Things are still a work in progress, but the Boston Bruins got a needed all-around effort from all 20 guys Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden.
Yes, Boston’s first line did the bulk of the scoresheet-related work again, as they set the tone with two power-play goals and a late third-period empty-netter. However, the second, third and fourth lines, along with their three defensive pairings, also did their share of the lifting against Connor McDavid and company.
“Special teams were good, and obviously that makes a difference; we got a couple [of goals] on our power play. Discipline was good. Team defense was good,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following Boston’s 4-1 victory. “We used our whole bench [and] our backup goalie, so everyone was contributing.”
Here is what we learned as the Bruins established their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Bruins’ D contains McDavid despite early score
NHL defenders can only do so much against the Oilers’ McDavid, a two-time scoring champion and 2017 Hart Trophy winner. Therefore, limiting him in both scoring chances and stat sheet contributions is a promising sign.
The top overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft did, however, get the first laugh when some good old puck luck helped him split Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron en route to his first of the season at 3:43 in the first period. Chara, Bergeron and company kept McDavid at bay after that; the latter, along with fellow linemates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ty Rattie, combined for just two points and nine shots on goal against a stingy Black and Gold blue-line.
“I thought [we did] pretty well,” Cassidy said about handling McDavid. “Like I said, on the first one Bergy [Bergeron] is working back, Zee [Chara] is up, it was a bit of tough [luck] and [the puck] finds him [McDavid] and he just goes. It wasn’t like he got behind us free, it was more about the puck squirting through to him and [he] kind of got between.”
Pastrnak counters McDavid
Like McDavid, David Pastrnak makes things look easy with his offensive creativity. His latest highlight-reel goal Thursday night will unquestionably be shown in several goals-of-the-year packages.
Pastrnak deked his way through the Oilers defense at ease with his jaw-dropping goal at 9:20 of the first — 5:37 after McDavid’s breakaway tally — to even things up at 1-1.
“I don’t know. It was a pretty funny goal,” Pastrnak said about the “thought process” that led to his fourth goal of the season. “It was good to get to the middle after a broken play, and I had the D lined up, so I figured I [would] try it and it worked out.”
It was a creative and important goal for the Bruins, who were certainly energized following Pastrnak’s fourth of the season — as were the 17,565 in attendance.
“Who doesn’t appreciate a move like that?,” said Cassidy. “You don’t like it against you, but it was a hell of a play.”
Another impressive start for Halak
Bruins GM Don Sweeney struck out on signing John Tavares this summer. But adding Jaroslav Halak to replace Anton Khudobin as Boston’s backup goalie may go down as one of his better off-eason additions.
Through three appearances — two of them starts — Halak is earning his case for more playing time behind Tuukka Rask. On Thursday, the journeyman netminder picked up right where he left off from his 32-save shutout in Buffalo, as he made some timely saves and kept the Oilers at bay by stopping 25 of 26 shots.
Sure, the Bruins’ defense gave Halak plenty of room to maneuver around the net and make those key stops. But the Slovak’s consistency in the early part of the season will only benefit the Bruins in the long run.
“The guys make it easier on me,” Halak said about Boston’s back end. “They’ve done a really good job of boxing out guys, or letting me see the puck for the most part. If [there are times] that I don’t see the puck, they block the shots, and there weren’t any secondary chances out there.”
Nordstrom adds an intriguing dynamic to the second line
Joakim Nordstrom isn’t your typical top-six forward. Sure, he’s energetic and a solid back checker, but his offensive skill set isn’t anything to write home about.
With Ryan Donato sitting on Level 9 after a shaky performance against the Senators on Monday, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy rolled the dice and slotted Nordstrom with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line. That gamble paid off as the former Hurricanes and Blackhawks winger tallied his first of the season on a great odd-man rush feed from Krejci to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead at 15:13 of the first.
Nordstrom ended his evening with two shots on goal and a plus-1 rating in 13:43 of ice time. Not bad for a player that normally plays on the bottom six.
“It felt pretty good. I thought we had some good opportunities; we had the puck a lot,” Nordstrom said about his first appearance with Krejci and DeBrusk. “So you know, for being the first game, I think it’s definitely something we can build off of.”
Nordstrom and the Bruins do indeed have something to build off of heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. matchup with the Red Wings.