By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Home: Boston Bruins (20-13-4)
Away: New Jersey Devils (12-16-7)
The Christmas Break is over for the National Hockey League and the Bruins and Devils will battle it out as 2019 appears right around the corner. The Bruins entered the three-day break with a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Hartford Whalers night, but before then, rocked a three-game winning streak.
New Jersey, on the other hand, has struggled this season. Before the break, they lost 3-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets and have lost four of their last five contests dating back to December 15th.
Bruins Morning Rushes
Coming off the Christmas break against a sub-par team, the Bruins may have expected a better start to this hockey team, in addition to the return of DeBrusk, Chara, and Miller, the Bruins should have come out with an aggressive attitude and try to score early. With that said, the Bruins allowed an early goal against by Damon Severson.
Following a defensive zone faceoff win, the Devils exploded up the ice and used brilliant puck rotation to find an open Severson who fired a clean wrist shot past Halak only twenty-five seconds into this Thursday night game, 1-0 Devils.
4:15 into the frame, Stefan Noesen was sent to the penalty box for hooking Kevan Miller, giving Boston an early power-play. Boston seemed to be getting their feet underneath them after some poor play before the penalty. The Bruins moved the puck around well on the man-advantage, with the best chance coming from Jake DeBrusk who tried to shoot it close short-side, only to deflect off of MacKenzie Blackwood’s shoulder.
Even with the good power-play, the Bruins still struggled 5-on-5. Twelve minutes in, the B’s only had two shots while at even strength, something that cannot be true in any game, let alone one with only an injury to Charlie McAvoy.
As New Jersey attempted to enter the zone with aggression once again, John Moore gets his stick tangled in with Kyle Palmieri, sending Moore to the box for tripping. On the Devils power-play, just over thirty seconds in, Will Butcher feeds it to Palmieri, who rockets a slap shot towards the cage that takes a high bounce off of Halak, then bounces in right behind the goaltender, 2-0 Devils.
Boston manages to survive the remainder of the period and enter the intermission down by two goals. During the later stages of the period, the Bruins did have some good hockey in them, mainly led by none other than Patrice Bergeron who had some good slot shots that Blackwood stopped.
Shots On Goal: BOS: 10 NJD: 12
Score: 2-0 Devils
Looking for a better frame than the first, the Bruins took an early penalty, as Colby Cave went to the sinbin for a tripping infraction on Andy Greene only 3 minutes and ten seconds into the second period. Boston looked good on this penalty-kill, with the help of Jake DeBrusk, who makes his return tonight after missing a few games with a concussion. Bruins successfully kill off the penalty on Cave and game returns to 5-on-5.
The Bruins momentum continued to increase upwards with that top line that has dominated the NHL over the 2018 calendar year. David Pastrnak took a hard spin while shooting, only to ring the rubber puck off of the post. Arguably the best chance of the hockey game for the Bruins, but no such luck when it comes to scoring their first of the night.
As the seconds became minutes, the Bruins continue to pressure the Devils with numerous offensive opportunities while staying solid on the defensive end as well. Both Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller have looked comfortable in their return games after injuries. At one point, Miller erupted the TD Garden crowd with a massive hit on Jesper Bratt.
Just over five minutes remaining on the scoreboard, Chris Wagner buried a cross-crease pass from John Moore to put a cap on a strong shift by Boston’s fourth line. Moore made a smart decision to pinch, beating out a couple Devils players, then proceeds to have the vision to see Wagner who found the back door entrance towards the net. 2-1 hockey game now in Boston.
Again, Boston’s pressure was consistent in the period and seemed to even increase more after the Wagner tally. With 11.8 seconds to go, David Krejci gets tripped up by Andy Greene, sending Boston to a power-play. With no goals in the limited time, the Bruins will start the third period with 1:49 of power-play time.
Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 NJD: 21
Score: 2-1 Devils
It is usually a difficult task to start a period with a man-advantage as the team sometimes needs a few minutes to “warm-up” after the intermission between periods. Such belief is true as the Bruins could not capitalize on Greene’s late second-period penalty and the Bruins go to 0-for-3 on the 5-on-4 power-play tonight.
New Jersey shut down the Bruins momentum with a goal 4:15 into the third by Blake Coleman. The speedy forward sped past Brandon Carlo and made a quick forehand-backhand deke to bury it past Jaroslav Halak on the breakaway, making this a 3-1 game. Credit has to be given to Coleman who managed to hold off the big Carlo and make a move to the net to score his tenth goal of the 2018-19 season.
The Devils without Taylor Hall continued after the goal to put more pressure on the Bruins. Forward Miles Wood with a fire lit underneath him races towards Halak but is tripped up by Miller. The puck was across the red line, but the referees had a brief conversation on the timing of the “goal”, only to determine that it crossed the line after the whistle and there was no official goal on the play. Bruins, however, are called on the tripping minor and Miller serves the two minutes.
Not long after the successful kill, the Bruins tried to build some offensive chances, led by defenceman Matt Grzelcyk who made some solid passes and advances on Blackwood but the rookie goaltender held his ground on every one of them to keep this a two-goal Devils lead. The young Massachusetts blueliner has looked good for Boston tonight.
Around the seven-minute mark, Stefan Noesen nails Donato in the Devils zone up high while battling along the boards, only for New Jersey to make some good breakout passes – leading to Nico Hischier’s breakaway goal. The tally makes this game 4-1 and gives the 2017 1st Overall Draft Pick his tenth goal of the year.
With Jaroslav Halak on the bench, David Krejci tosses the puck high and deep into the Devils end where Sami Vatanen rifles a shot around the boards that is stopped by DeBrusk. Jake sends the puck towards the net and Patrice Bergeron deflects his twelfth goal of the year and it is 4-2 with 2:55 to go.
Less than sixty seconds later, David Backes finds Brad Marchand with speed into the zone, but Marchand’s in-tight shot is stopped by Blackwood’s pads. As the rebound escaped into the slot, David Backes lays an illegal hit to the head of Blake Coleman. Backes’ shoulder makes clear contact with the head and I would imagine that NHL Player Safety is taking a look at this play. Backes goes to the box with exactly two minutes to go.
Having Halak pulled from the cage, the game was 5-on-5 and Boston had some decent chances from Marchand and company. However, Torey Krug is unable to keep the puck onside and the whistle is blown. On the offensive zone faceoff, the Bruins lose it, leading to Blake Coleman burying the empty-net goal to seal the deal and make it 5-2 New Jersey.
Shots On Goal: BOS: 42 NJD: 33
Final Score: 5-2 Devils
Max’s Three Stars
1st Star: NJD G Mackenzie Blackwood – 40 Saves, .952 SV%
2nd Star: NJD F Blake Coleman – 2 Goals, Game-Winning Goal, 4 Shots, +1 Rating
3rd Star: NJD D Andy Greene – 2 Assists, +3 Rating, 21:48 TOI
The Boston Bruins are now 20-14-4 on the season and have lost their last two games against two of the worst teams in the NHL Eastern Conference. Up next, the Bruins take on the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, December 29th in the final game of 2018. The Sabres last beat the Bruins 4-2 on Sunday, December 16th, 2018. Scheduled puck drop for Saturday’s game is 7:00pm EST in Buffalo, New York.