Yeah, so this is a different Bruins team than what we’re used to. Like a lot different.
The Bruins played their first game in seven days coming off the NHL mandated bye week and showed no signs of rust in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Tuukka Rask was fantastic between the pipes and was a single bad bounce away from pitching a shutout. Brad Marchand slid home a beauty five-hole game winner in OT while Ryan Spooner had the lone B’s regulation goal in the first period.
Twenty teams have now had their bye week and the Bruins just became only the 4th team out of those 20 to win their first game after the bye. The B’s now have now won four straight games for the first time all season and sit just 4 points behind the Habs for first place. Yes, first place.
Bruce Cassidy is the only undefeated coach in the NHL.
Here are some quick hits from the game:
- Ryan Spooner really likes playing for Bruce Cassidy. No he’s not known for his shut down defense but Spoons has been able to take advantage of a free flowing offensive system and now has points in three straight games. He looks so energized and rejuvenated being back at his natural center position that I lost track of how many times he did his open-hip pivot move last night. And being mentally free from Claude’s dog house can’t hurt his game either.
- Frank Vatrano must wear Bauer’s newest rocket fueled skates. I know he’s a strong skater but he was on another level Sunday night. It seemed he was destined to win any foot race he was in. That speed, and the space he created with it, set up the entire play on the Spooner goal when he pulled Brent Burns way out of position.
- Matt Beleskey was healthy scratched again for the second time in three games. The guy has certainly had a forgettable season so far and Cassidy is using his new powers to assess everything. I love that Beleskey works hard every single shift but if the results aren’t there then hitting the reset button now is a good thing.
- Peter Cehlarik is a treat. The guy was putting such perfect sauce and seasoning on his dishes to David Krejci and David Pastrnak that Anthony Bourdain could feature him. He also had a couple real crafty plays batting the puck out of mid-air and seamlessly transitioning them to offensive attacks. There’s no question the big Slovak has made the most of his NHL audition by showcasing incredible vision and hockey IQ.
- There’s Edelman-to-Amemdola, the Brady-to-Hogan flea flicker, and now Krug-to-Marchand in overtime. It was a beautiful set play off a Patrice Bergeron face off win that enabled the B’s to bury the Sharks in overtime (you can watch it above). It’s easy to get lost in the wild side of 3v3 hockey and forget there’s still room to draw up a well designed play.
- I’ve waited to judge if the recent great play by the Bruins was just the typical boost you’d expect to see from a coaching change or not but it’s clear it’s something more with Bruce Cassidy. He’s pushing all the right buttons. It’s a “just go play” fast offensive style combined with the familiar, accountable, defensive assignments that’s made the play look inspired. And the effort he’s getting from the players each game isn’t coming in spurts, they’re giving a full 60. Not to mention his line combos (new 3rd line, Backes with Bergy, and in OT) are refreshing. The Claude firing put the team in a situation where they could try anything new, pressure free, to see what was possible with this roster. That freedom and change has everyone playing loose. They look like a ton of weight has been lifted off of their shoulders and they’re getting positive results.
To add to that, one knock on the B’s the past two seasons is that they’re not quick or fast enough for the new speed style NHL. You have to now wonder if Claude’s rigid offensive style was slowing them down more than we knew. The roster still doesn’t possess Pittsburgh Penguins speed but the freedom in which they’re allowed to stretch and attack is surely allowing them to play faster.
This B’s team has become real fun to watch.
Next stop on the road trip, the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday. That’ll be a 10:30pm EST puck drop so make sure you sneak in a nap somewhere in the afternoon. Or just gas a couple beers. You’ll be fine.