What we learned in Bruins' 4-0 win over Panthers
What we learned in Bruins' 4-0 win over Panthers
Falling out of the playoff picture apparently provides the Bruins with motivation for a winning performance. The Bruins were out of the playoffs when the team collectively woke up on Saturday morning, and the Maple Leafs had bypassed them for the third and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. With every other team in the Atlantic Division holding games in hand against the Bruins, that’s not a good thing at all. Facing a Florida team that the Bruins have dominated all season, Boston was able to survive an early Panthers flurry on the way to a dominant 4-0 shutout victory. The Bruins forwards were fighting to get to the front of the net, Tuukka Rask was brilliant and Boston’s special teams work was stellar with a shorthanded goal, a power play strike and some solid penalty killing work. Two of Boston’s best players, Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand, gave star performances, and both Torey Krug and David Backes were strong performers as well. While Saturday night’s effort was commendable and absolutely needed, it also makes you wonder why it’s not there more of the team given how Boston plays when they’re back into a corner as they were on Saturday night at the start of a crucial four game road trip. It will be interesting to see if the Bruins can conjure up that same kind of urgency and importance to Sunday afternoon’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes when the B’s players wake up on Sunday morning and find themselves in second place rather than fourth place in just a day’s time. The second place position is a bit of an illusion given the games played for all teams, but it’s still gives the Bruins a reason to take their foot off the gas pedal against a Carolina team that’s routinely given them trouble.
Marchand heating up
Brad Marchand might be entering a hot streak offensively, and it would be coming at the absolute right time. Though he’s been Boston’s leading point man all season, Marchand’s two goal performance in the Saturday night win was his first multi-point game since Oct. 20. One of the goals was his 20th career shorthanded goal for the Bruins, and the other was a power play strike in the second period crashing the net for a rebound of a Torey Krug point shot. It’s no coincidence that the uptick in Boston’s special teams performance coincided with Marchand busting out offensively, and the Bruins are going to need more of both if they’re ever going to get on a prolonged winning stretch of hockey. Is it going to happen? It’s tough to tell at this point given how disappointing this season has been offensively on many levels, but Marchand is one of the few players on the Boston roster that could really carry the team offensively if he starts to heat up. There were definite, unmistakable signs of a heat wave in the making for Marchand on Saturday, but he’ll need to follow that up with similarly strong performances in Carolina, St. Louis and Nashville to close out this trip.
B's better with Backes healthy
It is unmistakable that this Bruins team plays with more conviction, more confidence and more backbone with David Backes in the lineup. Maybe it’s by virtue of his fiery personality or his desire to win as a 32-year-old star NHL player that hasn’t had a real sniff of Stanley Cup glory to this point in his career, but Backes has something to his game, both on and off the ice, that brings a little more hunger to the table when he’s skating with the team. It also doesn’t hurt that Backes is one of the few players on the Bruins roster that consistently goes to the front of the net, and battles for rebounds and tip opportunities as a big-bodied net-front presence. The team also doesn’t appear to give up as easily as they did last season when things started getting away from them, and it’s perhaps not surprising given Backes’ makeup as a player and person. It took Tuukka Rask to make some big time saves early in the first period, but it also took a Bruins willingness to push back strongly after the Panthers came with some fierce determination in the first three or four shifts in the game.
Plus: Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals, kick-started the Bruins offense with his shorthanded goal in the first period and gave the power play a little more confidence with his strike in the second period. He finished with three shots on net, a couple of blocked shots and a plus-1 rating in 18:58 of ice time in the win.
Plus: Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask stopped all 25 shots he faced, but this game was really won when the Bruins goaltender made 11 saves in the first period when the Panthers made one of their few big pushes during the game. The B’s were hemmed in for the first five minutes, Rask made a series of stops including a big glove save on Colton Sceviour after a Brandon Carlo turnover, and allowed the B’s to find their skating legs after the early Florida onslaught.
Plus: Riley Nash
Riley Nash snapped a fairly long goal-scoring slump (29 games) with a score in the third period that put some finish icing on the B’s victory cake. It was a great play by Kevan Miller driving deep into the Carolina zone, and then Nash found some daylight from a bad angle at the side of the net. Nash finished with five shot attempts, the goal and a plus-1 rating in his 13:40 of ice time, so it was the end of an active day for the Boston fourth liner.
Minus: Keith Yandle
Keith Yandle usually struggles against the Bruins team he grew up rooting for, and that was the case again on Saturday with a minus-2 and one shot on net in 20:18 of ice time for the Panthers. It was his high-risk point shot on the PP that was blocked by Marchand, and then turned into the shorthanded breakaway goal that turned the tide of the game.
Minus: Reilly Smith
One shot and a minus-2 rating in 17:30 of ice time for Reilly Smith, who also got tangled up with Brad Marchand near the Florida bench causing an off-sides call on what could been an odd-man rush opportunity for the Panthers. Smith has up-and-down in the rematches with his former team, but Saturday wasn’t one of the good ones.
Minus: Tom Rowe
Tom Rowe just doesn’t look like a happy guy behind the Florida bench at this point, and who could blame him considering that the Panthers don’t look like an enthusiastic bunch on the ice? Clearly some of Saturday night’s underwhelming effort was that it was the second night of a back-to-back for the Panthers, but they need to show something soon if they want to start making a move upward.