The Boston Bruins celebrated Festivus in resounding fashion Monday night at TD Garden as they beat the Washington Capitals 7-3 in their last game before the holiday break and snapped a four-game winless streak.
The Bruins aired not just frustrations from two one-goal losses to the Capitals this season but a decade of grievances against a team that has dominated the Bruins in the last decade. Heading into Monday’s tilt, the final one of this regular season, Since the Bruins had beaten the Capitals just 12 times in 42 tries since 2010. Factor in the recent overall losing streak and the Bruins were simply ready to unload waves of frustration and they did so with control and poise, in a game the Capitals tried to turn into a street fight once they went down 5-0.
“It’d be a while since we were in the winner circle here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “So you put all those things together — a good Washington team that’s had our number. And then going into the break, even though you’re going to separate yourself from hockey for three days, it’s still your last game. You’d like it to be a good memory.”
Yes, the Bruins may not have Torey Krug in their lineup Friday in Buffalo thanks to a thunderous but clean hit by Capitals forward Tom Wilson in the second period. They may also not have fellow blueliner Charlie McAvoy after Capitals forward T.J. Oshie finished off a hit on McAvoy while the Bruins rearguard was in a dangerous position. Even bruised and battered, the Bruins – who already came into the game with captain Zdeno Chara – stepped up against a team that’s had their number and played like the team that went 20-4-5 through December 3rd and not the team that’s gone 1-4-4 since then.
All Aboard The Polar Express
There were no passengers on the Bruins express into the holiday break as it was clearly all hands on deck Monday night against a team that has simply owned the Bruins. From the opening faceoff, it was clear the Bruins, as they had preached to a crescendo in the 48 hours since losing another overtime game to the Predators Saturday, had had enough of losing. The B’s unloaded for four goals in the first period with two of those lamplighters coming within 27 seconds of each other. ‘The Perfection Line’ was as close to perfect a can be, but the much-maligned secondary scoring delivered as well.
Jake DeBrusk opened the scoring at 5:37 on the powerplay and then Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork scored two even-strength goals 27 ticks apart. Down 3-0, the Capitals started to implode under a wave of frustration and just under three minutes later, Evgeny Kuznetsov (slashing) and Jakub Vrana (tripping) both went to the sin-bin and the Bruins went on a 5-on-3. Patrice Bergeron ripped home a powerplay goal and the Bruins were up 4-0 after the first period.
Bergeron would score an empty-netter later to make it 7-3 Bruin with 28 seconds and now has seven goals in eight games since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out seven games straight prior to returning December 9 at Ottawa. The rest of the top line looked like they did in the first two months of the season as well.
Marchand finished with a goal and an assist and snapped a 12-game goalless streak. David Pastrnak had two helpers to give him an assist in four straight games – five total – and two goals in the game prior for seven points in five games.
The offense didn’t end with the first line though as David Krejci had a goal and two assists, Charlie Coyle had a shorthanded goal and an assist, and Anders Bjork scored his second goal in three games.
It should be noted that while he hasn’t exactly called Krejci and Coyle out in the last week, he has directly asked for more from the two centers and asked them to drive their lines. Ask and receive as both Coyle and Krejci delivered.
Powerplay Back To Normal
The Bruins powerplay appears to be back to normal as they’ve connected in five straight games, going 6-for-21 over that span. Even better news for the Bruins is that both powerplay units are contributing as was the case Monday with Bergeron and DeBrusk coring on the man advantage. The Bruins basically led the league in powerplay percentage for the first two months of the season and while they’re very likely headed to the playoffs, they will need both units clicking as a threat for opposing penalty kills.
Rask Rewards Cassidy
Prior to the four-game homestand the Bruins just completed, Cassidy said that the plan was to go with Tuukka Rask for three of the four games at TD Garden heading into the holiday break. After watching Rask allow seven goals in the first two games and both him and Rask agreeing Rask should’ve stopped a good portion of those goals, he left the door open to going back to Halak for a second straight game on Monday. Cassidy stayed with the plan though and Rask rewarded him with a 39-save performance. After the Bruins went up 4-0 in the first period and outshot the Caps 11-8, and more specifically after the Bruins went up 5-0 on the Coyle shortie 6:55 into the middle frame, the Capitals poured it on, outshooting the Bruins 34-6 in the final two periods. Rask turned away all but two of those shots and was steady all game. His best save actually came in the first period when he stoned Ovechkin early to set the tempo after the Bruins went up 1-0.
Bruins Barely Survive Feats Of Strength
As mentioned above, the Bruin came out victorious on Festivus Day but if this team has to play the Capitals in a seven-game series in the Conference Final, they will either lose then because the Capitals are simply a heavier team that can wear them down, or lose in the Stanley Cup Final for the same reason and because a portion of the team could be or will be on injured reserve. The Caps sent a message in the final period, finishing off hits they didn’t necessarily need to and being sneaky dirty. Tom Wilson snapped and if not for being outnumbered 5-to-1 by the Bruins on the ice and 9-to-1 including the referees and linesmen, he would’ve seriously injured David Pastrnak or another Bruin in front of a sellout TD Garden crowd. The Bruins deserve credit for getting under Wilson’s skin and uniting the best they could to not have half their roster out the next game, but general manager Don Sweeney needs to address the lack of size on this team ASAP!