They’re getting hot at the right time.
The Bruins are a step closer to having a cleaner bill of health with Patrice Bergeron potentially returning this weekend. Yet, they found ways to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff picture without their top-line center. And now they are finding more ways to win.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad didn’t miss a beat from Monday’s impressive win in Montreal. The Bruins earned a 3-1 victory over a red-hot Ducks squad — winners of eight of ten entering Thursday’s matchup — and snapped a nine-game skid against Anaheim dating back to Oct. 31, 2013.
Here is what we learned from Boston’s impressive win at TD Garden.
The power play got back on track.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 21, 2018
Every trend has its peaks and valleys in the National Hockey League. The Bruins’ fifth-ranked power play went through a rough December stretch where they scored just four times in 29 attempts entering Thursday’s tilt against the 14th-ranked Ducks penalty kill.
Boston looked more like its fifth-ranked power play against Anaheim, scoring twice in four attempts. Improved decision-making and fluid puck movement led to open spaces and solid scoring chances while keeping the Ducks PK on their heels, especially in their last three attempts.
“We’ve kind of gone through some ups and downs, some stretches where we get complacent and not working as hard but tonight we worked,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who factored into both power play tallies with a goal and an assist. “That first one was a little bit ugly but we worked through it and we got rewarded on the next two obviously with some faceoff plays, some stuff we designed before the game, and we executed well.”
Krug’s two-point outing was just a blip on a night of milestones.
It was night of milestones for Krug, Backes and Krejci.
Speaking of Krug, the undrafted free agent never envisioned being on top of any lists upon entering the professional ranks. Well, he now sits first in a prestigious category.
Krug’s brilliant assist on David Pastrnak’s 22nd of the season at 8:19 of the second period marked the 200th of his career. That total now sits first among all American-born players in team history as he surpassed Mike O’Connell for the honor.
David Backes notched the secondary assist, marking the 300th helper of his NHL career. Yet, Backes somehow wound up with the souvenir puck after the officials handed the rubber over to the Boston bench.
No hard feelings for Krug, though.
“It’s exciting to see the team do well, and see the milestones pile up,” Krug said. “I think Backes took my puck (laughs), but he has more [career] assists and he’s probably more excited about it, so he can have it.”
A pair of milestones on the same night is quite impressive in and of itself. But David Krejci added one of his own. His seventh of the season — a slap shot right above the right faceoff circle — at 5:21 of the third marked the 600th point of his NHL career. The Czech centerman is seven points away from surpassing Terry O’Reilly for ninth on the team’s all-time scoring list.
“Well listen, it’s a team game. But individually these players are obviously enjoying having a certain level of success, and if the individuals are having success, it breeds team success and vice versa,” Cassidy said about the trio of milestones.
“So I’m happy for all those guys, you know Krejci and Krug have been great Bruins for a number of years, and Backes not as long as those guys but a great NHL player for a long time. So, it’s nice to see them healthy you know. Krejci looks good this year and, we’ve had a few hiccups in the past, setbacks, but this year he’s been good.”
The Bruins are far from done with tracking milestones this season. The next likely achievement will come when Bergeron skates in his 1,000th career NHL regular season game. That feat will likely happen in February assuming the longest-tenured Bruin stays healthy upon his impending return.
The Bruins were disappointed to end Jaroslav Halak’s shutout run.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 21, 2018
The Bruins looked like a totally different team over their last two games, especially on the defensive end. They held the Ducks and the Habs to a combined 47 shots on net in that span and gave Jaroslav Halak plenty of time and space to work with.
Halak stood whenever the Bruins needed a timely save. The journeyman earned a shutout in Montreal on Monday. He was 4:16 away from recording another zero before Josh Mahura’s shot from the point found the back of the net.
Krejci was on the ice on that faceoff. He would’ve loved a clean win on the draw against Carter Rowney. Instead, the puck hit his shin and the veteran found himself in the minus category on Boston’s lone blemish.
“Yeah I really wanted him to get another shutout, just kind of a tough break,” Krejci said. “I won the face-off, hit my shin and bounced back the other way. It happens sometimes. He still should be happy with these last couple of games. He played really well.”
It wasn’t perfect, but it was excellent. The Bruins finally got the job done in their first win over the Ducks since the day after the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series triumph. (Ironic how some things present themselves, isn’t it?)
And now we wait for the status of a certain four-time Selke Award winner entering their final weekend slate — against the Predators (at TD Garden) and Hurricanes (in Carolina) — before the Christmas break.