A banged-up Boston Bruins bunch — without Nick Foligno, Craig Smith and Anton Blidh — skated circles around the previously unbeaten San Jose Sharks Sunday afternoon. In the end, they needed a proverbial life preserver to secure another win.
Brad Marchand netted his fourth goal of the season a mere 38 seconds in. A Derek Forbort tally at 3:18 and a David Pastrnak power-play blast late in the opening stanza got the Bruins up and running.
Jake DeBrusk answered Jasper Weatherby’s short-side tally (32 seconds after Pastrnak’s lamplighter at 16:44 of the first) on a bank feed from Oskar Steen to secure his second goal of the year and Steen’s first career NHL point.
The Bruins entered cruise control, watching former Maple Leaf netminder James Reimer enter relief duty for Adin Hill following DeBrusk’s marker. They watched Connor Clifton display his trademark ‘Cliffy Hockey’ mantra on the likes of Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano. Trent Frederic followed Clifton’s lead in the third, finally engaging in fist-a-cuffs with Jacob Middleton after the two exchanged multiple pleasantries in the opening 40 minutes.
But a resilient Sharks squad didn’t waver. With Reimer in net during another instance of a 4-1 lead — this time on the opposite end of the 2013 spectrum — Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier tipped San Jose within striking distance on a pair of deflection tallies 1:49 apart. But Linus Ullmark (23 saves) and Boston’s D layered up, limiting San Jose’s quality scoring chances in the final 4:52 to secure the 4-3 victory.
Here’s what we learned from an entertaining Sunday matinee at TD Garden.
Marchand has more to offer
The veteran winger has already provided dazzling moments in the first two weeks of the season, beginning with his opening-night penalty shot tally. Marchand added more to his early season-highlight reel on Sunday, scoring his third of the season just 38 ticks in for his fourth goal in as many games. He capped off his afternoon with his third multi-point performance of the year following his primary assist on Forbort’s point-shot a mere 2:50 later.
Indeed, Marchand didn’t wait long to sit near the top of the NHL’s scoring leaders, averaging 1.75 points per game, albeit in a small sample size. Yet, even with the impressive numbers, Marchand senses the need for improvement.
Every NHL player senses the need for tweaks following every outing. The elite commodities, like Marchand, finite their attention to details into a well-rounded toolset. In that regard, Marchand backs up the one-day-at-a-time cliche with his dazzling efforts.
Yet, amidst all his success so far, Marchand isn’t content with his early-season roll. And his portrayal of his seven points in four-game statline provides a scary proposition if indeed this isn’t Marchand’s best version of himself.
“I just think that sometimes things go your way, and you get bounces at the right time,” Marchand said. “I don’t think I’ve played my best hockey. Regardless of the points, I think I can do better and manage pucks better, and I’ve felt tired a few games. So, I still think I can be better than what I’ve been. Points…it’s part of it, honestly, but I want to be happy with where I’m playing and how I’m playing. And I’m not quite happy enough with how things have been.”
Forbort embraces his closer role
For as talented as their puck-moving core was last year, the Bruins could hardly rely a shutdown blue-liner outside of Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. They found that out during last year’s second-round exit to the Islanders after Carlo and Miller succumbed to injury.
With Miller retired and Jeremy Lauzon selected by the expansion Seattle Kraken, the Bruins needed to find another stay-at-home, minutes-eating defenseman. They found their guy in Forbort, inking the veteran to a three-year, $9 million contract on the first day of free agency.
The Bruins reaped the benefits of Forbort’s signing on Sunday. They called his number in the closing moments to secure two points after Hertl and Meier cut the Boston lead to a single goal in the closing moments. The Sharks fired six shots at Ullmark in the last four minutes and change. Forbort, ever embracing his shutdown role, provided cover, provided a stout layer on Boston’s D in that stretch, keeping San Jose’s opportunities within the perimeter and preventing many quality looks while ragging precious minutes off the clock.
“I love it,” Forbort said of the closing moments. “Being out there with a one-goal lead and the goalie pulled is my favorite time to play hockey.”
Forbort provided a rare offensive outburst as well, tallying a pair of points in the winning effort. The goals and assists are just a bonus. Instead, the Bruins brought him aboard to rag on pucks along the boards and prevent the rubber biscuit from finding the back of the net in pivotal moments. And, of course, he’s happy to oblige.
Steen and Jack Studnicka ‘did their job’ in callup duty
The Bruins encountered their first battle with the injury bug this week with Foligno, Smith and Blidh all hitting the shelf. On Sunday, they turned to Steen and Studnicka to fill in following their recent promotions from Providence.
Both Steen and Studnicka found themselves in bottom-six roles for Sunday’s matinee. Studnicka’s fourth-line assignment with Frederic and Karson Kuhlman, in particular, came about rather curiously after the 2017 second-round selection spent the preseason in a top-six role while Charlie Coyle healed from off-season knee surgery.
Neither did anything to stand out aside from Steen’s first career assist. At times, they both chose to set up their teammates over shooting the puck when the opportunities presented themselves. But the top-tier prospects didn’t do anything to hinder the team’s chances at victory, either.
“The puck was following him tonight. He’s got to learn how to shoot the puck coming off the wing. He did once in the [third] period, but other times he had opportunities that he’s deferring,” Cassidy said of Steen. “We talked about that [with Steen]. The young guys, at some point, have got to attack the net and be selfish when the puck is on their stick in terms of getting it to the net. But, he worked hard, and he was in good spots.”
“Studs, I didn’t notice him as much, so he was probably good defensively if that’s the case,” Cassidy said of Studnicka. “Offensively…I think Kuhly [Kuhlman] had a few good rushes there, so [Studnicka] made a few plays.”
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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