With an illness striking the Bruins this morning and rendering Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner unavailable (and nearly claiming Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and possibly Patrice Bergeron), emergency call-up Colby Cave dressed for his first NHL game. Frank Vatrano and Danton Heinen also drew back in, as David Krejci was placed on IR. On the Winnipeg side, two strong defensemen remain sidelined long-term in Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien.
Would a busy morning of roster-shuffling lead to an eventful evening on the ice?
A slow-starting game, it would take nearly four minutes to get the first shot on either net, a dismissable wrister by Anders Bjork. It was be another few minutes before Winnipeg put their first shot on net, on the power play after rookie Cave took his first NHL penalty. SO EXCITING TO BE WITH THE BIG CLUB.
Not a lot to describe this period - back-and-forth play prevented either team from building offensive zone time. Danton Heinen took a penalty with under seven minutes to play in the period, but that would be another successful kill for the B’s. Jets D Ben Chiarot took a ‘make-up call’ a few minutes later, though the home team couldn’t capitalize either.
The greatest chance for the B’s came off a great passing sequence, where Marchand gained the line and he and Bergeron gave-and-go before a cross-ice pass to Pastrnak froze the Jets. He then centered it to Bergeron, who came VERY close to stuffing it home under Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, but he stood tall and kept the score tied. With 13 seconds to go, that would end the period. Shots 10-8 in B’s favor, but no goals thus far.
This period started with a much quicker pace. Strong effort by depth players like Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari kept the puck behind Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Winnipeg had their center tossed from a few more faceoffs. Forward Adam Lowry crosschecked Frank Vatrano, though their power play yielded little. Winnipeg seemed frustrated around the midpoint of the period, icing the puck twice in quick succession.
We also started to see Cave get more comfortable, getting to the right spots in the offensive zone and squaring up well in board battles. Great efforts behind the Hellebuyck by Danton Heinen and Kuraly kept the B’s even in scoring chances; that line really buzzed but somehow still had little to show. The period ended with the shot-count at 21-18, favoring Winnipeg.
The pace of the third was very similar to the second - neither team wanted to break on defense, and was trying to balance this with trying to score first. A pretty sight to see a tightly-played game. David Pastrnak had a great toe-drag around Jets D Jacob Trouba, but ended up below the goal line, and his centering attempt popped up only to be gloved by Hellebuyck. Bounces didn’t go the Bruins’ way throughout this game.
Coach Bruce Cassidy began to slide players around in the third, with Jake DeBrusk double-shifting at one point; Cassidy would later say that he was adding minutes in an attempt to get some action from the young winger, since his game has been hot recently. On the flipside, Heinen-Kuraly-David Backes looked a bit slower than in the second and couldn’t possess the puck for more than a tenth of a second.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Torey Krug snagged a Winnipeg pass at the point, slid to the top of the circle, and fired home a wrist shot. 1-0, Bruins.
As if the hockey gods wanted nothing more than this entire game to be played tied, Laine scored for the Jets less than a minute later off of a blown edge by Kuraly in the defensive zone. Unfortunate. 1-1 game.
The rest of this period resembled much of the second and third periods - cautiously ambitious. Marchand NEARLY had a late breakaway, but was a step offsides. Regulation ended in a tie.
No goals. Bruins had the better chances and nearly put together a few additional breakaways, though Winnipeg had more shots. Moving along.
Bryan Little scored for the Jets on the first shot. Pasta scored as the second Bruins shooter. The skilzcomp needed only one extra round, and Nikolaj Ehlers missed, paving the way for Birthday Boy Chuck McAvoy.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said it best in the postgame presser:
“For us, in the locker room... it’s the way you win, you have guys battling that weren’t 100%. ...It means more now going forward that guys know they can win tough games.”
This was a character win, for sure. Boston and Winnipeg are in similar places - the Jets are tied for second in their division, and the B’s are on the heels of second-place Toronto in the Atlantic. The Jets may return to earth a bit if you believe their middle-of-the-pack statistics, but there’s reason for optimism in Boston: the Bruins are top-3 in CF% and top-5 in xGF%, stats that describe trends regarding maintaining possession and the likelihood to score more goals. Last night’s game was a win over a solid team with a surprisingly-depleted lineup, and the numbers point to a better team on the horizon.