The Bruins snapped out of their four-game funk Thursday night in Winnipeg, but there were still a couple parts of their game that had remained quiet, most notably their power play and their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk.
Both made plenty of noise in Saturday’s 5-2 win over a red-hot Minnesota Wild team that entered the day riding a franchise-record 14-game point streak, as the Bruins did just about everything they needed to do to build off Thursday and further distance themselves from what coach Jim Montgomery had called a “malaise.”
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The Bruins fell behind 1-0 despite playing well in the first period, but the Bergeron line made sure they still got to the first intermission tied. With under 1:30 left in the period, Bergeron and Marchand went to work on the forecheck and dug the puck free. Bergeron then found DeBrusk streaking into the zone off the bench and hit him in the high slot, where DeBrusk then snapped a shot into the top corner over Filip Gustavsson’s glove.
It was far from the only strong offensive-zone shift that trio would have on Saturday. Another in the third period would pretty much seal the win, pushing the Bruins’ lead to 4-2. That came after DeBrusk and Dmitry Orlov combined to win a battle along the boards in the offensive zone, freeing the puck for Marchand to grab. Marchand then circled behind the Minnesota net before feeding Bergeron in the slot for the captain’s 25th goal of the season.
Just as importantly, the Bruins’ top line didn’t give anything up at the other end. While the offense had gone a bit quiet recently -- Marchand, Bergeron and DeBrusk had five points combined over the last five games -- it was the defensive slippage that was much more surprising. All three were a minus-5 during those last five games, and they had been on the ice for a total of seven goals against, tied for the most on the team during that stretch.
Obviously, a stretch like that for any amount of time is extremely uncharacteristic of a line centered by Bergeron. Saturday looked a lot more like what we’re all used to, with that line outscoring the Wild 2-0. Bergeron finished the day at plus-3, while Marchand had three assists. Those two also made some history, combining on the same goal for the 407th and 408th times of their careers, breaking the Bruins franchise record previously held by Phil Esposito and Ken Hodge.
Those three were also on the ice when the Bruins’ power play broke through to give Boston a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Marchand picked up one of his assists there, moving the puck up top to Hampus Lindholm, who then fed David Pastrnak in the left circle. Instead of ripping his usual one-timer, Pastrnak took a couple steps inside and wristed a shot past Gustavsson for his first power-play goal in 22 games.
It was just the seventh power-play goal for the Bruins in the last 21 games, and just the fourth for the top unit. That unit had a couple other chances on the day and has looked a little better since Lindholm took over as the quarterback a couple games ago. Expect him to remain in that spot for the time being as the Bruins try to build some momentum for that group.
The Bruins’ other two goals were noteworthy as well. Their third came off a great offensive-zone cycle shift from the Czech line, with David Krejci eventually scoring after a give-and-go with Pavel Zacha when his pass intended for Charlie McAvoy deflected in off a Minnesota stick.
The Czech line has been the Bruins’ most dangerous offensive line all season, but at times they’ve gotten a little too much into a trading-chances style and haven’t possessed and protected the puck enough. More shifts like the one that led to Krejci’s goal will only make an already great line even better.
The Bruins’ final goal was an empty-netter from Trent Frederic assisted by Charlie Coyle. The goal itself wasn’t particularly notable, but the way those two played along with linemate Tyler Bertuzzi was. As good as the Bergeron and Krejci lines were, that third line was arguably the most dominant at 5-on-5 on Saturday. In the 9:55 that they were on the ice, the Bruins out-attempted the Wild 12-3, outshot them 7-0, and had 87% of expected goals.
Coyle was especially dominant, consistently using his size and strength to hold off defenders and protect the puck deep in the offensive zone. All three have been showing more willingness to shoot, too, snapping a bad habit of over-passing that had reared its ugly head during the Bruins’ mini-slump. Coyle had five shots on goal on Saturday, while Frederic and Bertuzzi each had three. Bertuzzi now has nine in his last three games after registering just five shots on goal through his first four games as a Bruin.
If Thursday was a step in the right direction for the Bruins, then Saturday was a Coyle-esque long stride down that road. We’ll see if the Bruins can keep it going in a tough situation on Sunday, playing a back-to-back with travel as they close out their five-game road trip in Buffalo.
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