Make no mistake, the Boston Bruins were treating Tuesday night in Nashville as a must-win. Winless in their first two games of 2020, the Bruins knew they needed an all-out effort and with 22 of their Mom’s watching from a luxury box on the Bruins ‘Moms Trip’, they got it throughout their lineup as six different Bruins lit the lamp and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 33 saves to snap a three-game losing streak with a resounding 6-2 thumping of the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
David Pastrnak opened the scoring 1:36 into the game with his league-leading 32nd lamplighter of the season and the Bruins never looked back getting goals from Danton Heinen, Patrice Bergeron (powerplay), Chris Wagner, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle. Coyle and Heinen both finished with a goal and assist as the Bruins got the secondary scoring they’ve been lacking and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk factored in with two assists.
Here are your five takeaways from arguably one of the Bruins’ most complete games of the 2019-20 season in their first win of 2020.
No Passengers For Bruins In Smashville
Facing off against what was sure to be a charged-up Predators squad with new head coach John Hynes behind the bench after Peter Laviolette was fired Monday night and Hynes hired by general manager David Poile earlier in the day Tuesday, the Bruins knew they would need to match the Preds’ intensity from the opening faceoff and not let the home team dictate the tone of the game. Not to mention that their Atlantic Division lead over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning and much-improved Toronto Maple Leafs had dwindled as the Bruins slumbered through December and into the New Year and this game was bordering on must-win status for the Bruins.
Well, unlike so many recent games, the Bruins answered the bell and went wire to wire on the Predators. They got contributions up and down the lineup and finally left a head coach who has always preached the Bruins are NOT a one-line team dependant on ‘The Perfection Line’ of Brad Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, with some crdence to lean on.
“When guys contribute, different guys get on the scoresheet…everyone feels like they’re doing their part,” Cassidy pointed out. “I don’t think we’ve ever considered ourselves a one-line team. We’ve always felt like we’re a group of 20 guys that need to pull their weight every night. If not then we’re not going to win every night and tonight was a good example of that.”
Marchand made it abundantly clear the Bruins weren’t going to let the Preds dictate the tone of the game when he snapped back at Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson, who was doing Marchand-type things trying to agitate the Bruins. Marchand gave Arvidsson a cross-check sending Arvidsson into an Oscar-worthy fall to the ice. Marchand was called for cross-checking but Arvidsson joined him in the sin-bin as he got whistled for embellishment. Marchand mocked him as they went to the box and it was clear the Bruins were engaged.
This game wasn’t just about shenanigans or message-sending for the Bruins though, it was about following through and that’s what they did in pretty much every facet of the game. Since December 5, when the Bruins had an eight-game win streak snapped ina 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, they were 5-5-6 and the main reason for that subpar stretch was that there were too many passengers.
Cassidy wasn’t afraid to point that out and even singled out the like of David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle calling on them to utilize their skills with more effort. Sometimes it worked and sometimes his pleas fell on deaf ears. On Tuesday, everyone was listening and tuned in as the Bruins finally played as a cohesive unit.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played as a team like that,” Bergeron told the media after the game. “Assertive and on the puck for 60 minutes throughout the game without stopping. There’s going to be some breakdowns. We’re playing some good teams. Obviously, it’s a great league and those points don’t come easily, but I thought the way we competed and the way we played, good things will happen every time if we do that.”
The Lightning (25-13-4, 54 points) extended their win streak to eight games with a 9-2 thrashing of the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night but with their win, the Bruins (25-8-1, 61 points) maintained a seven-point lead over the second-place Bolts and an eight-point lead over the idle third-place Maple Leafs (24-15-5, 53 points).
Chara Answers The Bell
One of the most glaring issues for the Bruins again this season has been their lack of response due to their lack of size. Even when they were winning – as evidenced in a 7-3 win against the Capitals (their last three or more goals winning margin) on December 23, the Bruins got pushed around and found themselves with a MASH crew after with both defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug missing three games after two big hits from T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson respectively. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was out for that game after another procedure on his surgically repaired jaw and the Caps pounced on the chance to take liberties.
There’s still the danger that happens again the next game Chara misses but 11:40 into the third period, Chara let it once again be known such liberties won’t be taken with him in the lineup. Predators forward Yakov Trenin unloaded on a tad bit late hit on McAvoy behind the Bruins’ net and Chara immediately went after Trenin and the two engaged ins a spirited bout, with the 6’2, 201-pound Trenin surprisingly landing a right on the 6’9, 250-pound Chara but ultimately succumbing to the takedown by Chara.
Yakov Trenin fights Zdeno Chara and lands a big right pic.twitter.com/soUdTb461O
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 8, 2020
Bergeron wasn’t surprised by the leadership from the Bruins captain.
“That’s who he is. He’s a competitor,” said the alternate captain. “It doesn’t matter which game of the year it is, what time of the year. He’s always at his best and focused, and he wants the best for the team. It’s an amazing milestone coming up and I think he’s been the captain the whole time too, which I don’t think many people have done that in an organization.”
Penalty Kill Crushes Preds’ Limited Momentum
Yes, the Bruins penalty kill had a 24-for-24 stretch snapped as the Predators scored two powerplay goals, but they did kill off five of seven Nashville powerplays and basically stemmed what little momentum the Predators tried to harness a few times through the course of the game. This was the first time the Bruins surrendered two powerplay goals since December 12 at Tampa Bay, but they were rendered meaningless by subsequent kills.
“We got the lead, we extended the lead, had a lot of penalty kills, and battled hard in front of our net. Everybody contributed,” Rask told reporters.
Rask Held Fort Down
As mentioned above, there wasn’t much sustained momentum or pressure from the Preds, but every time they did turn the heat up. As the old saying goes, “you’re goalie is your best penalty killer” and Rask was certainly that. 11 of Rask’s 33 saves came on the penalty kill and the Bruins clearly fed off him not just then, but also throughout the second period when he made 15 saves. His biggest and best save of the game came on Arvidsson with the Preds on their second 5-on-3 thanks to Chara’s extra roughing call and a John Moore hooking call four seconds later. A goal there makes it 4-2 with plenty of time left still, but Rask shut the door again with a highlight reel glove save.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 8, 2020
Boisterous Bruins Moms Cheer On Sons
There were plenty of Bruins fans at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night but none quite louder and prouder than the 22 moms of Bruins players that were on hand for the ‘Moms Trip’. The women who likely drove their sons to the rinks at the crack of dawn so many times and supported them through their ascension to the NHL were seen numerous times leading the cheers from a luxury box and greeted their beloved sons with a huge ovation in the tunnel when they were done with the media. The Bruins felt blessed to have them on hand and for all they’ve done through the years.
“Sometimes you don’t have a chance to thank them enough for everything they’ve done,” Bergeron said as the Moms whooped it up outside the dressing room postgame. “They’re obviously excited, as you can hear. It’s been a great few days. Lots of laughs, lots of fun.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 8, 2020