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  • Takeaways: Bruins “white knuckle” their way to victory over Coyotes

    James Garrison December 9, 2023

    Despite 40 minutes of line juggling, the Boston Bruins collectively stepped up to take down the Arizona Coyotes and return to the win column. While the Bruins’ depth showed up, David Pastrnak also had a vintage performance. 

    Linus Ullmark was also very good, stopping 31 of 34 shots faced. 

    “Linus was fantastic,” head coach Jim Montgomery said. “And he needed to be. We gave up too much.”

    The Bruins got on the board first, as someone not named Marchand finally lit the lamp for Boston. Pastrnak stole the puck from Juuso Valimaki, crept out from behind the net, and fired home his 15th of the season. 

    The third line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and James van Riemsdyk doubled Boston’s lead just 48 seconds later. Frederic fed Coyle for his 10th goal of the season as the Bruins capitalized on a Coyotes turnover.

    The Bruins continued to pile the offense on the Coyotes early in the second period. Pastrnak made a slick seam pass to feed Kevin Shattenkirk, who served as the quarterback on Boston’s top power play unit in Charlie McAvoy’s absence. 

    The Coyotes responded, though, pouncing on the Bruins for two quick strikes. Clayton Keller potted his ninth of the year, with Michael Carcone making it a one-goal game just 32 seconds later. 

    Boston managed to put the cap back on the bottle and rediscovered its game midway through the second. Danton Heinen continued his impressive run with a tremendous individual effort to put the Bruins back up by two with his fourth goal of the season. 

    “We want people to be aggressive and want the puck,” Montgomery said. “[Heinen] wants the puck, that’s a good thing.”

    The Coyotes kept pushing, pulling back within one on Logan Crouse’s third-period tally. But the Bruins had one final response, with Pastrnak potting his second of the afternoon to put the finishing touches on their 18th victory of the season.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins “white knuckled” their way to victory.

    Bruins collectively step up after Zacha injury

    On Thursday night, the Bruins found themselves down their top defenseman. On Saturday, they lost their top center

    The Bruins announced in the second period that Pavel Zacha suffered an upper-body injury and would not return. 

    “Upper-body,” Montgomery said regarding Zacha. “I’ll have more details Monday.”

    Forced into an 11-forward rotation, the Bruins got the job done with some playing a more significant role than usual, including Morgan Geekie. The former Seattle Kraken centerman provided a noticeable spark as Montgomery moved him up and down Boston’s lineup during the final 40 minutes of play.

    “Obviously any time a player of [Zacha’s] caliber goes down, it’s kind of up to us,” Geekie said. “We’ve got a good group, everyone’s gonna step up, everyone’s gonna play more minutes. I’m just trying to go out there and do my job.”

    The all-situations forward eventually earned a bounce after he threw a puck into the mixer for Pastrnak to deposit, extending Boston’s lead to 5-3 late in the third. 

    After several mistakes in the first 40 minutes, Matt Poitras was not part of the winning equation in the third period. The rookie center played a season-low 8:26 on Saturday.

    “Valuing game management is something that we’ve talked to [Poitras] about,” Montgomery said. “It’s still lacking in his game right now and we’re paid to win hockey games, and I’m going to go with guys that are going to win us hockey games.”

    Heinen continues to impress

    Heinen didn’t have a defined role with the Bruins after he signed a PTO in training camp. His status remained cloudy as the 28-year-old remained on the sidelines eight games into the season. 

    With a cap hit of $775,000, Heinen has been quite the bargain for the Bruins.

    Like many of Boston’s forwards, Heinen has been utilized in many situations during the first half of the season, but has recently found a home alongside Poitras and Jake DeBrusk. After Poitras pried the puck loose for Heinen in the second period, the winger cut to the middle and fired home his fourth of the season past Connor Ingram. 

    “[Poitras] won a battle there on the wall,” Heinen said. “A good reload by him and then, you know, a little chip there to me and I was lucky enough to put it in.”

    Pastrnak posts three-point night

    With some of its top contributors out of commission, Boston’s best player led the way to victory on Saturday. 

    Pastrnak got things started in the first period and closed things out in the third. Sandwiched between Pastrnak’s opening and closing goals was a “double-doink” that would’ve given Pastrnak another hat trick, as well as a terrific seam pass to Shattenkirk.

    “Unreal,” Montgomery said of Pastrnak’s first goal. “Goes in, wins a battle. “When your best players win battles, it becomes contagious. If you have second and third effort, you find ways to have success. It’s amazing what effort overcomes.”

    With his pair of goals and an assist against the Coyotes, Pastrnak sits tied for second in the league in scoring with 39 points entering the evening slate of games.

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