Bruins Rise To Occasion On Thanksgiving Week

For most teams, losing their number one center and their top veteran defender would be a fatal blow. Somehow that has not been the case for the Boston Bruins. The most banged up team in hockey continues to find ways to win hockey games even though key roster pieces keep falling out of the lineup. Since we last talked, the Bruins lost two more players, but still put together a 2-1-1 record. Not bad, not bad at all.

Boston Bruins Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs, Nov. 10, 2018. (Courtesy Canadian Press)

The club enters the final days of November in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, but sitting in a Wild Card spot in the east. It hasn’t been the dominant start that I think most Bruin fans were hoping for, but when you consider all of the injuries, you have to be thrilled that B’s are still postseason-bound and in a position to rise up the standings.

Bruins Week That Was

The Bruins concluded a four-game, week-long road trip on Thanksgiving eve last Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. It was the second meeting of the season between the divisional rivals and the first at Little Caesar’s Arena, the beautiful second-year home of the Red Wings. After an 8-2 drubbing of the Winged Wheel back in October, the B’s struggled in their first trip to Michigan on the season.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored his second goal in as many games 4:08 into the second period, but Tyler Bertuzzi would even things up just 5:40 later on his sixth of the season. That was the theme of the night, as the Bruins couldn’t hold any lead against the Wings.

Chris Wagner put the Bruins back in the lead at 6:45 of the third, but it was surrendered just 2:14 later on Andreas Athanasiou’s eighth of the year. The B’s managed to wrestle a point away from this one, but Athanasiou’s ninth of the year and second of the night just 49 seconds into overtime evened the season series at one win apiece.

After a Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, the Bruins returned for some Black Friday action at TD Garden. In the first meeting of the year with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the vibe was different. The banged-up Bruins were fighting to hang on while the Penguins came to town with a last place record. Another scoreless first period led to another back-and-forth second period, but this time the Bruins surrendered the first goal. Evgeni Malkin broke the ice 6:09 into the middle period before Jake DeBrusk tallied his ninth of the season at 13:40.

Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk, Patric Hornqvist Bruins Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist battles Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

DeBrusk’s goal began a strong 24 hours for the forward and kicked off a nice little stretch for Boston’s unsung depth heroes. One of those heroes was Joakim Nordstrom, who has played strong defensive hockey all season while chipping in here and there on the scoresheet. In this game, Nordstrom got a rare shift in three-on-three overtime and he made it count. Nordstrom took a feed from Torey Krug just under two minutes into the extra frame and fired one by Penguin netminder Tristan Jarry for a B’s victory.

Twenty-four hours later it was off to Montreal, as the Bruins and Canadiens renewed hockey’s best rivalry on ‘Hockey Night In Canada’. With the historic baby blue blazers back in action in the HNIC booth, this game had an old school feel to it. A tight affair between the rivals, with the Canadiens benefitting from numerous calls, had Bruins fans thinking it was the 1970s all over again, but John Moore’s first true “Bruins moment” would be the highlight of this night.

After building a two-goal lead through forty minutes, the Canadiens fired a barrage of shots on the Bruins net, scoring twice in the first 10:09 of the third to even the game. Late in regulation, however, the B’s finally got a call in their favor and Moore made the Habs pay, scoring with just 2:57 remaining to give the Bruins a lead and, eventually, regulation victory.

The two-game Canadian road trip didn’t end well as the B’s dropped a 4-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, but the week was a success outside of that. The Bruins earned points in three of four games, posting a 2-1-1 record and further pushing themselves into playoff position.

The depth players stepped up, with both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask giving the club solid goaltending. I’ve been very impressed with Jake DeBrusk’s game lately and thought that both Nordstrom and David Backes had their best stretches of the season during Thanksgiving week. That is exactly the kind of effort you want to see with some of the club’s top players on the shelf.

Bruins Week Ahead

This Thursday night will be a special one at TD Garden, as the Bruins officially retire Rick Middleton’s number 16. ‘Nifty’ will be the first Bruin to see his number rise to the rafters since Cam Neely in 2004. After #16 finally takes its place in the rafters, the Bruins will host Matt Barzal and the New York Islanders for the first time this season. The club’s brief two-game homestand comes to a close on Saturday night when the B’s host the Red Wings in the third meeting of the season between the teams.

Rick Middleton Terry O'Reilly Ray Bourque Bruins 1980
1980: Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly and Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins accept their three-star awards in a pre-game ceremony at the Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

What better way to kick off the month of December than a trip to Florida? That’s exactly what the Bruins will be doing next week, as they’ll head to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night before travelling upstate to visit the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Thursday. That Bruins vs. Lightning tilt has the potential to be the best game of the month, as the clubs will meet for the first time since their playoff battle last spring.

Another week will come and go without the services of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Along with them, Charlie McAvoy is also likely to miss the coming week. That will, once again, put the onus on the depth players to step up and keep the good ship Bruin afloat. So far, so good for that group.