins down Rangers on ‘Fight Night’

    Tim Rosenthal February 12, 2021
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    Throughout its illustrious tenure, Madison Square Garden hosted several historic boxing matches. On Friday night, the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers filled out a pay-per-view worthy fight card in their own right.

    Following a quiet first period from both squads, the Bruins took exceptions to Jacob Truba’s second period hit on Jakub Zboril. Charlie McAvoy came to Zboril’s aid shortly after Trouba’s hit. Later Trent Frederic dropped the gloves with Brendan Lemieux in a spirited bout, with the two jawing at each other afterward on the way to the penalty box. Jeremy Lauzon and Pavel Buchnevich capped off the fight fest with a decisive victory for the Boston defenseman.

    Technically there were only two bouts as McAvoy and Trouba only received roughing minors following their exchange. But the fight quantity surpassed the goal output on this night.

    Jaroslav Halak and Igor Shesterskin each gave their teams a chance for two points with quality stops, especially on the penalty kill. The respective goalies combined for 50 saves.

    Only one puck found the back of the net. Nick Ritchie tallied a greasy goal at 9:27 of the second period — his fifth of the season and first even-strength marker — as the Bruins outlasted the Rangers in a gritty and physical contest inside the world’s most famous arena.

    Here’s what we learned after the Bruins extended their point streak to 10 games following their two-game sweep of the Rangers.

    Trouba’s hit on Zboril sparked the fisticuffs

    The Bruins and Rangers came out flat in the opening 20 minutes. It didn’t take long after that to establish some tensions with one another in the middle stanza after Trouba’s high hit to Zboril.

    McAvoy stepped in for a tussle with Trouba in the ensuing moments of the Zboril hit. Trouba received two separate minor penalties compared to McAvoy’s one.

    Ritchie put the Bruins ahead with his tally shortly after Boston’s third power play attempt expired. Frederic found himself lined up next to Lemieux on the ensuing faceoff. The former likely took exception to the latter’s early hit from behind on Sean Kuraly, and the two combatants dropped the gloves immediately after the puck dropped.

    Another rendevous followed with Kuraly, Brad Marchand and Brett Howden serving as the primary culprits. Both teams had near-capacity-filled penalty boxes at the 10:41 mark of the middle stanza.

    Lauzon and Buchenevich capped off a crazy middle stanza with their bout at 15:14. Boston’s second-year defenseman also received a 10-minute misconduct following his decision over the Rangers forward.

    “As a team, we needed to get things turned around,” Lauzon said. “We started playing physical, and it paid off.”

    Perhaps this is the product of two teams being sick of one another in the second game of their series. We’ll see if tensions escalate when the Rangers come to TD Garden on March 11 and 13.

    Boston’s penalty kill capped off a perfect night with 6-on-4 kill

    The Bruins and Rangers combined for 10 attempts on the man advantage. Neither power play found the back of the net.

    Boston’s penalty kill, in particular, took center stage on Friday with their 6-for-six showing. Cassidy’s bunch allowed a mere five power play shots on net as they spent nearly a fifth of the game killing New York’s struggling man-advantage unit.

    The pivotal kill came in a 6-on-4 situation with 1:02 left in regulation. The Bruins accomplished that feat with two regular shorthanded contributors when McAvoy joined Lauzon after shooting the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game minor.

    Cassidy trotted out Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo for the final kill. The Rangers never landed a shot on goal in the last 62 seconds as the Bruins — particularly Miller and Carlo — mucked things up along the boards and cleared the puck out of the attacking end twice to secure the win.

    “I loved the way they defended,” Cassidy said after heaping particular praise on Miller and Carlo in the final shorthanded situation. “That PK in the end was a classic example of them working to keep the puck out of the net by being smart, and being strong.”

    Boston’s PK, ranked tops in the league with an 89.8 percent rate, went a perfect 8-for-8 in its two games with the Rangers. And in their rare instances of defensive breakdowns — be it on special teams or even strength — the Bruins have trust in their last line of defense to come through.

    Halak remains in control against the Rangers

    Sometimes you can’t explain specific statistical successes. Take for instance Halak, who earned his fourth career shutout over the Broadway Blueshirts.

    “I just try to play my best every night, and it’s not going to work out every night. Halak said after improving to 23-8-1 all time against the Rangers. “But it seems like it’s working against these guys.”

    The Rangers sit eighth in the league on average shots on goal per game with 31.5. They only landed 20 on Friday thanks as Halak got the better of the Blueshirts again thanks to his stout rebound control. In the rare instances of secondary scoring chances, Boston’s D stood tall and cleared the puck out of danger.

    The Bruins sit atop the league in average goals against per game (2.00) and shots on goal allowed per contest (24.2). This was supposed to be a transitional year after Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug departed for new homes in the off-season. Instead, they’ve seen further growth from McAvoy and Carlo anchoring the right-side of the blue-line, the likes of Lauzon, Zboril and Connor Clifton stepping up in increased roles and an inspirational return by Kevan Miller.

    Combine that with Halak and Tuukka Rask anchoring the pipes and you have yourself one of a handful of recipes for Boston’s early-season success.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.

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