The Boston Bruins got a much-needed team-building win 2-1 over the Winnipeg Jets Friday night in Winnipeg. Tuukka Rask made 37 saves, Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron scored powerplay goals and the Bruins killed off all six of the Jets’ powerplays. The Bruins also got into three fights and played their most physical game of the 2019-20 season.
Here’s your BHN Five Takeaways:
Team Toughness And Unity On Display
The Bruins have been called out by their head coach, by fans, by the media, and even by themselves and each other for not sticking together as a team on the ice and not being a consistently tough to play against team. If the Bruins play the way they did against the Jets on Friday night in Winnipeg for the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs, no one will be questioning their team toughness and they may be playing deep into June again.
The Bruins were a hitting machine highlighted by three light-you up and yet clean open-ice hits by defenseman Charlie McAvoy and Karson Kuhlman. Both McAvoy and Kuhlman ended up in fights following their hits and Brad Marchand fought Nikolaj Ehlers after Ehlers did the same to him. Brandon Carlo also dropped the gloves with Gabriel Bourque following a questionable hit by Bourque on Bruins forward Charlie Coyle.
In games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals this season, it’s been painfully evident that the Bruins were lacking size and grit and sadly after seeing Rask get concussed from a headshot January 14 at Columbus, they haven’t always gotten each other’s backs. That wasn’t the case on Friday as following the hit by McAvoy on Scheifele 17:12 into the game, the Bruins played the grittiest hockey they’ve played all season and let it be known the status quo of the games prior to the break will not be tolerated anymore. The Bruins spoke with their actions and now we will see if that becomes the new norm for a team that will need to grind it’s way to the Stanley Cup Final if they want to drink from Lord Stanley this time around.
Rask In Playoff Form
Just as he did Friday night in Winnipeg, Rask returned from the All-Star break last season playing in his first game after suffering a concussion. In his final 19 games after the break last season, Rask went 13-5-1 and won six straight games during that span. Based on his 37-save performance Friday night in Winnipeg, his concussion symptoms are gone and he looks ready to go on another torrid run down the stretch. Rask was pivotal in the Bruins killing off three 5-on-3 powerplays for the Jets and all six Jets powerplays. He was under siege in the second period as the Jets were awarded five straight powerplays and outshot the Bruins 11-4 in the middle frame. He stayed strong in constant traffic in front of the net and tracked the puck well all night. He was by far the Bruins’ best penalty killer.
McAvoy Changes Momentum
The Bruins were being out-played and out-muscled for the first 17 minutes of the game and that’s when their much-maligned young defenseman decided to take matters into his own hands and get his teammates going. As Scheifele carried the puck into the offensive zone, his team leading 1-0 at the time, McAvoy came in and lit up the Jets forward with a textbook, clean and thunderous hit. Jets defense Neil Pionk went after McAvoy and the 22-year-old Bruins rearguard held his own in a spirited bout. The hit clearly sent a message to not just the Jets but McAvoy’s teammates as they played much more physical after that. They also tied the game at one just 1:55 later on the ensuing powerplay after Pionk got the instigator penalty. McAvoy answered his critics again and changed the complexion of what became one of the most entertaining games of the season for Bruins fans.
Special Teams Were Special
The Bruins got both goals on the powerplay and snapped a 0-for-15 stretch by going 2-for-4 Friday night. DeBrusk’s game-winner 3:07 into the final frame came on the man-advantage. Bith units were really moving the puck well, creating seams and in effect, scoring chances. The penalty kill -specifically Rask – was the difference in the game as the Bruins killed off all six Jets powerplays. They allowed chances but they also forced most chances to the outside and clogged the middle. It was simply a dominating performance by the PK.
Kuhlman Making Management Look Good
Bruins GM Don Sweeney, his staff and head coach Bruce Cassidy made one of the most difficult decisions waiving forward David Backes on January 18. On Thursday, they announced a plan they agreed to with Backes that he will not report to Providence as they try and hopefully find a trade partner to take on Backes one year with a $4.9 million cap hit he has left on his contract. One of the reasons cited by Cassidy for waiving Backes, was for the team to filter in more youth and create more inner competition. One of those younger players is 24-year-old Karson Kuhlman and in the four games since Backes was waived, Kuhlman has delivered. He has three assists and on Friday night he laid a huge hit on Jets forward Mathieu Perreault in the third period and then fought Jets defenseman Lucas Sbisa. He took his lickings in the fight but proved he can provide that energy and hard to play against presence the Bruins were seeking.