Bruins Regain Swagger With Dominating Weekend

The Boston Bruins played their sloppiest game of the season on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The team looked lost, and defensively they were the worst they’ve been in the Bruce Cassidy era. After a bit of an up and down stretch, Thursday’s performance had many wondering what kind of team the Bruins really are.

Bruce Cassidy Riley Nash Danton Heinen Bruins
Bruce Cassidy, Riley Nash and Danton Heinen, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The team answered that question over the weekend, bouncing back with a dominating stretch over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs and the defending Western Conference Champion Vegas Golden Knights. The Bruins played 120 minutes of hockey and controlled almost every one of them. They’ll head out on the road with four more points under their belt and feeling good once again.

Bruins Week That Was

After being defeated by the Nashville Predators on Nov. 3, the Bruins returned home and rebounded against the Dallas Stars. For all their talent, the Stars also have problems defensively and I’m not sold on their goaltending. This was an important game for the Bruins because let’s be honest, they didn’t finish the month of October particularly well.

The Bruins dominated the 60 minutes of regulation hockey but still gave up the game’s first goal. I’ve been in Tuukka Rask’s corner for a few years now, but the shot that Radek Faksa beat him on simply cannot be a goal at this level. Luckily, David Pastrnak evened things up moments later as the Bruins took over the game. Boston’s secondary scoring issues continued on this night, however, as no one could beat old friend Anton Khudobin the rest of the way. Brad Marchand was the hero in overtime, scoring with 31 seconds left to lift the B’s to victory.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) is congratulated by left winger Brad Marchand. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The “Boston is a one-line team” narrative wasn’t quieted in November. After being blanked in the month’s first game, the first line was the only one to score against the Stars.

For about three weeks, the Bruins could not get everything going at once. That continued on Thursday night, as the secondary scoring finally showed up against the Canucks but the defense and goaltending were nowhere to be found. The Bruins surrendered a season-high eight goals in this one, with both Jaroslav Halak and Rask getting lit up.

Halak had his worst night as a Bruin, giving up five goals on 19 shots. Rask, on the other hand, was beaten three times on 14 shots. It was not a banner night for either goalie, while the defense did nothing to help slow down a talented Canucks attack.

The good news? Jake DeBrusk scored twice while Danton Heinen and Matt Grzelcyk each tallied their first goals of the season. It came in a losing effort, an 8-5 shootout, but the secondary scoring woke up for the Bruins.

I was very impressed with the weekend effort from the team after Thursday’s disaster. The Maple Leafs and Golden Knights are both good hockey teams and the Bruins made them look terrible on consecutive nights. They completely shutdown the vaunted Leaf offense, limiting them to just one goal. Pastrnak’s dominating offensive night paced the B’s, while Joakim Nordstrom even chipped in late to polish off the victory.

Last night was another strong outing, with the Bruins jumping out to a big lead and allowed Halak to hold the fort after that. Even though the Leafs fired 41 shots on goal and the Golden Knights 38, it always felt like the Bruins were in control. Jeremy Lauzon lit the lamp for the first time in the NHL, while Heinen scored his second goal in three games.

Bruins Week Ahead

For the second time this season, the Bruins will head west. It starts in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night in what might be the most exciting game of the month. It isn’t a rivalry and it won’t produce bad blood, but from a pure skill standpoint, this one is going to be great.

Many would say that the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is the best in hockey, but just as many would say the Avalanche’s trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen takes that honor. They’ll go head-to-head in a match-up that will have the hockey world watching.

(Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

After their mile high showdown, the Bruins will stop in Texas to battle the Stars for the second time this month on Friday night. That opens a back-to-back set that concludes on Saturday when the B’s stop in the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes. Bruins fans will be surprised at just how good this ‘Yotes team is, no longer a bad and boring club. They now boast a number of talented players and play a more speed and skill-based game. In a bad Pacific Division, they could slide into the playoffs this spring.

It won’t be an easy week, all three of the Bruins’ opponents are strong teams fighting for playoff positioning, but this is a great opportunity for the club. The first trip out west for the Bruins was a disaster, but with a little momentum under their belts now, they get the chance to send a message and get this train rolling in the right direction.

We learned something about this team over the weekend, and we are going to learn a little more in the next seven days.