In a battle between the NHL’s two top teams, the Boston Bruins developed some rather quick and healthy habits against the Vancouver Canucks.
Yet, the Bruins appeared to have some carryover effect from one of their worst performances of the season against the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. In the first 17 seconds, Dakota Johnson got behind the Boston D for a breakaway bid, forcing Jakub Lauko into a holding penalty.
Lauko’s penalty only served as a blip. The Bruins promptly went to work on the PK, setting the tone in the opening stanza with a pair of shorthanded goals.
A mere 15 seconds after Lauko’s penalty, Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle created a turnover on a forecheck. The duo quickly followed up to connect on Boston’s first tally as the top-line centerman fed the fifth-leading scorer in franchise history.
Danton Heinen converted on a shorthanded breakaway, tucking his snapshot underneath the crossbar to extend Boston’s lead to 2-0 15:05 later.
Beyond their exceptional penalty kill, the Bruins overwhelmed a skilled Canucks bunch at even strength. They played to their identity, winning multiple puck battles along the walls and in open ice to set up their transition game and attacking zone setup.
Even with a fortunate bounce along the way, the Bruins’ two second period tallies 15 seconds apart exemplified their work ethic at even strength.
On the heels of David Pastrnak shattering his stick in pieces, a falling Morgan Geekie somehow got a stick on the Czech’s shot attempt and earned his break after the puck deflected off Tyler Myers following an initial save from Thatcher Demko and into the back of the net.
On the ensuing shift, James van Riemsdyk sprung Pavel Zacha on a breakaway for another insurance marker.
An opportunistic penalty kill got the Bruins off and running.
On Tuesday, Boston’s top-tier penalty kill encountered a blur during one of their worst outings of the year, allowing two on the man advantage against a Flames squad inching closer to another rebuild.
Against the best team in the west, the Bruins collectively kept Vancouver’s seventh-ranked power play in check.
Going up against elite talent like Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes, the Bruins allowed a mere one shot on net in their three PK situations. Within those trio of kills, they took calculated risks in transition to create their own shorthanded scoring opportunities.
The Bruins landed three PK shots, converting twice behind Marchand’s net-front tally 32 seconds in and Heinen’s assertive breakaway tally.
“It just happened to work out that way because I think we’re playing the right way. We were together — and that’s our defensemen too, not just me and [Marchand] — and everyone is kind of tight we’re reading the play,” Coyle said about Boston’s PK.
“When those opportunities present itself, then we’re in good position to capitalize on that. It was great by Marshy to stop there and put a rebound home. And even Danton, too, where he just breaks through. He’s in the right spot in the middle; they turn it over, and he just springs forward and makes a great play.”
Before long, the Bruins extended their lead to 4-0 on Geekie’s ninth of the year and Zacha’s 11th. Over the next 39:25, the Bruins went into shutdown mode.
Boston’s layered D kept Vancouver in check.
Time and again, the Bruins watched Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman bail them out with multiple saves in high-danger scoring areas. On this night, Boston’s D protected the middle of the ice as the forwards played a supporting role to prevent transition.
“I was very impressed. We said that beforehand that it wasn’t tolerable to do what we did last game and the guys really took it to heart,” Ullmark said. “We came out there flying. Obviously, Marshy scores that highlight-reel goal, and after that, we just kept up going.”
More importantly, the Bruins never deviated from their defensive setup.
With a comfortable cushion to work with, Jim Montgomery’s squad remained disciplined and limited their turnovers. Unlike Tuesday’s matchup with Calgary, the Bruins forced the Canucks into perimeter-based scoring chances within their attacking zone setup while even allowing even fewer opportunities in transition.
“I think the way we kept coming back, getting above them and not giving up odd-man rushes,” Montgomery said on what stood out on Boston’s defensive effort. “I think that was the most pleasant thing because when you have the lead, you don’t want to give them opportunities to get back in it either by taking penalties or giving up odd-man rushes. And I liked the way we continued to hang onto pucks in the offensive zone.”
The Bruins continue to embrace the bounce-back “process”
Sure, they haven’t sustained their record-breaking pace from a year ago — and no one expected that. But like last year, the Bruins developed a healthy trait of learning from previous rough outings.
Even before this near two-year stretch, they’ve always prided themselves on their bounce-back habits. Both Montgomery and his predecessor, Bruce Cassidy, credited the leadership within the room for establishing such resilience.
On Thursday, they turned around from one of their worst outings of the season and formed one of the better performances of their centennial campaign. And they’ll continue to embrace that process as they face more peaks and valleys during the home stretch.
“It’s part of the process as well, and we talk a lot about that,” Ullmark said. “We don’t worry too much about the results. Obviously, that’s what you’re going to look at in the end. But if you keep worrying about the process more than the results, then the results will take care of themselves.”
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.
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.