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Five Takeaways: Perfection Line Fights Back, Defense To Offense, Bruins Beat Isles 4-0

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Tuukka Rask made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and Long Beach, NY native Charlie McAvoy has a goal and two assists with his family and friends in the stands in a 4-0 win for the Boston Bruins over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum Saturday. 

Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist; David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk also scored and Torey Krug had two helpers for the Bruins who have now won two straight games after losing two straight.

Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves in the loss.

With the win, the Bruins (41-13-12, 94 points) led the Lightning (40-19-5, 85 pts) by nine points for the Atlantic Division lead but the Lightning was playing a 4 PM ET tilt with the Calgary Flames as well. They now lead the Washington Capitals (39-18-6, 84 points) by ten points for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and prior to the St. Louis Blues playing the Dallas Stars at 8 PM ET, they lead the Blues (38-17-10, 86 points) by eight points in the President’s Trophy race.

They finished the month of February 11-3-0 with 2.21 GAA and scored 3.36 goals per game. The Bruins powerplay connected at a 23-percent clip in February and their penalty kill killed off an astonishing 64-percent of the powerplays they faced. 

As the Bruins march into March like a lion, here’s your BHN Five Takeaways:

Rask Bounces Back With Shutout

After losing two straight starts and allowing ten goals on 57 shots, Rask bounced back with authority Saturday. He was exceptionally good when it mattered most as he stopped all 13 Islanders shots in the third period, including a beauty on Islanders winger Leo Komarov 2:58 into the final frame. 

 

This was Rask’s fourth shutout of the season and he extended his franchise-leading mark to 49. With the exception of the two bumps in Vancouver (9-3 loss) last Saturday and at home against the Flames Tuesday (5-2 loss), Rask has been a wall between the pipes in his last ten games as he’s 7-3-0 with a 1.85 GAA, a .935 save percentage and two shutouts during that span. Rask is now 24-7-0-6 with a 2.16 GAA and .928 save percentage. One has to wonder when he can finally become part of the Vezina Trophy conversation? 

Perfection Line Answers Bell

As the season has gone on, opponents have targeted the Bruins’ top line of Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak more and more. At times, the top trio will fight back physically – and rightfully so – but most of the time they will hurt the opposition where it hurts most and that’s why they are the best line in hockey. That was on perfect display when Marchand got his 27th goal of the season to make it 3-0 Bruins 11:06 into the third period. Just prior to the goal, Komarov had laid a thunderous – and tad bit late – hit on Bergeron. Komarov and his linemates were trying to rattle the Bruins’ top line throughout the game and at times they would retaliate (Pastrnak’s roughing call at 13:47 a perfect example) but they would pick their spots. This time though, they retaliated in the best way, by putting a dagger in the momentum the Islanders had built to that point in the third period. Bergeron got the assist on the play as well, while McAvoy got his second helper of the game. 

With his assist on Grzelcyk’s first period goal, Marchand extended his point streak to eight games and the goal gave him three goals and nine assists during that span. He leads the Bruins with 56 assists. 

With his goal 4:30 into regulation, Pastrnak now has 47 lamplighters and leads Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews by three goals and Alex Ovechkin by four in the Rocket Richard race. Pastrnak now has two goals and an assist in his last two games. 

Bergeron’s helper on the Marchand tally snapped a rare three-game pointless stretch for the Bruins’ top center. 

A Good Defense Leads To A Better Offense

That’s the old adage so many hockey coaches preach and the Bruins are a perfect example of that. By no means were the Bruins defensemen taking chances or playing risky leading them to amass seven points and two goals in the win, but they were seizing opportunities when they arose. That was the case on Grzelcyk’s first period goal and McAvoy’s third period powerplay tally. Both were the result of one d-man pinching down low and the other entering the play but knowing they had a man back should the puck go the other way. 

 

McAvoy now has a goal and five assists in his last five games and his helper Saturday gave him a career-high 28 assists. After the game, the local kid was prouder of the defense he and his blueline mates played:

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“Really the story was how well we defended tonight, took pride in our own zone, and how well Tuukka played,” McAvoy said. 

Grzelcyk is also flashing the offense lately too as he has a goal and three assists in his last four games. Krug’s two helpers put his team lead in assists to 37 helpers. Brandon Carlo chipped in as well adding an assist on Pastrnak’s goal. 

PK Comes Through Again

The Bruins penalty kill has bailed the Bruins out plenty of times this season and while the Bruins didn’t exactly need bailing out Saturday, they still had to kill six Islanders powerplays. So what did they do? They put on an absolute clinic in penalty killing and blocked 13 shots during those powerplays. Bergeron finished the game with four blocked shots and McAvoy, Charlie Coyle and Joakim Nordstrom all had three each. There’s no doubt that those kills took the wind out of the Islanders’ collective sails, especially the two third period kills off a Pastrnak roughing penalty at 13:47 and a Jeremy Lauzon kill to finish the game at 18:47.

Wagner out, Nordstrom In

With Chris Wagner out with an upper-body injury that paved the way for Nordstrom to get back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last four games. The defensive forward did not disappoint as he was physical and as mentioned above, finished the game with three blocked shots. That will likely earn him a spot in the lineup Tuesday against the Lightning in Tampa Bay even if Wagner comes back. Cassidy is a big Nordstrom fan and Par Lindholm will likely be the odd-man out.

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

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