In last week’s review we said “Other than Montreal this week, this could be a good chance to pick up some wins and get back into the playoff picture to help prevent us all from developing a drinking a problem.” Well it turned out just the way we hoped. The Bruins had 5 games in just 7 days and went 4-1. In the one loss to the Canadiens, they played well enough to win, dominated for long stretches, but like the rest of the NHL they ran into Carey Price. The B’s doubled up the Canadiens in shots and at least deserved a point.
The Bruins right now sit in second place in the Northeast Division with 20 points (10-6-0) and they are a +3 in goal differential. You really could not ask for much more out of this week. Being about a week and a half away from Thanksgiving the Bruins control their own destiny to make the playoffs.
Here are BostonPucks.com’s thoughts on week 5 of the season:
Secondary Scoring Showing Up At The Right Time
In our last two weekly reviews we have said that we thought Backes should move down to center the third line to balance the scoring. We were saying this mainly because the Bergeron line and the Moore line were the only lines scoring. Thankfully, just in the nick of time when the Bruins were about to embark on 5 games in 7 days, the secondary scoring showed up.
Krejci, Beleskey, Nash, and Krug all scored their first goals of the season this week. I have to give Claude some credit here. He made a few changes in scratching Beleskey and Hayes, but for the most part he showed patience with the lineup and he was rewarded for his patience.
The third line has really come alive. Beleskey, Nash and Czarnik have combined for 8 points this week. Czarnik, in my opinion, has been very good. As he gets more comfortable at the NHL level he has used his speed to make things happen offensively. Riley Nash is this year’s version of Chris Kelly but with more touch. He has the versatility to play both the wing and center positions and he can kill penalties and dominate in the faceoff dot. He is the prototypical Claude depth guy that he loves.
The second line is benefiting from Krejci starting to heat up. Krejci had 4 points on the week and his line combined for 9 points. Scoring depth is important, especially this week when Bergeron’s line production slowed. Marchand had 3 points (1 goal 2 assists) but only one assist was at even strength. The same goes with Pastrnak, who had 3 goals and 1 assist, but only one of the goals was at even strength. Bergeron was held pointless.
The Backes Impact
It is no surprise to this blogger that the Bruins have shown the ability to persevere when they are behind in a game and come back to tie (against the Canadiens) or they comeback to win. Being scored on first can spell doom in the defensively dominant NHL, but the Bruins have shown a habit of not letting it bother them. I think a lot of if is due to the presence of David Backes. It is not just his impact on the ice, but his positive impact in the locker room. In the past few years the wheels would fall off the Bruins when they would be behind in games. It’s no surprise to see him donning an “A” on his sweater as well.
Backes is a tough competitor. He is hard to play against and his return from an elbow procedure just happened to be the same time the second line started to be productive. I do not think that’s a coincidence. This is why the Bruins brought him in. In years past they have lost some of their more outspoken leaders, be it Shawn Thornton, Chris Kelly, or Johnny Boychuk, and the Bruins had been missing that tough guy leadership character. It just feels a little different this year and in my opinion Backes is one of the big reasons why.
Hayes Is In The Right Spot
We and the rest of the world have been rightfully critical of Jimmy Hayes of late and his lack of goal scoring. Matt Beleskey was the first player to find himself as a healthy from the terrible play of the third line earlier in the season. Then it was Hayes turn to sit as a healthy scratch. Beleskey has since taken off and back to his old self, and now with the lower body injury (knee) to Noel Acciari, Hayes drew back in the lineup as the right wing on the fourth line.
Maybe taking a seat for a couple of games was the kick in the butt Hayes needed. He still has not scored but he has looked like a much better fit as the fourth line right wing. We have said this before, that players need to be slotted where the can best succeed and benefit the team and Hayes is a fourth liner in this lineup. Now I know a child could have been conceived and born since the last time Hayes has scored a goal, but he has more offensive upside than the tough wrecking ball that is Acciari. If the Bruins want to have the depth to compete with NHL heavyweights it might make sense to keep Hayes on the fourth line a bit longer, or at least away from the third line as it has taken off since his departure.
Krug Has Turned The Corner
Torey Krug has played much better this week. Scoring his first goal on Monday night against the Sabres might have been just what the doctor ordered for newly minted rich man. He seems to have much more confidence and is carrying the puck up ice with more authority. He nearly scored another goal against the Avalanche that hit the post, and to be honest I don’t know how the hell it stayed out as Varlamov never saw it due to a Backes screen. There was a couple of other plays from Krug that stood out to me during the Avalanche game as well. One on the power play, when he beat Joe Colburne in a race to the puck, which Colburne would have had a break away. Another was when one of the NHL’s fastest skaters in Nathan MacKinnon came streaking into the Bruins zone but Krug stuck with him stride for stride and prevented MacKinnon from getting a scoring opportunity. It seems Krug has found what appeared to be some lost confidence.
Tuukka Is An Absolute Monster
I watched the Avalanche broadcast and they showed a graphic of how Tuukka’s stats the past three season had declined in each year. Was Tuukka’s stats last year more indicative of his play, or the play in front of him? I thought last year in December and January Tuukka played really well and had rounded the corner to his old self. Certainly missing a must win in the last game of the season due to an illness brought out the “Trade Tuukka” mob and it wasn’t a good look. He had a lot of people lined up to prove wrong this season, but I was not in that line.
But Tuukka has totally redeemed himself amongst any hater so far this year. The Bruins are 10-6, and Tuukka himself is 10-1. What would the Bruins record be if Tuukka was not nursing a lower body injury? An ’07 Patriots 16-0? Probably not, but you get my point. Tuukka is in Vezina form. He is second in the league in GAA with a 1.54. He is third in save percentage at .945, and he is tied for first with three shutouts. It is kind of amazing to me that Tuukka has 33 shutouts already in his career. This is his 8th full season in the NHL. That is a little over 4 shutouts per season, and really he has only been a full time starter for 5 seasons. Including one of his seasons as the starter being the lockout shortened season.
Bottom line, Tuukka is at the top of his game, but the defense is playing better. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have been playing better of late. Add in the addition of wonderboy Brandon Carlo and this defense is making so Rask doesn’t need to be Superman every single night to win. They are just better defensively all around than they were last year and Tuukka is the center piece of that change.
If you ask me, Tuukka Rask and David Pastrnak are the story of the season so far for the Bruins.
What’s coming up: After having a very busy week the Bruins have a much needed light work week ahead. They are off until Thursday when they will try to avenge a Malcolm Subban led bad loss to the Minnesota Wild, in Minnesota. Then the Bruins return home to host Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.