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Good signs and goals aplenty in Toronto victory

Posted By Joe Haggerty On March 28, 2009 @ 10:23 pm In General | 1 Comment

It wasn’t the sleekest defensive performance of the season, but there were more than few things reminiscent of the first half Bruins in Saturday night’s win over the Leafs.

The skilled and scrappy Bruins offense poured it on with seven goals and tagged on a couple of fighting majors for good measure in a 7-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs [1] at the Air Canada Centre that was high on entertainment value and short on goaltending and suffocating D.

A few things stand out after the ice chips settled on Boston’s 47th win of the season — a point in puck time that means the B’s are officially in the final two week sprint toward the NHL regular season finish line:

–A lot of people, including this humble hockey scribe, recently praised Mark Recchi [2]for his ability to stand in the danger areas close to the goal posts and use his phenomenal hands to tip and redirect pucks, and it was in evidence again Saturday night. Big time.

Recchi had a pair of goals in the win, and both were the residue of Recchi’s trademark courage and optimal positioning in front of the net. The first was a redirected Matt Hunwick shot and the second was a beautiful tip of a Marc Savard shot from directly in front of the right post. The scores give Recchi six goals since arriving in Boston, and he has truly worked out exactly as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could have hoped.

–Matt Hunwick picked up three more assists in another solid night at the D position, and he seems to getting more and more comfortable with each passing day. In several instances Hunwick pinched and rushed up into the offensive zone to keep the puck embedded deep in Toronto’s zone while maintaining pressure on a scuffling Maple Leafs defense. “Munch” has a goal and four assists in his last three games and is a +4 during that time period. A quick little flip pass from the right point set up Shawn Thornton’s goal from the high slot in the second period.

–Manny Fernandez survived a horrific first period to get his first win since the beginning of January, but the game did keep a string intact that Fernandez would like to snap. The B’s goaltender has allowed four or more goals in five of his six games since coming back from a back injury in early February, and appears to be battling a crippling lack of confidence between the pipes. After consulting with a pair of pretty knowledgeable goaltending experts during the game, Fernandez was simply backing way too far back into the net during the first period and wasn’t challenging shooters early in the contest until it was too late. Man-Fern did get better as the game went along, and B’s coach Claude Julien ultimately made the right call in what many considered a risky coaching move placing Fernandez back in net.

–David Krejci and Blake Wheeler both showed up on the scoresheet and contributed mightily to the win, a requirement given the absence of Phil Kessel from the lineup due to an unspecified injury. Both young forwards played hard, simple games with their respective lines, which is exactly what Julien was preaching over the last week of practice. Krejci finished with a goal and an assist on Saturday night, and enjoyed his first multi-point night since he scored two points against the Carolina Hurricanes back on Feb. 17.

Injury Ward: With Kessel back in Boston getting looked at for what’s believed to be a left shoulder injury, the Bruins pushed Steve Montador up to a forward spot and had him skate with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle on the fouth line. Dennis Wideman took a painful shot off the chest during the game, but returned for his next shift without incident.

Player of the Game: With Kessel out of the lineup, somebody had to step up and fill the offensive void. Recchi made the big splash with two courage goals in front of the cage, and both Wideman and Hunwick added three assists apiece while keeping the puck moving through all three zones. Hunwick, in particular, is impressing with his all-around performance at this late point in the season. The rookie is third among Bruins defenseman in scoring this season, an amazing jump from a training camp where he was the last blueliner cut before the season. After making some adjustments to the PP – including inserting Hunwick and Wideman on the top unit — Boston’s special teams are taking off.

Goat Horns: Aaron Ward logged 22:06 of ice time, but he didn’t have a very good night in his own end with five official giveaways — including one that led directly to a Maple Leafs score in the second period. Ward finished with a -2, and won’t be putting this one on his Greatest Hits compilation tape.

Turning Point: Alexei Ponikarovsky scored first in the second period to give Toronto a 4-3 lead, but the Bruins struck back with four unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes of the period. Recchi started with a power play goal to tie it, and then Thornton, Krejci and Wheeler finished things off for the Spoked B.


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[1] 7-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs: http://weei.stats.com/nhl/recap.asp?g=2009032821&home=21&vis=1

[2] praised Mark Recchi : http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/bruins/joe-haggerty/good-hands-man-mark-recchi

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