Not up to par Bruins can do no wrong, throttle Coyotes
Everything is coming up roses for the Bruins.
Last night, the B’s played their worst game under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, but it just didn’t matter. For on this night, the hockey gods delivered the 29th-place Arizona Coyotes, who already began their annual fire sale in advance of today’s trade deadline.
Had the Bruins played another team, they might have gotten a comeuppance. Instead they shook off some rough early moments to score three second-period goals and notch what, in the end, looked like a routine 4-1 win at the Garden.
While the victory is no cause for parade preparation, it is a noteworthy win. The B’s were playing in the dreaded first game after a long and successful road trip, always a dangerous home game. And they did make some predictable gaffes in the early stages but found a way to fight through it all.
Once a team that found ways to lose on too many occasions, the Bruins have become an unflappable bunch.
“I know it was sloppy out there, but we pushed through,” said Cassidy, now 7-1 and 4-0 at home in his start behind the bench.
Brad Marchand led the way with a goal and an assist, Patrice Bergeron had a pair of helpers and Tuukka Rask (22 saves) came up big while his teammates were looking for their game. The B’s also got goals from Colin Miller, Riley Nash and David Backes.
The B’s have 19 games left, and are starting to believe they can not only make the playoffs, but create a little noise once they get there.
“I think we have a very good group in there that are capable of making plays offensively and making their chances,” said Cassidy. “Right now they’re going in. I know at some point we’re going to run up against it when they don’t and we’ll have to win 2-1 games. And we have. We did it in San Jose, a tough barn. I just want to make sure the guys continue to play confident, solid hockey and believe in themselves. And play to a standard. We’re trying to set a standard where we’re one of the better teams in the National Hockey League. They’ve been there before, the leadership group, and that’s where we’re striving to get to again.”
The team is starting to resemble the one Backes had in his mind when he signed here in the offseason.
“This is the team that typically we saw when we played Boston with St. Louis,” said Backes. “Honestly when we had those calls in June with me possibly coming here, I was asking those questions ‘How in the heck were you guys not in the playoffs the last two years.’ With the guys that were here and how hard the games were when we played Boston .?.?. We’ve been able to go on a bit of a run here. Guys seem to enjoy sacrificing for each other and the results once again speak to it.”
For the eighth time in the last 10 games the B’s scored the first goal when, just 3:06 in, David Krejci created a turnover in the neutral zone, David Pastrnak chased it down and fed Miller for the goal.
But the B’s play deteriorated a bit as the period went on and they needed Rask to come up with some high-quality saves. The one that got by him came at 3:27 of the second period with Marchand in the box as Peter Holland beat Rask on a wraparound.
Less than a minute later, Miller got tossed after nailing Alexander Burmistrov with what looked like a clean but devastating check. Burmistrov was taken off the ice on a stretcher — gave two thumbs up to the crowd — and was taken to the hospital. Miller got a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct while Jakob Chychrun got two after jumping Miller.
But it was on the penalty kill that the B’s changed the game. Bergeron set up Nash for a shorthanded goal at 7:07. Backes added one with 1:55 left in the period. Then Marchand pounced on a loose puck, charged in to beat Mike Smith on a wraparound with 11 seconds left in the period.
“That’s March,” said Cassidy. “He’s on the puck like a dog on a bone.”
Where the B’s take this is anyone’s guess, but they certainly seem on their way to saving what had looked like another lost season.