Despite speculation of a hangover following a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at historic Notre Dame Stadium, the Bruins picked up right where they left off on Thursday night.
Boston’s offense was firing on all cylinders and churned out six goals — courtesy of David Pastrnak, John Moore, and multi-goal outings from Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand — en route to beating the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames 6-4 in game No. 41.
“We’re kind of rolling right now,” Marchand said after a third consecutive win, albeit one to forget defensively. “I think we have to be happy to come off of such a high last game with the Winter Classic and coming home, it sometimes can be kind of a letdown, but I thought we played really well.”
Officially halfway through the season, the Bruins sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 50 points and are on pace to reach the ever-coveted 100-point mark.
“Well, I feel good about it, to be honest with you,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’d like to think we’ll get better, simply because a lot of the guys that were out that are key contributors are now healthy and the only one left is Charlie [McAvoy]. Charlie’s progressing well.”
Here’s what we learned at TD Garden.
David Pastrnak and Johnny Gaudreau take center stage
The NHL released the 2019 All-Star rosters on Wednesday night, consisting of 40 names. Among those selected to participate in the festivities in San Jose on Jan. 26 were David Pastrnak and Johnny Gaudreau.
The duo of elite-caliber wingers showed up to Causeway Street and put on quite a performance. Each finished the game with a goal and an assist, and made impacts beyond the stat sheet.
Gaudreau, with 61 points through 42 games, constantly got behind Boston’s defense for clear-cut breakaway chances. Luckily, Jaroslav Halak was up to the task on most, or else the former Boston College speedster might have changed the outcome by himself. The Salem, N.J., native eventually broke through and snuck a shot past Halak on an extremely awkward angle in the third period.
Cassidy was almost at a loss for words postgame on how to defend Gaudreau and chuckled at the fact that he lost count of how many chances he had.
“We ran through the gamut with Gaudreau. I think he got behind a few of our guys, so we just tried something different,” the third-year bench boss stated. “Well, we won the game. He scored the goal, but I thought it was probably his worst opportunity of the night. Typical him. He’s smart and sees a little opening when the goalies — I don’t know if cheating’s the right word — and scores.”
Pastrnak wasn’t too shabby either.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 4, 2019
The 22-year-old Czech tallied his 25th goal of the season on a third-period power play and ultimately changed the course of the game.
With the Bruins up just a single tally, Torey Krug and Pastrnak barreled up ice. Krug intentionally fired a laser of a slap-pass to the end boards, the bounce directly onto Pastrnak’s stick.
“Yeah, we actually had that in our pre-scout. They stack the blue line pretty hard, and we were going to do it the first entry when we were all together in the first period,” Cassidy noted.
Pastrnak did the rest.
“I think we’ve done it three times this year where we’ve actually gotten a chance off of it,” Krug said. “A great play by [Pastrnak] to collect it and bring it to his backhand. It’s a good courage play to bring it to the backhand because you don’t know who is coming from the other side. Obviously, it turned out to be a big goal in the game.”
This is the last time Pastrnak and Gaudreau showcase their all-star talents in a Bruins-Flames matchup this season, but it won’t be the last time they share the ice together.
Kevan Miller’s 300th game
It’s rare the Bruins struggle with toughness, but this year’s squad rarely showcases a glimpse of the “Big Bad Bruins.” Kevan Miller’s return to the lineup at least eased the discussion of needing an enforcer.
Suiting up for his 300th career NHL game, the 31-year-old bruiser made his presence felt.
In the early stages of the second period, Miller very nearly sent Michael Frolik into the Calgary bench. A dazed Frolik got up wanting to engage in fisticuffs, but he had other ideas when Miller began to drop his gloves.
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 4, 2019
The Bruins certainly need Miller’s physical presence during the second half of the season.
Special teams miscues
Despite having the league’s fifth-best power play, the Bruins can’t seem to help themselves giving up goals down the other end. They lead the league with nine shorthanded goals allowed.
The Bruins found themselves in a prime position to strike first with a 5-on-3 opportunity early in the opening period. It didn’t go the way that Cassidy drew it up.
Mark Jankowski picked up a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and waltzed right into the attacking zone untouched. Following a harmless wrist shot, several Bruins (including Pastrnak) stood around aimlessly and watched Frolik — fresh out of the penalty box — as he tapped in a rebound to give the Flames a lead.
The Flames strike first
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) January 4, 2019
The Bruins offense bailed the defense out on Thursday, but it goes without saying that they need to clean up their mistakes, especially on the power play. High-caliber teams like Calgary will eventually make you pay if you keep giving them easy chances.
“As the year goes on we’re going to have to start locking it down a little bit because those are big goals in timely situations,” Krug said.
The Bruins need timely goals — and a better defense — on Saturday night in their final showdown of the season against the Sabers