Bruins penalty-kill unit on top of its game vs. Jets

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Bruins penalty-kill unit on top of its game vs. Jets

BOSTON -- Certain players and teams lost aspects of their game during the lockout. The Boston Bruins are no exception to that.

But now with a 2-0 start to the shortened season, the Bruins still have one thing they know they never lost: their identity.

For a refresher course, prior to the lockout, the Bruins were a strong defensive team, committed to keeping the shots to the outside, allowing their goaltender to see those shots cleanly. And with that solid defense came offensive opportunities.

Through two games, the Bruins still play with that identity. And that defense-first style has translated into a penalty kill unit that's aggressive and instinctive, quick to prevent the opposition's power play to set up shop and get the shots or passes through the slot that they yearn.

Forget about the power play. If you can keep the other team from scoring on their man-advantages, and carry that defensive identity into even-strength play, you can win in this league. Just ask the core group of this Bruins team who hoisted the Stanley Cup back in 2011.

That said, the Bruins don't get a banner raised for opening this season 2-0. But they are showing that they're in a good place, especially if their penalty-kill unit plays like it did on Monday afternoon, in a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

"That's what made the difference today," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "And I thought our penalty kill has been good the first two games. A 5-on-3 last game against the Rangers, and then two 4-on-3's today. Especially in overtime, it was a tough call on Zdeno Chara, obviously, and to have to kill that to finish the game, our guys did a great job, the two D's that were out there, but also Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly were switching over up front. They were breaking up a lot of plays once they got over the blue. So, again, that's probably a good reason why we're sitting here today with a win."

The Bruins killed off all four Jets power plays, with two coming at crucial points in the game.

Johnny Boychuk was called for high-sticking with 1:11 left to play in regulation with the game tied at 1-1. That resulted in the Bruins having to be down 4-on-3 for the first 49 seconds in overtime (the overtime period is 4-on-4 at even strength).

The B's killed that off, but then Zdeno Chara was called for a holding penalty with 1:28 left in overtime. It was a questionable call for sure, as Chara chased Blake Wheeler down the right side of the ice. Wheeler attempted to cut hard inside to the net with the puck, and Chara put a body on him. Wheeler tripped and went flying into the net, and the refs gave the Jets a 4-on-3 power play for the rest of the game.

But the Bruins also killed that one off, and then won the game in a shootout.

"It's important that we do the job on the PK, especially in overtime like that," said Patrice Bergeron. "It happened twice, and we found a way. So give credit to everyone that was on the ice, but also Tuukka Rask. He made some great saves for us."

The Bruins also referenced the chewed up ice at the end of the game, as being a reason for the penalty-kill success in overtime. But through the first two games, it's clear that their success stems from more than just a slower surface.

"I think we were pretty aggressive right away, right off the bat," said Bergeron. "We didn't give them time to set up, and I don't think they got the plays they wanted because we were so aggressive.

"I think we all know where to be. We communicate a lot on the ice. Also, coach does a great job to make it more, I guess, black and white. Then it's about instincts and just making sure you do the right plays."

It's their identity.

Benintendi leaves Wednesday's game with knee sprain

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Benintendi leaves Wednesday's game with knee sprain

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi left Wednesday's game with a knee sprain and will be further evaluated Thursday.

Benintendi was on second base in the seventh inning, with teammate Travis Shaw on third. The Tampa Rays pulled the infield in, and with no out, Dustin Pedroia hit a grounder to short.

Initially, Benintendi was intent on getting to third, but with the infield in, Shaw didn't break from third. That forced Benintendi to head back to second. Tampa shortstop Matt Duffy chased him back to the bag and tagged him out. As he attempted elude the tag, Benintendi's left leg buckled underneath him.

He fell to the ground and got up very gingerly. Benintendi was helped off the field by two members of the training staff, unable to put any weight on the left leg.

Only two nights earlier, Benintendi had made one of the best catches of the season when he leaped above the wall in left to prevent a two-run homer by Rays outfielder Steve Souza Jr.

Benintendi was 1-for-3 with a double Wednesday and is hitting .324 after being promoted from Double A to the big leagues three weeks ago.

 

Neumeier: Clay Buchholz could be important for Red Sox down the stretch

Neumeier: Clay Buchholz could be important for Red Sox down the stretch

Bob Neumeier explains why he thinks Clay Buchholz will ultimately end up being key for the Boston Red Sox down the stretch even if it is just a bullpen role.