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5 Things We Learned as Bruins dominate Jets in another Garden win

11.19.16 at 9:36 pm ET
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Matt Beleskey scored his second goal of the season in a 4-0 win for the Bruins on Saturday. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

Matt Beleskey scored his second goal of the season in a 4-0 win for the Bruins on Saturday. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

After a three-game road trip in which the Bruins scored just four goals on a combined 100 shots with stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota, it turns out that a return back to the TD Garden ice was all the Bruins needed for a quick fix to their recent scoring woes.

Back in Boston for the start of a two-game homestand and start of an eight-day stretch with four of five games played in their home barn, the Bruins made up for their lost goals with four against the Jets’ Michael Hutchinson, and did it in their first 27 shots of the night.

With David Pastrnak out for the second straight contest, the Bruins responded to the loss of their leading goal scorer with a feverish pace that eluded the team on Thursday night, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead behind Matt Beleskey’s second goal of the season, banged home on a one-time blast 2:01 into the second period.

Less than 10 minutes later, it was Brad Marchand, who has been snakebit in recent days, that decided to join the party, with a goal that just straight-up undressed Hutchinson and put the Bruins up by two midway through the period. And it was Marchand’s linemate, the equally snakebitten Patrice Bergeron, that wrapped up a dominant third period with his first point in six games, to put the Bruins up 3-0 through 40 minutes of play.

A lead that was extended to four early in the third period with Tim Schaller’s third goal of the season.

But while the goals were impressive, it was the Bruins’ relentless defensive effort that once again stole the show in the club’s third straight win on home ice, as the Black and Gold held the Jets without a shot on goal for the final 13:48 of the second period, and just two even-strength shots through the opening 40 minutes of play.

The Jets ultimately broke through with an Adam Lowry goal scored with 2:40 left to go in the third period, but it didn’t matter, as the Bruins stifled the Jets to just 12 shots on goal in 60 minutes of play, their lowest of the season.

Here are four other things we learned in the victory

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Bruins looking for home-ice advantage, scoring against high-powered Jets

11.19.16 at 3:17 pm ET
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David Backes and the Bruins will begin a two-game homestand tonight against the Jets. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

David Backes and the Bruins will begin a two-game homestand tonight against the Jets. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

When the Bruins struggled with back-to-back-to-back losses early in the year, head coach Claude Julien harped on his team’s inability to respect the system. It was a three-zone problem for the Black and Gold, too; If the defense wasn’t up to task, the offense suffered with a desperate, pressing approach. When the offense struggled, the defense and goaltending was left with absolutely no room for error.

The latter reared its head in the club’s last game, too, with a game-winning goal banked off Adam McQuaid’s shinpad and into the back of the B’s net with just 44.5 seconds left to go in a scoreless draw with the Wild. It was a just end to a 120-minute stretch of road hockey that saw the Bruins score just four goals on 100 shots, but somehow escape with four of a possible six points in their pockets.

But back home for after a week-plus away on the road — a theme of the season if there’s ever been one — the Bruins know it’s time for the rest of their offense to step up in defense of their defense in a tone-setting head-to-head with a quick-moving Jets attack.

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David Pastrnak to miss second straight game for Bruins

11.19.16 at 1:01 pm ET
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David Pastrnak.

David Pastrnak

In a matchup of the league’s top goal scorer against the league’s third-best goal scorer at TD Garden tonight between the Bruins and Jets, the latter will have to watch from above, as Bruins winger David Pastrnak will miss his second straight contest for the club with what’s been termed an upper-body injury.

“Still day-to-day,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed of Pastrnak, who ranks 13th among NHL right wingers with 48 shots on goal this season, after the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena.

“[For] tonight he’s ruled out.”

This will be the B’s fourth game on the year without Pastrnak in the lineup — be it through injury or suspension — and though the Bruins have survived their brief glimpses of life without Pastrnak by way of a 2-1-0 record, there’s no doubt that the Black and Gold have struggled to generate offense without No. 88. In those three games, the Bruins have scored just two goals, both of which came in one game, too, a 2-1 squeak-it-out win against the Panthers on Nov. 1, and failed to score on 25 shots on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk last game.

Pastrnak’s absence has also magnified the struggles of his linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, two players that have combined for just one goal and three points (all from Marchand) over the last six games.

“It’s important not to get frustrated,” Julien said of the drought surrounding his one-two punch that’s totaled 123 goals since the start of the 2014-15 season. “You look at some of the scoring chances [against Minnesota] and I think Bergeron had maybe four of them. They’re there, and I think that’s the encouraging part, it’s just a matter of time before those two guys score again.”

The Bergeron line, with bottom-sixer Riley Nash expected to once again fill in Pastrnak’s spot on the wing, will be leaned on to stop and counterattack a quick-moving Winnipeg offense led by the contributions of the league’s aforementioned top scorer, as Patrick Laine, the No. 2 overall pick last summer, enters tonight’s tilt with an NHL-best 12 goals scored.

The Bruins beat the Jets in their only prior head-to-head this season by a 4-1 final on Oct. 17.

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin cleared, to start for P-Bruins

11.19.16 at 12:19 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin will start for the Providence Bruins on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin will start for the Providence Bruins on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Absent from the last 12 games with an upper-body ailment, the road back to the B’s backup job begins with today for Anton Khudobin.

Present for the team’s three-game road trip last week and on the ice for practices all throughout, the 30-year-old has finally been officially cleared for game action and will start in goal for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League in their Saturday night contest against the Springfield Thunderbirds (the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers) at 7:05 p.m. at Springfield’s MassMutual Center, according to Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

Khudobin, who was seen skating in Boston last week but not yet with a stick in his hand, was injured in an Oct. 24 practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and has skated in two games for the B’s this season, with no wins and an .849 save percentage with 45 stops on 53 shots against.

With Khudobin in Providence on a rehab assignment, Zane McIntyre will remain Tuukka Rask’s backup for the fifth straight game tonight as the Bruins host the Jets at TD Garden.

Late-game collapse can’t sour road trip, but should come with reality check for Bruins

11.18.16 at 4:10 pm ET
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The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins canceled their Friday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

That’s probably not the go-to act of a team that collapsed their way out of at least one point for the second time in nine days — this time with a Mikael Granlund goal banked off Adam McQuaid’s shinpad and into the B’s net with 44.5 seconds to go in a 0-0 game in a 1-0 loss to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center — but the Black and Gold have earned it.

On a three-game road swing with stops in Arizona and Colorado last weekend, and Minnesota on Thursday, the Bruins nabbed four of a possible six points, and improved to 10-7-0 on the year.

The trip also allowed the B’s to keep pace with an insanely tight Eastern Conference that could require a 100-point season from all of its playoff teams, and saw their NHL-best road record pop up to 7-4-0 (only the San Jose Sharks have played as many road games as the Bruins’ league-leading 11 games away from home thus far).

So while the ending to the road trip can’t nullify all the positives the Bruins have accomplished this season, it should serve as a reminder to a group that’s anything close to settled into a groove as one of the league’s top teams.

Not yet, anyways.

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5 Things We Learned as Bruins fall to Wild on last-minute goal

11.17.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 28-of-29 shots, but took a loss as the B’s fell to the Wild, 1-0, on Thursday night. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

A meeting between the goaltenders with the league’s best and second-best mark in both save percentage and goals against average came with the performances — and lack of goals — you would expect in Thursday’s meeting between the Bruins and Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

At one end, though particularly unchallenged on the night, the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk continued to be his normal dynamite self, with zeros on the board through 40 minutes of play. At the other end, Tuukka Rask, in the best season-opening groove of his professional career, was just as strong with a slightly larger workload thrown his way.

Pestered by a Wild group that dominated the puck for much of the night, the Bruins leaned heavily on Rask (as they have all trip and all season for that matter), and Rask stood tall, with his biggest stops coming with two momentum-stopping saves on Minnesota winger Jason Pominville in the second period.

With Rask doing his job in the B’s crease, the Bruins appeared to finally get their goaltender a lead to work with on a net-front putaway from Minnesota native David Backes with 5:24 left in the second period, but a challenge and subsequent review determined that it was Ryan Spooner that was offside on the zone entry half a minute prior. (Krejci, Backes, and Spooner were actually offside on the play as the puck danced laterally across the blue line while they all skated over the blue.)

Worked over on a review for the umphteenth time since its introduction last season, the B’s best chance of the scoreless draw came with an early third period breakaway chance for Matt Beleskey off a Mathew Dumba turnover, but Beleskey’s bid was slammed shut by a diving poke and cover from the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk.

But in a night of heavy Wild pressure, it was their final push on Rask that finally broke the dam.

In the B’s end for over 40 seconds, the Wild struck for the game’s first goal with 44.5 seconds to go, as a puck banked off a groggy Adam McQuaid and into the B’s net for Mikael Granlund’s fourth goal of the season.

It was a goal that seemed completely avoidable, too, as the Bruins whiffed on chances to clear the puck out of their zone long before McQuaid’s legs were taken out and then used by the Wild as the tip-in for the game-winning tally.

The Bruins gave it one final push with a Torey Krug slapshot at the buzzer, but it was blocked, and Dubnyk rolled to his second shutout in as many head-to-heads with the Bruins this season, this one behind a 25-save performance.

Krejci takes blocked shot to knee, returns

Bruins fans everywhere held their breath for a moment when center David Krejci took a Christian Folin bomb off his knee and collapsed down to the ice. As Krejci struggled to get back to his feet, you thought about all of Krejci’s injury struggles over the last two years, and how important Krejci has been historically, and how No. 46 was just starting to look like himself out there on a second line with Ryan Spooner and David Backes. Your fears were reinforced by the sight of Krejci heading back to the B’s room after he slowly made his way to the bench, and you immediately started armchair coaching up some new lines. But as soon as you found the perfect winger for your sans Krejci second line, the crafty Czech pivot was back on the ice. Huge. Bullet. Dodged.

Although Krejci feels the wrath of B’s fans at times, he’s still without a doubt the club’s most offensively gifted playmaker, and eases the overall workload on guys like top-line center Patrice Bergeron, and even David Backes, to a lesser extent.

Morrow gets in game for second straight night

It’s official: the Bruins are holding tryouts on their blue line. With the return of Kevan Miller (fractured left hand) looming, B’s coach Claude Julien is clearly trying to figure out what he has from every one of the seven bodies on his point before the club has to actually make a move on one of them. So for the second game in a row, and for the first time since Oct. 20-22, defenseman Joe Morrow found himself in the lineup for consecutive nights while Colin Miller sat as a scratch once again.

When No. 86 returns to the ice, somebody is going to have to go and likely hit the waiver wire. And of that group, either Morrow or Colin Miller seem like the likeliest candidates (unless the Bruins ditch having a 13th forward, which seems unlikely), so giving them both an equal shot at earning their keep in the B’s lineup and on the roster for that matter, is only fair.

Usage of slumping Jimmy Hayes still seems odd

Down David Pastrnak (undisclosed), the Bruins had just one natural right winger (unless you want to count Backes, who has played both center and wing throughout his career depending on the situation/line/etc.) dressed for tonight’s game: Jimmy Hayes. And where did Hayes skate for this game? On the fourth line, of course. See, this is weird. While we go on and on about Hayes’ struggles in Boston (and we have), Pastrnak’s spot on the first line was seemingly wide open. So why not Hayes? Is it viewed as ‘wrong’ to potentially reward Hayes — who has not scored in 31 games dating back to last season — with such a spot? Maybe. But it’s also worth noting that that line is perhaps the best way to get a ‘passenger’ going and/or masked. When the Bruins acquired Hayes from the Panthers in 2015, it was with the hope that he could chip in 20 goals a season (something he nearly did with the Panthers during his final year in town), and while that seems incredibly unlikely at this point, why not give him an opportunity typically reserved for a 20-goal scorer? Bogging him down on the fourth line does little for anybody.

Late collapse brings back shades of last year

It was nine days ago in Montreal that the Bruins allowed a goal with just 1:03 to go in the third period to drop a 3-2 final to the Canadiens. Tonight, they allow the game-winning goal with just 44.5 seconds. In a combined 1:48 between two games, the Bruins have now left at least two points on the table. For a team that’s likely going to battle for one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots this season, that’s huge, and especially so when you realize that the Bruins have missed out on the postseason by just three points last season, and two the year before. So while you’ve liked the team’s ability to protect a lead on most nights (and something they did very well in the first two games of this road trip), breakdowns like the one that cost the Bruins at least one point tonight are absolute no-nos as the club settles into the grind of the season.

The Bruins are back in action on Saturday night at TD Garden against the Winnipeg Jets.

Bruins, down David Pastrnak, go for road trip sweep against Wild

11.17.16 at 7:09 pm ET
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. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Wild wrap up their season series tonight in Minnesota. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Nobody in the NHL has been better away from home than the Bruins.

The start to the team’s latest stint away from the Garden, a three-game road swing that began last Friday, was no exception, either. With a dominant puck-possession game, the Bruins rattled off impressive back-to-back performances against the Coyotes and Avalanche last weekend, and now go for the sweep with a Thursday night visit to the Xcel Energy Center for a head-to-head with the Wild.

But in their first game back from a four-day layoff (their second-longest gap between games this season), the Bruins will have to find a way to score goals against a Wild team that’s allowed a league-low 29 goals through 15 games without one of their best, as top-line winger David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s tilt with an undisclosed injury.

Pastrnak’s 10 goals are the second-most in the NHL this season, and though the Bruins are 2-0-0 with Pastrnak out of action this year (No. 88 missed two games to suspension late last month), the Bruins will have to continue to pour shots on goal in an attempt to mask his absence. Shots have not been the problem for the Bruins of late, especially after a season-high 46 shots hammered on the Avalanche net on Sunday, but there’s no doubt that the Bruins need to find more than just shots, as the team enters tonight’s game with just four goals (one of which was an empty-net goal in the closing seconds of Sunday’s win) on their last 85 shots on goal dating back to the third period of last Thursday’s win over the Blue Jackets.

“We’d like to have some more goals scored with the number of chances we have, but at the end of the days we’re winning hockey games,” B’s head coach Claude Julien, whose team has won three games in a row, said after an optional morning skate on Thursday. “So you build on that stuff and you hope that the goals will come. I think we’ve been through that before many times, and when you stick with it eventually goals start going in.”

The Bruins are expected to turn to Tuukka Rask in net for his fourth straight start. Rask has been lights out on this road trip, with two wins and 51 stops on 52 shots against, and enters play with seven wins and a .956 save percentage in seven road games this season. The 29-year-old has two wins and a .932 save percentage in five career games against the Wild.

Minnesota will counter with Devan Dubnyk. The towering Dubnyk stopped all 27 shots against in his last appearance against the Bruins, a 5-0 beatdown of the B’s back at TD Garden on Oct. 25, and stopped 26-of-27 in his last appearance, a loss to the Flames.

In addition to the injured Pastrnak, forwards Noel Acciari (lower-body), Frank Vatrano (foot), and defenseman Kevan Miller (hand) remain out of action for the Bruins. Defenseman Colin Miller is the expected healthy scratch.

This will be the season series finale between the B’s and Wild this season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Riley Nash

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Dominic Moore – Austin Czarnik

Jimmy Hayes – Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles


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