Admit it, you were starting to worry just a bit. After an incredible start to the season, Boston limped through the Thanksgiving holiday, losing three straight games and allowing 17 goals in the process. They had an opportunity to end the skid on home ice against the NHL’s worst team and did just that, blanking San Jose three to nothing. Here’s what I saw:
Line Juggling Pays Off
Jim Montgomery played matchmaker before Thursday night’s game, changing the top six in an attempt to jumpstart the offense. He elevated the streaking Jake Debrusk up to the first line with Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak while Brad Marchand skated alongside Matt Poitras and Danton Heinen—the result: three goals from the team’s top skaters.
Matt Poitras started things after gloving down a clearing attempt from a Sharks defender. He could corral the puck, protect it, and then find Danton Heinen for the game’s first goal. “Yeah, we had some chances for sure,” said Brad Marchand after the game, “I think we started feeling more comfortable as a line as the game went on.”
Boston built on its one-goal lead midway through the second period when Jake Debrusk took a sweet feed from Pavel Zacha and beat Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood on the backhand. The Bruins outshot the Sharks 20 to 6 in the second frame, and the Debrusk-Zacha-Pastrnak line out-chanced their opponent eight to two when on the ice together.
Boston iced the game in the third period on the powerplay when David Pastrnak waited out the Sharks’ defense and found a streaking Pavel Zacha for a goal. The team was one for four on the powerplay all night and wasn’t generating much offense until Zacha’s goal, which rounded out a solid night for the offense.
Bruins Fight Back
Fans have complained for weeks that the Bruins just aren’t tough enough. Whether they’re too soft in the corners, unwilling to protect teammates, or hesitant to drop the gloves, members of Bruins Nation everywhere have been clamoring for a response, and last night, they got it.
The Sharks Givani Smith boarded Brad Marchand at 13:57 of the second period on a play that may warrant a call from NHL headquarters. Smith attempted to make another crushing hit on Brandon Carlo, barely missing him as he crashed down on the forecheck. Trent Frederic took exception.
Just before the end of the second period, Frederic squared off with Smith immediately after a faceoff, indicating that he planned to get revenge for the dirty play. “He’s our captain, and everybody loves him in here,” said Frederic when asked about standing up for Marchand. He talked about the team’s willingness to defend each other when situations like that arise and how important it is to answer the call when it comes.
Swayman Bounces Back
Jeremy Swayman was pulled in last game’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this season. He responded quickly last night, notching a 26-save shutout and weathering the Bruins through a slow start. “That second period was the biggest indicator,” said Swayman when asked about the team finding its identity. “Hitting guys, keeping pucks deep in possession. Obviously, defense, blocking shots, boxing guys out, making my job easy, and that’s what we do best is stick to our identity. And that’s big for us.”
Boston put their goalie in a difficult position when Brad Marchand and Charlie Mcavoy were assessed simultaneous minors at the end of the second period. Swayman and co. had to kill off two consecutive minutes of five-on-three play, and they did so with no issue. It was one of the many reasons Jim Montgomery has reason to be confident in Swayman moving forward. “I love the way Jeremy responded,” said Montgomery after the game. “He’s a battler, he’s a competitor, that’s why I love having him between the pipes.”
- Danton Heinen now has seven points in 14 games this season and five in his last six games.
- There was a wild sequence where Brad Marchand dropped the gloves in front of the Sharks’ net at the same time Charlie Mcavoy boarded someone behind the net. Two scrums ensued and it was absolute chaos.
- David pastrnak has 13 goals and 20 assists on the season. A great development in his game is the way he’s been able to create scoring chances for his teammates, especially Zacha.
- Don’t look now but Jake Debrusk has three goals in his last five games.
- The Bruins get back on the ice Saturday to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.