Bruins Special Teams Thrives, Preview @ Wild
The Boston Bruins returned from the All-Star break last night and scored a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The Bruins (30-10-12, 72 points) will conclude a brief two-game road trip tonight in Minnesota as they visit the Wild (23-21-6, 52 points). It is the second and final meting between the teams on the season.
Puck drop is at 8:00 pm on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Special Teams Pushes Bruins
The Bruins were forced to kill six penalties last night, including a pair of five-on-three’s against the Jets. The Bruins were a perfect six-for-six on the PK Friday night. Combine that with a two-for-four night on the man advantage, and the Bruins special teams were the main reason for two points on Friday.
“Our penalty kill was huge,” Jake DeBrusk said postgame. “Our penalty kill is the biggest reason why we won tonight. It starts with Tuukka [Rask] obviously, our best PK’er. Then we get timely blocks, timely clears, good sticks…that’s why we won the game tonight.”
Rask battled hard in net, while captain Zdeno Chara played a team-high 6:58 seconds shorthanded. Chara’s efforts were a big reason why the Jets came up empty-handed up a man.
Although DeBrusk didn’t play a major role on the PK, he did play a big role in this game. The Edmonton native scored the game-winning goal on the powerplay for the Bruins.
“Our power play’s been due for a little bit,” DeBrusk admitted. It came through on Friday night.
Tuukka Rask was sensational in his return from a concussion suffered earlier this month against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rask made 37 saves in the victory, including 12 on the penalty kill. He didn’t look like a goaltender who had missed each of the team’s last three games leading into the break.
“He was good, he was really good,” Brad Marchand said after the win. “Made the saves when we needed them. He made a couple big saves, some really good ones late, he’s so good. If we’re gonna be a good team, we need him to play games like that and he did. It was great to have that.”
Rask himself was happy with his performance, especially on the penalty kill.
“That was a good battle. We needed those kills,” Rask said. “It was one after another in the second period. Never were able to catch a breath there for the killers. Showed some physicality and grinded a win out…it was good hockey, we need that moving forward.”
The Minnesota Wild are currently below the playoff cutline in the Western Conference and are in danger of falling out of the race. The stretch drive for the Wild officially begins tonight against a Bruins team that broke their hearts in November.
For the Wild, they won’t just be battling the Bruins and the pressure of the stretch drive. They’ll also be battling the challenge of coming off of their break. Tonight is Minnesota’s first game after the All-Star/bye week break.
In preparation for it, the Wild held an intense practice on Friday that featured lots of skating and battles drills.
“I think there will be the initial back to game pace, but I don’t think it will take long [to adjust],” said Wild forward Zach Parise. “I think timing. We should talk a lot with our linemates on the ice, try to make it easier, closer together, stay together. Just simplify the game early.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau isn’t worried about the rust. He’s just hoping his team is ready to go and hungry to get back into the playoff mix.
“I hope it’s not tough for any of them to get back into it, hope they’re hungry,” Boudreau said. “I look at it, when we left for break, we were five points out of a playoff spot, I look [Friday] and we’re five points out of a playoff spot. That’s encouraging to me because other teams have played games.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
The Bruins lines against the Wild are based off of last night and subject to change. Jaroslav Halak is the expected starter after Rask played last night. Connor Clifton and Kevan Miller remain on IR and are not available. Par Lindholm and Anton Blidh are the healthy scratches among forwards. John Moore is scratched among defensemen.
Minnesota Wild Lines
Zach Parise – Eric Staal – Mats Zuccarello
Jason Zucker – Victor Rask – Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno – Joel Eriksson-Ek – Luke Kunin
Jordan Greenway – Mikko Koivu – Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Mathew Dumba
Greg Pateryn – Carson Soucy
Brad Hunt (illness) is day-to-day for the Wild and is not expected to play tonight. Dubnyk gets the start for the Wild against the Bruins. Ryan Donato and Nick Seeler are the expected scratches for the Wild tonight.