The Boston Bruins arrived in the Twin Cities early Saturday morning on the heels of a physically grueling, team-building win in Winnipeg. They didn’t miss a beat against the Wild.
In one of their better 60-minute efforts of the season, the Bruins put forth a dominating effort from top to bottom against a struggling Minnesota squad. The four scoring lines and three defensive pairings had their skating legs from the start as Torey Krug’s four-point night (two goals and two assists) and a near-perfect night on special teams sparked Boston to a 6-1 triumph.
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk added to Boston’s lead on the heels of Krug’s pair, while Jaroslav Halak notched 25 saves in the winning effort.
“Last night [in Winnipeg] was a little different animal. It was more physicality, body checks, open ice hits, sticking up for one another, responding when challenged, 5-on-3 kills, so that was a little bit different,” Bruce Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley.
“Tonight was a little more of a pace game. I thought we were on top of their ‘D’ early on. They came out of their break…so you get on them in a hurry and it takes [those] teams a while to get going. And I thought we did a good job of that coming off the game in Winnipeg where we had our legs going and we were able to use all four lines.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins notched impressive back-to-back wins in their return from their 10-day break.
Special teams picked up where it left off
Every special team’s situation Friday night turned into a pivotal moment in Winnipeg. The Bruins buckled down in those spots, going a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill — including a pair of 5-on-3 kills — while notching the tying and winning goals on the power play.
The shorthanded unit didn’t find themselves in any 5-on-3 situations against the Wild. That didn’t stop them from having another perfect night on the penalty kill as they allowed a mere six shots on net in their 4-for-4 showing.
The power play also didn’t have a 5-on-3 situation. But they wasted little time finding their groove with Krug, Marchand and Pastrnak scored within the first 60 seconds of Boston’s first three attempts with the man advantage.
In hockey’s version of all three phases, the power play and penalty kill effort translated nicely into 5-on-5 play. The Bruins wore down the Wild with their exceptional puck possession and aggressive pursuit in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones.
“Obviously when you get a [penalty] kill…it obviously pumps you up with momentum and creating opportunities. And on the power play it’s always nice to get a goal, no matter the situation,” Pastrnak told reporters after notching his 38th goal of the season to tie his career-high. “It gives us confidence and that’s why special teams are a [big] part of hockey.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 2, 2020
Both units took a bit of a hit after the team’s historic run in the first two months of the campaign. But make no mistake, with both the power play and penalty kill ranked second in the league, the Bruins’ special teams’ performance has been quite special in 2019-20.
Torey Krug gets off the schneid with scoring outburst
It’s quite surprising to look at the stat sheet and see no Bruins defensemen with double-digit goal totals yet. The likes of Krug, Matt Grzelcyk (14 points in 51 games) and Charlie McAvoy (nearly a calendar year removed from his last regular-season tally) have put forth another productive season in spite of the rather low point totals.
Every Bruin regardless of their offensive output contributed to Saturday’s win. And one of their blue-liners provided a tone-setter with a beautiful goal in the opening stanza.
With an easy entry into the prime scoring area, Krug notched a slick backhander past Devan Dubnyk for his sixth goal of the season to give the Bruins the 1-0 lead past the midway point of the first.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 2, 2020
Krug carried an 11-game goal drought heading into Saturday. He quickly added another tally for his seventh of the season, firing a snapshot from the faceoff circle past Dubnyk for Boston’s first of three second period power-play markers.
Torey Krug fires home his second goal of the night. pic.twitter.com/UkdgxqOel5
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 2, 2020
The lack of offensive production on the back end isn’t so much a troubling trend compared to some of the other issues that popped up during the ‘dog days’ of the NHL season. Krug, in the final year of his contract, still sees himself ranked in the top 10 in scoring amongst all NHL defensemen.
Yet, there’s no denying that the Bruins still need their blue-liners to contribute in the secondary scoring department. Krug’s performance Saturday provided a building block for a potential run of success.
The Bruins had no issue closing out a multi-goal lead
Cassidy’s squad has rarely started slow out of the gates this season, scoring first more often than not. But they developed a troubling case of the coughs closing out games, especially after leading by more than one goal at any point.
A usual staple of past Bruins teams became a liability this season. Case in point: the week before their 10-day break where, in less than a week, the Bruins blew two three-goal leads resulting in embarrassing losses to the Flyers and Penguins.
On Saturday, the Bruins carried a 4-0 lead late into the third before Mats Zuccarello put an end to their shutout bid. They weren’t messing around in the final 20. Even with the comfortable lead, their penalty killers laid out to block shots on their final shorthanded attempt. Heck, even Bjork and DeBrusk potted a pair of goals for good measure following Zuccarello’s tally.
A longshot to make the playoffs, the Wild didn’t put forth an inspiring effort by any means. The Bruins, however, didn’t give them any cause for hope.