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A banged-up Colorado Avalanche bunch came to TD Garden and encountered a similar fate as the 13 other NHL squads before them.
The Boston Bruins came out flying against the defending Stanley Cup champions and never looked back.
Jim Montgomery’s tight-knit bunch once again supported each other en route to their 14th straight win on Causeway Street. From A.J. Greer coming to Nick Foligno’s aid following a heavy hit from Andreas Englund — eventually leading to Foligno and Englund’s subsequent fight — to David Pastrnak and Trent Frederic notching a pair, the Bruins passed yet another test and improved to 20-3-0 on the season.
Jake DeBrusk, who had a potential goal wiped away following a second-period review, capped off the 5-1 victory after notching his 100th career goal a mere 10 seconds following Frederic’s second marker.
“I think we just keep playing the right way, and we’re getting rewarded for it,” Montgomery said. “Colorado is very depleted. But still, it’s a championship team, and they know how to win.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins improved to 4-1 during this tough seven-game stretch.
A handful of Colorado’s supporting cast missed Saturday’s game amid their injury woes. Yet, their premiere stars were front and center and remained primed to take over a game at any moment.
Even without captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Miiko Rantanen remain a formidable 1-2 punch. The all-world Cale Makar and the well-rounded Devon Toews lead a formidable two-way defensive core.
Avs coach Jared Bednar trotted them out early and often. He especially turned to that reliable core in desperation mode. The defending champs came close on a few occasions in the third to put themselves within striking distance after Andrew Cogliano notched his fourth goal of the season after taking advantage of some miscommunication between Charlie McAvoy and Foligno in the slot.
Through it all, the Bruins kept Colorado’s top weapons in check. MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar, nor Toews tallied a single point.
Marchand’s slick skating, Pastrnak’s assertiveness, an aggressive two-way outing from McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, and a stout outing from the supporting cast kept Boston in the proverbial driver’s seat.
“Every single shift, they can break out and take over a game,” Marchand said of Colorado’s elite core. “I thought we did a good job there. They’re really tough to play against. The talent on that line is insane. We felt good about the way we played, but they had a few big injuries to their group, and that definitely affects the way their depth is. When those guys are back — I don’t know if they’ll be back in our next game or not [on Wednesday] — we’ll get a better game out of them.”
Even with a top-notch stat line, the Bruins received a better version of Marchand on Saturday.
His scoring production didn’t decline one bit since returning from off-season surgery on both hips. Even with a relatively smooth transition, Marchand still felt he had another level to reach.
Specifically, Marchand felt the need to improve his 5v5 scoring production. Entering Saturday, he tallied 15 of his 19 points of the season through special teams and non-5v5 scenarios.
Marchand tallied one assist on Pastrnak’s power play marker. But his trademark aggressive puck pursuit along the walls, in the neutral zone, and through second efforts in the attacking end led to a handful of quality scoring looks in 5v5 play.
“I thought that was the best 5-on-5 game he’s had all year,” Montgomery said of Marchand. “He was a very determined hockey player tonight.”
“I felt better tonight,” Marchand said about his process several games into his return. “I think it’s just kind of accepting of where I’m at and kind of more an understanding the way I need to play.”
Even on his off nights, the Bruins know they’ll receive a hard-nosed effort from Marchand. He wasn’t the only one providing that blue-collar work ethic against the reigning champs.
Even if he didn’t score, Frederic for sure had one of his hardest efforts of the season. But given his string of outings before that, Montgomery felt Frederic was due for an offensive breakthrough.
Taking his usual spot on the third line, Frederic backed up his workmanlike traits on Saturday with a two-goal outing.
“We’ve been seeing it coming for a while,” Montgomery said of Frederic. “Where we started the year in training camp [to now], he just keeps getting better. And I think you’re seeing that aggressive mindset offensively now. He’s taking pucks to hard areas, and if he doesn’t have a play, he’s hanging on to it.”
He didn’t have the puck at all on his first tally until the very end of Boston’s second tally of the night. But Frederic found himself parked on the doorstep of Pavel Francouz’s crease for a tap-in late in the first period after a Charlie Coyle keep-in at the blue line led to a give-and-go with McAvoy and Pavel Zacha. McAvoy promptly skated into open space, creating a lane for Frederic to complete the sequence and give the B’s a 2-0 late in the closing moments of the opening frame.
“I don’t know if [Coyle] gets credit on the scoresheet, but he started it and made a good play,” Frederic said of his first goal. “Then [it created] a path to Charlie, and I was lucky enough to bang it in.”
The Bruins had a rotating door on the third line to start the season. A confident Frederic may have found his path to a long-term role on that third line, given his familiarity with Coyle and his initial chemistry with Taylor Hall.
The trio each factored into the third-period dagger, with Coyle springing Hall and Frederic on a 2-on-1. Frederic promptly matched Pastrnak’s total with a Pasta-like one-timer to extend Boston’s lead to 4-1.
It didn’t take long for the Bruins to add injury to insult, either.
“It felt like a curse for a second there,” DeBrusk joked of his 100th career goal.
DeBrusk may have felt cursed once a replay review wiped away a potential middle frame tally when the puck crossed the goal line before the net was dislodged during a secondary scoring chance.
“In my defense, I didn’t know what else I could do there,” DeBrusk said of the second-period review. “I poked at the puck, and I was in the crease and pushed in the net. I didn’t know if [the puck] was over the line or what, but that was kind of my argument was ‘I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.’ But, I knew it was going to be close…”
The Bruins didn’t get the benefit of the doubt. But they never wavered and promptly extended their lead to 3-0 on Pastrnak’s breakaway marker.
DeBrusk also rebounded. He remained aggressive on pucks, creating a handful of quality looks in his top-line role.
After a two-game goal drought, the Edmonton native notched his 100th career goal to close out his first accolade and another Boston triumph.
“Obviously, I guess it’s the first milestone,” DeBrusk said, “but, at the same time, here’s to 100 more than that.
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