Bruins

Brad Marchand is a leader, and other takeaways from Bruins-Canucks

Brad Marchand helped propel the Bruins to victory Sunday. AP

COMMENTARY

Sometimes, a little bit of chaos can lead to good things.

The Boston Bruins entered the third period of Sunday’s tilt with the lowly Vancouver Canucks facing a 2-1 deficit. But amidst Linus Ullmark’s struggles and a flat opening 40 minutes, Bruce Cassidy’s squad persevered.

Hart Trophy candidate Brad Marchand carried the Bruins on his back in the final period. His keen leadership sense showed with thunderous hits on the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and a clutch goal and helper on Boston’s pair of third-period attempts on the power play.

Ullmark bounced back in the closing moments, helping the Bruins stave off Vancouver’s desperate attempts for the equalizer. And David Pastrnak’s winner on a brilliant setup by Marchand secured Boston’s 3-2 victory.

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Here’s what we learned from a chaotic Bruins come-from-behind win.

Marchand again showcases his clutch leadership

Good things tend to happen when Marchand finds the puck on his stick in pivotal situations.

Marchand was one of the few Bruins who had his skating legs going from the get-go. From his aggressive physical play to his persuasive offensive traits, the alternate captain took matters into his own hands in the third.

Even a blip following a Pastrnak shot hitting iron didn’t halter Marchand. But the chaotic sequence in front of former Bruin Jaroslav Halak allowed Marchand to readjust, eventually finding a loose puck in the slot following attempts by Nick Foligno and Patrice Bergeron. With a sea of bodies in front, Marchand quickly fired the puck past Halak for the needed equalizer at 8:45.

“I thought Pasta had scored, so I kind of stopped there for a second,” Marchand said on the sequence leading to his ninth goal of the season. “And then I saw Fliggy [Foligno] whack away at it and Bergy [Bergeron] same thing. So I tried to get close [to the play], and it was a very fortunate bounce to come out. It was nice to put that one away.”

The Bruins didn’t turn away from Marchand in their second power-play attempt, with Ekman-Larsson serving a minor for boarding Anton Blidh.

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Making up for hitting the crossbar off his signature one-timer from the faceoff dot, Pastrnak, this time, drove to the front of the goal mouth waiting for a backdoor feed. A slick deke from Marchand and an aggressive net-front presence from Foligno paved the way for Pastrnak’s winner with 3:24 remaining in regulation.

“I knew Pasta was going to be there. We had scored a few goals over the years with that play. Foligno did a good job at tying up the D stick in front and giving me a lane,” Marchand said of Pastrnak’s winner. “It was a great job by Pasta. The guy was all over him, but he was strong on his stick and he did a great job putting it in.”

Two days removed from goading Rangers forward Artemi Panarin into a $5,000 fine, Marchand put in the work to lift his team to a come-from-behind win.

Ullmark puts the Bruins in winning position following a rough start

Ullmark’s night began with a tumble after losing an edge behind his net. It felt like an ominous sign as he allowed a couple of rather soft goals in the first and second periods.

Yet Ullmark persevered in the end when the Bruins needed him. One timely third-period stop, in particular, caught Cassidy’s eye.

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Still trailing 2-1 on the first of two Boston’s attempts with the man advantage, Ullmark stood tall on Tyler Motte’s shorthanded breakaway attempt. The sequence turned a potential two-goal deficit into a 2-2 hockey game following Marchand’s tying marker.

“The shorthanded breakaway goal could’ve been a backbreaker,” Cassidy said of Ullmark’s clutch save on Motte. “When you judge goaltenders, it’s [about] timely saves and that was huge. That was a huge save. If he doesn’t make that save, I don’t think we win the game.”

“Nothing really went through my head other than I wanted to challenge the shooter as much as possible,” Ullmark said of his save of the night.

“It turned out to be a big moment because we scored right after.”

The Canucks peppered Ullmark with 28 shots on net between the second and third periods. The Swede found his rhythm after Scituate’s own Conor Garland gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead on a routine wrist shot.

With a busier schedule ahead of them, the Bruins will have their work cut out for them, slotting out the schedule for the Ullmark-Jeremy Swayman tandem. They also have a significant conundrum with Tuukka Rask’s decision looming once he completes his rehab.

Getting Ullmark into a groove before that will only prove beneficial regardless of Rask’s situation.

“He’s going to have to tighten up. I think he understands that,” Cassidy said. “Maybe getting in him in a rhythm will help him with that.”

New-look third line leaves a solid initial impression

Jake DeBrusk became a frequent member of Cassidy’s dog house during the 2021 pandemic shortened season. On Sunday, the 2015 first-round selection found himself in familiar territory, joining fellow linemate Erik Haula in the Level 9 press box.

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Cassidy inserted a returning Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman to fill those third-line vacancies on Sunday. Foligno joined the young duo as Craig Smith returned to his second-line spot alongside Charlie Coyle and Taylor Hall.

Boston’s new-look third line left a decent impression in their first game together. Though Frederic struggled at the faceoff dot in his first look at center this season — dropping all but one of his seven draws — the St. Louis-born forward created havoc with his hits and aggressive forechecks. His skillset meshed well with the hard-nosed Foligno and an energetic Kuhlman, firing 11 combined shots on net.

“I thought [Foligno] played well with Freddy [Frederic]. They have some similar attributes in terms of their size and how they play in a straight line,” Cassidy said. “I thought Kuhlman skated well. Every time we put him in, he seems to have a good motor. He had a couple of looks along the wing. He complemented them well.”

The Bruins haven’t developed a sustained third-line presence since their latest run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. The Foligno-Frederick-Kuhlman trio isn’t likely a long-term solution, but that didn’t prevent them from establishing an effort to build on.

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