There were several questions facing the Boston Bruins ahead of their game with the Winnipeg Jets Saturday. How were the Bruins going to play without their leading scorer Brad Marchand? How was Tuukka Rask going to bounce back from his short outing four nights earlier?
All those questions were answered and then some as the Bruins won their 10th game in their last 12 outings with a 3-2 win over the Jets. It was not your average Boston win as they got offense from some from their bottom-six forwards to for their fifth win in six games on their current seven-game homestand. Here are three takeaways from the Black and Gold’s 24th win of the 2021-22 regular season.
Third Line Paves Way Offensively
When Jake DeBrusk showed up at the TD Garden Saturday afternoon, he thought that he was going to be on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Craig Smith. In Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals, Marchand was injured in the second period on a hit from Garnet Hathaway and did not return for the third period. Friday, coach Bruce Cassidy said that DeBrusk would slide to the top line, he was leaving Taylor Hall on the second line, and that Marchand would miss the game.
Plans changed before the game when Marchand took warmups to see if he was good enough to go, which he was and that changed the projected lineup. DeBrusk returned to the third line between Charlie Coyle and Oskar Steen and they were arguably the best line for Boston, as they accounted for the Black and Gold’s first two goals.
With the Bruins trailing 1-0 in the first period, DeBrusk won a puck battle along the boards on the forecheck and the puck found Steen in front of the net and his wrist shot beat Jets’ goalie Connor Hellebuyck. In the second period with Winnipeg holding a 2-1 lead, DeBrusk created a turnover at center ice, which led to an offensive zone rush that was finished when Coyle redirected a Derek Forbort shot past Hellebuyck to tie the game again.
“Well, I mean, if you want to be a good team you need contributions from everyone and tonight they did their job and then some,” Cassidy said. “Offensively, nice goal from Steener (Oskar Steen). But it starts with, you know, forecheck turnover, playing the right way. Because the first period we didn’t as a group, or certain lines did.”
Boston’s third line combined for two goals, two assists, and seven hits, with four hits from Coyle, which was a team-high. Over the last three weeks, the top two lines have got all the headlines, but Saturday, it was the third line that was a big reason for the win.
Rask Bounces Back From Previous Outing
Rask got his second start since signing as a free agent earlier in January on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The results in his second outing were not as good as his first was in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13 when he made 25 saves. Against the Hurricanes, he allowed five goals on 12 shots and was lifted in between periods in favor of Linus Ullmark in the Bruins’ 7-1 loss.
Saturday, Rask was back in net for his third game of the season and following his shaky outing against Carolina and things did not start out well. Winnipeg scored the first goal of the game when Jansen Harkins received a drop pass and beat Rask with a wrist shot that broke through his body just under three minutes into the game. After that, the former Vezina Trophy winner was solid.
Rask finished with 21 saves and the only other goal to get by him was a pass that deflected off of the skate of defensemen Urho Vaakanainen late in the first period. He had seven third-period saves, but the Bruins were shorthanded three times, with Rask taking one of the penalties on a delay of game when he played the puck over the glass. With the help of his teammates, Rask and the Bruins killed all three penalties on their way to surviving a late Jets push.
Pastrnak Stays Hot
Since Jan. 1, David Pastrnak has been on a tear. After being moved down to the second line with Hall and Erik Haula, Pastrnak entered the game with a league-leading 10 goals in the month of January. Saturday, he once again found the back of the net for the Bruins and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.
After going scoreless on their first power-play opportunity against the NHL’s 31st ranked penalty kill, the Bruins cashed in on their only other chance of the game in the third period. With the penalty about to expire, Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Matt Grzelcyk past Hellebuyck for a 3-2 lead. It was Pastrnak’s 19th goal of the season and his 11th since the Black and Gold returned from their COVID-19 shutdown.
The Bruins’ recent climb up the Eastern Conference standings has been fast as they now have 20 out of possible 24 points since Jan. 1. They have collected 10 out of a possible 12 points on their homestand, which ends on Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks. Cassidy has to be happy as four of the five wins on the homestand have been by one goal, but what has to make Boston’s coach even happier is the effort from his third line that played the biggest role in Saturday’s win.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.