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Bruins’ return to home ice brings a win, two new forwards, and some jam

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With the trade deadline behind them, the Bruins have set their eyes on raising their compete level.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Boston Bruins
Halak made several outstanding saves, despite seeing relatively few shots from the Sharks.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

What a homecoming for the Bruins.

With the West Coast barometer trip in the rear view, seeing Boston draw just one point shy of a perfect run through five road games (and, counting that three of them were against teams currently outside of the playoff bubble), the Bruins needed to come back to Boston with a bit of swagger. There’s a bit of risk, sure; when the team gets off a longer road trip where they are all in close proximity and returns to their beds, will that built chemistry stick? It’s even harder to carry that momentum forward when you add a new player before the road trip is over, and add another for the homecoming game.

Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson performed admirably in the pressures of their new home. Johansson assisted on a beautiful tic-tac-and-toe passing goal initiated and finished by Jake DeBrusk. Coyle, playing in the unenviable third-line-center role that has been under constant rotation this season, was providing good support down low and was available for outlet passes from his defensemen. Coyle ALSO had 2:27 of power play time, and took a shift on the penalty kill as well.

Speaking of special teams, though the PK was the usual suspects (Bergeron, Marchand, Acciari, Nordstrom/Kuraly), the power play was a sight to behold. Never mind Coyle’s participation; Jake DeBrusk had almost double the PP time that Marchand received, while Johansson received similar time as Coyle. Coach Bruce Cassidy, and by obvious extension the top staff and Don Sweeney, knew that those acquisitions needed to play in order to gain chemistry with the current roster.

On defense, there was much to enjoy: calm, at least for the most part. Matt Grzelck continues to move fluidly and quickly, and it’s starting to look like Brandon Carlo has been doing whatever drills Gryz does, because it’s working - he’s a larger and slightly slower version all around, but still, Carlo has continued to improve, even over the course of this season. Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug are as advertised, and John Moore has kept pace by continuing to use his skating. It also shouldn’t go unmentioned, though I’ll be brief: goaltending has been outstanding, and Jaroslav Halak against the Sharks was no departure from the current trend. He made a beautiful glove save early against Joe Pavelski on a mostly-breakaway chance, and against Kevin Labanc with the glove outstretched on the goal line. Otherwise, he was generally untested, until Boston retreated into the turtle shell late in the game and allowed the shot total to nearly double.

I mentioned the long road trip and its potential for building chemistry and camaraderie among teammates, but short of a visit from the ghost of Gordie Howe, the “show” at the beginning of the third period against San Jose should do the trick for a while. Though the escalation of interactions between Evander Kane and Chara throughout the game seemed to get heavier and heavier, there didn’t seem to be some un-called penalty or injustice - not until Kane took exception to his collision with Chara behind Halak’s net. Today will tell us whether or not Chara might face any discipline if the hit is seen as a targeting of the head, but the ensuing horsecollar takedown of Chara by Kane is an unwelcome and galvanizing sight to teammates (David Backes immediately skated right up to the tangled combatants, and would have intervened had Chara not risen to his feet; then, he fought another Sharks player less than a minute later) and further fuel for competitive fire.

That fire will need some stoking and feeding to have a solid bed of coals come April, and last night was a great start to the end of the regular season.