Continuing their dominance over the west coast – and the NHL at large – the Boston Bruins earned their seventh consecutive win.
An entertaining back-and-forth battle through the first 40 — highlighted by two goals from Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy front-runner Connor McDavid — and a frantic final five minutes of play provided a sense of excitement to Boston’s loyal late-night viewing audience on the east coast on Monday.
McDavid displayed his dynamic scoring touch early, notching a goal just 2:17 in after firing a clean snapshot past Jeremy Swayman on the heels of a long stretch pass from Leon Draisaitl.
Behind their two newest additions, the Bruins countered McDavid’s first of two tallies 13 seconds later. Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov notched their first assists with the Bruins after finding Tomas Nosek all alone in front.
Orlov provided another helping hand in the first after interrupting a McDavid feed with some slick stickwork at the blue-line. The counterattack sprung Nick Foligno for a give-and-go sequence with Charlie Coyle en route to his 10th goal of the season.
On the heels of multiple questionable calls on both ends during the middle stanza, the Bruins needed to answer McDavid’s 4-on-4 tally after the Oilers captain reached the 50-goal mark for the first time in his illustrious career.
McDavid’s second goal of the night hardly rattled the league-leading Bruins. A diving effort from Pavel Zacha on a secondary scoring chance put the Bruins ahead for good late in the second period.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 46-8-5 following their 3-2 win.
The Bruins still sense improvements amid their record-breaking pace
Boston’s up-tempo defensive corps has been instrumental to the team’s success in the first year under Jim Montgomery. They’ve displayed an active offensive approach to assist in transition and set up their fluid attacking zone rhythm without sacrificing their stout defensive zone coverage.
For a team who sits first in fewest goals per game and possesses the third-highest goals scored per tilt, the Bruins still managed to land a defensive upgrade with Orlov’s arrival.
In his second game with the club, Orlov notched two assists and recorded a pair of hits in 19:17 time on ice — all while spending a significant time playing against McDavid. His puck-handling abilities, accurate passes and decisiveness all stood out in Monday’s win.
Like Orlov, Hathaway made a stronger impression against Edmonton than he had in Vancouver on Saturday.
Hathaway notched his first assist as a Bruin on Nosek’s tying goal in the first, while also registering a shot, hit, block, and a plus-1 rating in 10:47 time on ice. His physical and heavy forechecking presence is already meshing well within Boston’s bottom six.
Through two games, Orlov and Hathaway provided more stability to an already deep squad. And they’re experiencing the bond within a tight-knit locker room that’s ever-eager to showcase further improvement during the stretch run.
“I don’t think anyone is satisfied in here,” Foligno told reporters. “I think we’re really excited about our group. But we all know there’s more to do, and that’s the mindset that’s allowed us to have the success we’ve had.”
Every Bruin has brought into this philosophy, including Swayman.
Boston’s second-year goalie delivered another solid performance, stopping 22 Edmonton shots to improve to 15-4-4 on the season. But he still senses he can reach another level, especially after watching his good friend Linus Ullmark notch his first career goal in Vancouver on Saturday.
“I got to work on scoring goals, I guess,” Swayman joked to NESN’s Sophia Jurkstowicz.
Hall out, Marchand, Bergeron, and Krejci provide some scares
Brad Marchand inadvertently collided with Oilers defenseman Darnel Nurse during his first shift. Boston’s top-line left-winger showcased discomfort and made his way down the tunnel after apparently catching Nurse’s skate blade in the ankle.
Marchand’s brief exit Monday came as Taylor Hall returned to Boston on a precautionary basis because of a lower-body injury. That wasn’t the only injury scare coming out of Monday”s performance in Edmonton.
David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron both drew blood during the closing period. Despite their facial cuts, Boston’s top two centermen closed out Monday’s tilt without missing a shift.
With Boston only now returning to full health — sans Hall’s reportedly brief outage — anxieties regarding injured Bruins are approaching a season-high during the final weeks of the regular season.
Nosek’s work ethic continues to shine since his return
While Boston’s record wouldn’t give it away, there’s no denying that the team missed Nosek’s work ethic. Nosek. The fourth-line center missed 12 games while healing from a non-displaced fracture on his left foot.
A significant cog on Boston’s penalty kill and a heavy contributor to the team’s overall faceoff success, Nosek’s blue-collar skillset continues to garner reverence from the Black and Gold faithful: a fandom who know very well how important such players are to playoff success.
Nosek has a goal and an assist to go along with four shots on net and a 76 percent success rate at the faceoff dot since returning to the lineup on Saturday.
The hard-working Czech remains only a piece of Boston’s impeccable depth, which was once again noticeable in Monday’s win.
“It’s been the difference for most of the year,” Montgomery said to NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “We got six d-men, seven d-men that can really play hockey, and then we got four lines that can play hockey. Really like their five-on-five game tonight.”
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