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Brad Marchand’s hat trick powers Bruins to comeback win over Canucks

03.14.17 at 1:17 am ET
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Brad Marchand recorded a hat trick in the third period of a 6-3 comeback win over the Canucks. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports)

Brad Marchand recorded a hat trick in the third period of a 6-3 comeback win over the Canucks. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports)

Games in Vancouver seem to bring the best out of Brad Marchand.

And much like he did in 2011 (although the stakes on this game were not anything even close to those of those summertime wars battled almost six years ago), the 5-foot-9 Marchand saved his best for last in a Monday night head-to-head against the slumping Canucks.

Down 3-2 through 40 minutes of play — and entering the third period with just two wins in 25 games when trailing after two periods (the Canucks, by the way, had 15 wins in 18 games with leads after two periods) — but on the power play to begin the third period, Marchand and the rest of the B’s top unit turned it on with the potency that had eluded them against the Canucks’ Ryan Miller for most of the night.

(For a complete recap of a 6-3 win, click here.)

But not before they got one last whiff out of their system in a 6-3 win.

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Important Bruins road swing begins with slumping Canucks

03.13.17 at 7:50 pm ET
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A three-game Pacific Division road trip begins tonight in Vancouver. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

A three-game Pacific Division road trip begins tonight in Vancouver. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy has done a masterful job of flipping your expectations for the club. In so, so many ways.

The games that the Bruins often dropped during the stretch runs of 2015 and 2016 have become nearly automatic wins under Cassidy (who has put a heavy emphasis on the idea of the team controlling their own destiny to finish the season), and the buildings in which the Bruins struggled have become winning destinations for the Black and Gold.

Home wins against the hapless Red Wings and Devils spoke to the former, while a California road trip in which the Bruins grabbed four of a possible six points is a great example of the latter.

It’s a trend that the Bruins hope to see continue as the team makes their way out to Western Canada for a three-game road trip for matchups against the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers.

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More lineup changes for Bruins ahead of Western Canada road trip

03.13.17 at 7:05 pm ET
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Riley Nash will center the third line for the Bruins tonight. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

Riley Nash will center the third line for the Bruins tonight. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

A 13-game sample size, even with 10 wins and just three losses, has been more than enough to tell you that Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy is not afraid to switch things up. He’s done it before, and most recently did it for the second and third period of the club’s last game, a 2-1 last-second win over the Flyers last weekend.

The Cassidy shake-up will continue tonight, too, as the Bruins make their way out to Vancouver for the start of a tour of Western Canada.

Down Ryan Spooner (concussion) and Tim Schaller (lower-body), the easy decision for Cassidy will be to move Drew Stafford — who has two goals and four points in four games in town — back into the top-six and on the left side with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. The fourth line will see the return of Peter Cehlarik to the left of Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes, and the third line will feature Riley Nash between Matt Beleskey (on the left) and Frank Vatrano (on the right).

That looks like a whole lot of moving around — especially with the decision to move two different wingers away from their natural sides in Stafford and Vatrano — for the Bruins. But it’s not too much for the team to handle, according to Cassidy.

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Drew Stafford’s game-winner shows off ‘smarts’ of NHL vet

03.12.17 at 4:20 am ET
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Drew Stafford scored the game-winning goal with 5.6 seconds left in the game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford scored the game-winning goal with 5.6 seconds left in the game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Drew Stafford gave me a minute-long lesson on the geometry of his game-winning goal before I realized I was being messed with. A veteran of over 700 NHL games, the only person that Stafford fooled more than me wore Philadelphia Orange.

But you can’t blame me for taking the bait.

After all, Stafford is one smart dude. Just ask his coach.

“He’s a smart player. I mean, let’s face it,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Stafford’s final play of the game. “He’s got composure. That’s a product of being in the league for 10 years, and knowing he can score and make plays, and they did a good job in the last minute, to get the puck first of all, and get it out with control, and then hey, you never know. You just never know, throwing it at the net, and I mean it’s lucky. We all know that. It’s a heartbreaker for Philly, but a benefit for us.”

In a game that featured long stretches without much of anything — the Bruins began their second period without a shot on goal for the first 8:45 of the period, and the Flyers had a 12-minute stretch without a shot in the third period — Stafford’s game-winning was oddly appropriate and almost expected given everything that didn’t get behind a goalie in this one, as Stafford’s shot bounced off Philly defenseman Brandon Manning’s stick and through Steve Mason for the game-winning goal of a 2-1 final.

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Bruins forward Matt Beleskey gets back to basics in return to lineup

03.12.17 at 3:12 am ET
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He may not have been in the lineup for the last three games — and seven of the first 12 games coached by Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy since he took over for Claude Julien overall — but Matt Beleskey has been working hard.

“I haven’t been resting. I have been working out twice a day with our strength coaches and doing the extra work, putting in the time with the skills coach, it’s hard work,” Beleskey noted of his recent scratches. “It’s been tough, obviously it hasn’t been my year in that way but the coaches put some faith in me, gave me some time, worked me over and I’m just trying to make it pay off.”

Hard work may sound like a buzzword, but it really is the basis of his game. It’s what he needs to do at every turn to be at his most effective. It’s what he established for years in Anaheim, what made the Bruins hand him a five-year deal worth just under $20 million, and what his first year in Boston was full of as Beleskey became a dependable up-and-down the lineup option.

It’s what been, at times, missing from Beleskey’s hard luck second year in the Hub, too.

So when the 28-year-old Beleskey was given another chance to make an impact for Cassidy’s Bruins, this time because of an injury to Tim Schaller on Wednesday night, Beleskey needed all of one shift to do what he does best.

On a fourth line with Dominic Moore and Riley Nash to begin the afternoon affair, which ended as a 2-1 final for the Black and Gold, Beleskey put a big hit on the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere, and answered the bell when Brandon Manning came looking for a fight as a means of retribution. And after a few wild swings, one of which landed Manning on his rear, Beleskey made his way to the box, but not before giving the Garden crowd a pump-up, with his arms raised towards the rafters.

The crowd noticed his instant effort, as did his coach.

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Win over Flyers began with crucial first period kill for Bruins

03.11.17 at 8:38 pm ET
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The Bruins had to kill 1:43 of a 5-on-3 in their win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins had to kill 1:43 of a 5-on-3 in their win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

On an odd-man rush heading towards Tuukka Rask, first-year pro defenseman Brandon Carlo made the goal-saving decision to hook Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. 17 seconds after that, Brad Marchand was whistled for a high-stick on Shayne Gostisbehere.

In less than 20 seconds, the Bruins were down their defender who logs the second-most shorthanded time on ice among B’s defensemen and the winger on their go-to penalty-killing forward pairing.

Against a power play featuring Claude Giroux, Gostisbehere, and Simmonds, that’s by all means a goal against and an 0-1 hole.

But the Bruins instead buckled down, paid the price, and successfully leaned on their remaining shorthanded talents to make the kill.

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Bruins continue to tinker under Bruce Cassidy, and that’s perfectly fine for now

03.11.17 at 6:36 pm ET
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A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Teams that shuffle lines a lot are generally teams that aren’t playing well. They shuffle lines because nothing’s really clicking, because they can’t score goals, because they’re losing. Teams that are winning and scoring generally just stick with what’s working — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Bruins have been winning and scoring since Bruce Cassidy took over from Claude Julien, but they’ve also been changing up their lines quite a bit, both on a game-to-game basis as well as in-game. Part of that has been out of necessity. Ryan Spooner (concussion) and Tim Schaller (lower body) are both currently unavailable, and trade deadline pickup Drew Stafford was naturally going to get some looks in a couple different spots.

But part of it has also been the fact that Cassidy simply doesn’t feel the need to settle on anything definitive, at least not yet.

“It happened to work out (Saturday), and I think you’ll see more of that, and you have since day one, moving people around in game,” Cassidy said. “And listen, when we find the best formula, we’ll keep it that way, but we’re still tinkering.”

As he has a handful of times in his 13 games as head coach, Cassidy shuffled his lines mid-game Saturday. After a bad second period (the Bruins mustered just four shots on goal in the frame), he moved Frank Vatrano up to the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, moved Stafford from left wing over to his natural right wing, and bumped Matt Beleskey (who had been a healthy scratch in five of the previous six games) up to a newfound third line with Stafford and Riley Nash.

Cassidy also bumped Kevan Miller up to the top defense pairing with Zdeno Chara for the third period, and he experimented with using the same power-play unit for a full two minutes a couple times. Read the rest of this entry »

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