In this week’s edition of Bruins Weekly, the first line is back together, the Bruins’ third period dominance continued on their road trip, games are postponed because of COVID-19 protocols, and Tuukka Rask makes two starts in a row for just the second time this season.
First Line Reunited
David Pastrnak made his season debut on Jan. 30 against the Washington Capitals, and coach Bruce Cassidy immediately put him together with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. In 2019-20, Pastrnak scored 48 goals to share the Maurice Rocket Richard Award with Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals, and he also had 47 assists. Marchand had 28 goals and 59 assists, while Bergeron had 31 goals and 25 assists.
The trio has already picked up where they left off last season in terms of production. In four games together, Pastrnak has five goals and three assists, Bergeron has one goal and six assists, while Marchand has three goals and two assists. In those games, the Bruins are 3-0-1 and picked up seven out of a possible eight points to vault them to the top of the MassMutual East Division standings.
Third Period Dominance Continues
One of the most staggering stats that the Bruins have early in the season is with their third-period goal differential. They have outscored their opponents 19-9, and on their recent four-game road trip, it was a key in their wins against the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. Boston trailed in all four games in the final period, but managed to come back in each game to get at least one point.
In their two games against the Capitals, they trailed 3-0 in both games, but rallied with six third period goals combined in those two games. They lost the first game in overtime, 4-3, before using four third period goals to win the second game 5-3. Against the Flyers, the Bruins trailed 3-1 in the third period of Wednesday’s game before two power play goals by Pastrnak in the final seven minutes tied the game. Bergeron won the game 27 seconds into overtime with his own power play goal. Friday night, they fell behind 1-0 early in the third period, but goals by Marchand and Sean Kuraly 27 seconds apart with seven minutes left the game led to a 2-1 victory.
The third-period rallies this week have put the Bruins with some rare company. They were the fifth team in the last 37 years to earn points in three straight games after trailing by two-plus goals in the third period. The other teams to achieve that feat are the San Jose Sharks (2003-04), Vancouver Canucks (1999-2000), Detroit Red Wings (1990-91), and Winnipeg Jets (1983-84). While it is a good sign to see the Black and Gold rally in the third period, you have to think that they are playing with fire and eventually chasing goals will catch up with them.
Buffalo Games Postponed
The Bruins were supposed to get their first look at the Buffalo Sabres this season, the only team from the Atlantic Division that joined them in the realigned MassMutual East Division for the 2020-21 season, but the two-game series at the TD Garden was postponed. Buffalo went into the league’s COVID-19 protocols and had their games through Monday postponed. On Saturday, the NHL announced that they rescheduled the contests for later in the season.
Monday, the NHL announced that they were postponing three more games for the New Jersey Devils because of COVID-19 protocols, including their game on Feb. 15 at the TD Garden against the Bruins. The league has not yet announced a makeup date.
In an already shortened season that has the Bruins playing 56 games in 114 days, they actually could use a break. Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk both missed the four-game road trip and stayed behind in Boston with injuries. Both participated in practice on Monday and hope to return to the lineup Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden when they play the first of eight games this season against the New York Rangers.
Rask Plays in Rare Back-to-Back Games
When word broke last Tuesday that the Buffalo games were postponed, Cassidy did what he has done only one other time this season and announced that goalie Tuukka Rask would play both games against the Flyers. Early in the season, Cassidy has alternated Rask and Jaroslav Halak in net, but since the Bruins would have a four-day break between games, he gave his No. 1 goalie both games in Philadelphia.
Rask won the two games with a pair of solid performances. In Wednesday’s win, he kept the Bruins in the game with 10 second period saves and 20 overall to allow his teammates to rally late in the third period for an overtime win. Friday night, he made 23 saves, including stopping Joel Farabee on a penalty shot late in the second period. He only allowed a James van Riemsdyk goal early in the final period, and he turned back the final 12 shots he faced to once again allow his club to rally for a third straight victory.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: at New York Rangers, 7 P.M.
- Friday: at New York Rangers, 7 P.M.
- Saturday: at New York Islanders, 7 P.M.
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.