Playing without Brad Marchand and icing 2nd and 3rd lines that looked like something out of a preseason game, one could be excused for not having high hopes for the Bruins last night.
An early 1-0 deficit did little to allay those fears, but those patchwork lines powered the Bruins with a strong, energetic effort that led to a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild last night at the Garden.
When Nino Niederreiter got the Wild on the board some five minutes into the game after some blown coverage on D, it seemed like it was going to be a long night.
However, a lot of hustle and a little bit (OK, a lot) of luck got the Bruins right back in the game. Jake DeBrusk banked a puck off Ryan Suter and in midway through the first, then Frank Vatrano ended his 1,391 year scoring drought with a knucklepuck (one that Devan Dubnyk should have stopped) about two minutes later.
Suddenly, the Bruins were off and running. They’d add two more goals, a greasy, net-front crash by Sean Kuraly and a beautiful one-timed rocket by Torey Krug, to take a 4-1 lead into the third period.
This is, however, the Bruins, and they certainly made it hard on themselves. A gift-wrapped David Pastrnak turnover led to a one-timer by Mikael Granlund 93 seconds into the third that cut the lead to 4-2. Granlund would earn himself a penalty shot later in the third, but Tuukka Rask (24 saves) stood tall.
Eric Staal scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 4:04 left in the game to cut it to 4-3, but the Bruins were able to hold on until Tim Schaller iced it with an empty-netter with just under a minute to go.
Overall, an encouraging game from the Bruins, but one that wasn’t without its warts. It was, as some commentators mentioned, arguably the Bruins most energetic performance since opening night; in that game, the Bruins also did everything they could to punt on a big lead.
It’s also worth noting that the Wild, who currently sit 7th in the Central, looked pretty bad last night. It’s hard to tell how much of the “effort” was the Bruins’ kids flying around and how much it was the Wild playing with cement in their skates, but it wasn’t pretty.
For Bruins fans, however, it’s a big win with an injury-riddled lineup. Hopefully Brad Marchand is ready to go tomorrow night in New York.
Some quick notes on this game:
Pastrnak was given goat horns by some after the game, as his turnover led to the Wild’s second goal and his inability to control a puck at the blue line led to Staal’s goal, the Wild’s third. The first giveaway was just a bad play, but the Staal goal wasn’t really Pastrnak’s fault, as the puck ended up in his feet due to a rushed play by a teammate. Regardless of the hiccups, Pastrnak was far and away the most dangerous player on the ice last night, frequently skating circles around the Wild. Take the large amount of good with the tiny amount of bad.
Rob O’Gara skated just 12:46 last night. He wasn’t bad, but his limited minutes put a larger burden on Zdeno Chara (25:48) and Charlie McAvoy (24:35). Not ideal for Chara. If the Bruins don’t think O’Gara is ready to play those minutes, then put in someone who can get it done. Playing Chara 26 minutes a night in November doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
Sometimes a wonky one is all you need. Vatrano’s knuckling goal could be enough to get him back on track. His play of late has had him on the short list for a ticket out of town, but a nice run while David Krejci, David Backes and Marchand are out could put him back in the good graces of the fans and coaches.
I give Matt Beleskey credit for doing whatever he can to stay in the lineup. The much-maligned winger hasn’t exactly had a great start to this season, but by all accounts has been great about it behind the scenes. He’s playing hard when he’s in there, throwing hits and getting in a fight last night. No, none of that is as good as scoring goals. However, it doesn’t look like he’s pouting or being a malcontent. On a team this young, leading by example when times get tough can be almost as valuable as producing on the ice. Almost.
Up next: a trip to New York to face the Rangers. The Rangers were reportedly a loss away from firing Alain Vigneault just before Halloween; they’ve since won four games in a row, two of them after falling behind by multiple goals.
Should be fun!