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Bruins do what’s necessary to get the point

Posted By Joe Haggerty On February 14, 2009 @ 11:47 pm In General | No Comments

The B’s have now trudged through a season-worst four games without notching a win after Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators [1], but they did accomplish something that every veteran team needs to manage when it clearly “isn’t their night.”

They grabbed a valuable point where there almost was none.

Trailing 2-1 in the waning minutes of a contest during which they hadn’t always played their best hockey, the B’s kept oressing on with the attack around the net and didn’t relent until they’d scored the tying goal with 1:16 remaining in the game. It was the exact kind of point-saving tally that an experienced, hardened playoff-caliber team will eke out during the second half of the season, and it’s something that the Stanley Cup-era New Jersey Devils made an art form out of.

It was — to borrow a phrase from everybody’s favorite used car salesman/college basketball coach John Calipari — a sterling example of ‘Refuse to Lose’. Or in the world of the NHL, ‘Refuse to Waste a Point’ is more like it.

Just as he was on Friday night against the Devils, Patrice Bergeron was also among the best Bruins skaters on the ice in Saturday’s loss at the paws of the Preds at the Sommet Center. Bergeron finished with three shots on goal and three hits, and set up Zdeno Chara’s game-tying score in the third period with a deft touch pass from behind Boston’s net. The huge score came with Manny Fernandez pulled out of the net in the frantic final moments in Music City.

Bergeron’s finesse around the net was an encouraging sign, but the skater’s willingness to both dish out and sustain physical contact is also a huge blinking neon sign of encouragement. It says to everyone that the 23-year-old’s concussion worries are squarely behind him.

Encouraging sign number two from Saturday night’s shootout loss: the chemistry exhibited by the Blake Wheeler/David Krejci/Vladimir Sobotka was again present in spurts and led to Boston’s other goal on the evening — a second period Wheeler score assisted by Krejci and Sobotka. It marked only the fifth goal produced by Krejci and Wheeler’s formerly prolific line in 10 games since the NHL All-Star break, but there have been plenty of hints in the last two games that their puck mojo is returning.

The score was a rebound/second effort score from Big Wheeler around the net, and it epitomized exactly what he’s been knowingly replying to people asking him about his recent struggles. When the pucks aren’t going in, Wheeler said it was time to simplify, hang around the net and try to get in on some dirty goals — and that’s exactly what he did to get Boston on the board in the second period.

Wheeler also successfully scored during the shootout, and continued what’s been a pretty fair level of success (4 for 7, a 57 percent success rate) when it comes to the post-overtime shootout sessions. It appears that the rookie’s combination of long limbs, good hands, careful stickwork and superior hand-eye coordination make him a pretty dangerous weapon during the shootouts.

Medical Ward: Still no Petteri Nokelainen (eye) or Chuck Kobasew (upper body injury) in the lineup for the Bruins. The B’s flew back to Boston following Saturday night’s game against Nashville, and word will likely come down at practice Monday concerning whether either player could be ready to take the upcoming Sun Belt southern swing through Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.

Player of the Game: For the second straight game Patrice Bergeron was one of the best Bruins on the ice and was doling out hits and physical play along with his normally heady play. The youngster is at his best when he’ combining the hit game and skill game in one package, and there hasn’t been any trace of hesitation or tentativeness in his game. Three hits, three shots attempted and a big, important assist for a player that finally looks up to speed.

Chara also deserved special mention for the game-tying goal, a team-high four shots attempted and a game-high 27:51 of ice time. It’s a ho-hum night for the Norris Trophy-worthy Chara for sure, but it’s still worth noting.

Goat Horns: Milan Lucic hasn’t had many games when you could say he wasn’t a physical presence for the B’s out on the ice, but Saturday night was one of the. One shot attempted, one hit registered and not much else to note for Big Looch on a night when he really didn’t distinguish himself. The PP unit was also again 0-for-4 and dropped to 5th in the NHL with a 22.1 percent success rate after last night’s contest.

Turning Point: As stated up above, the B’s did just enough to salvage a point and keep building on their Eastern Conference lead when Chara scored a game-tying goal with less than two minutes to go. The late score pushed the game to overtime, and stemmed some of the negative momentum that a pair of regulation losses had saddled the Bruins with. Bergeron’s heady play and pass from behind the net in the third period to Chara was exactly what the hockey doctor ordered.


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[1] 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators: http://weei.stats.com/nhl/recap.asp?g=2009021427&home=27&vis=1

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