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Five Takeaways: Rask Pulls A Rocky On Flyers, Bruins Steal One 2-0 In Philly

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On his 33rd birthday, Tuukka Rask pulled a Rocky Balboa in Philadelphia and the Boston Bruins left Wells Fargo Arena with a 2-0 win snapping the Flyers’ nine-game win streak. The Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points), also earned their third straight 100-point season under head coach Bruce Cassidy and now lead the Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) by eight points for the Atlantic Division lead. 

In a game reminiscent of Rocky 3, the Bruins and Rask took chance after chance from the Flyers through the first two periods but Rask just said “You ain’t so bad” and made 24 saves to keep the game tied 0-0 until Matt Grzelcyk connected on the powerplay with 1:21 left in the middle frame and somehow gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead headed to the third. After some line shuffling by head coach Bruce Cassidy in the second period, the top line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak (Assist) were reunited and returned the favor to Rask 14:40 into the final frame when Marchand set Bergeron up for his 31st lamplighter of the season. 

#TuukkasFault Bruins Won

While pretty much every player didn’t seem phased by the 5-3 loss to the Lightning Saturday because they were thrilled with the way they got each other’s backs in a fight-filled and old school game, there were still media and fan critics blaming Rask for the loss. As he admitted postgame Saturday, Rask should’ve had that first shorthanded goal by the Lightning and Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (36 saves) was better but this game was about sending a physical message and both teams did that. Tuesday was about trying to avoid that letdown from a highly emotional and physical game against the Lightning and withstanding a high-flying Flyers squad on a roll. 

For two periods, Rask single-handedly kept the Flyers at bay, squashing three Flyers powerplays and odd-man rush after odd-man rush. His first period grand larceny on this one-timer by Travis Konecny during the Flyers’ first powerplay set the tone for a night of frustration for Flyers shooters.

If there was any concern that Rask wouldn’t be able to answer the bell again in the playoffs, Rask erased doubt from even his biggest detractors Tuesday and once again proved that he can be the backbone when needed. 

Coyle Steps Up Again

As Cassidy begins to apply load management more for Bergeron and David Krejci, Charlie Coyle continues to prove he is the best acquisition Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has made to date. Coyle finished with 20:47 and led the Bruins forwards in time on ice for a fifth straight game. On Tuesday though, Coyle’s game was strikingly similar to Bergeron’s as he was an absolute beast with his 200-foot game. Whether it was his dominating puck possession game in the offensive zone or his tenacious defensive game, breaking up 2-on-1’s like this feed to fellow Massachusetts native Kevin Hayes, Coyle was everywhere for the Bruins.

Cassidy will continue to lean on Coyle as the season winds down and through the playoffs where the Bruins center depth could once again become their greatest strength. 

Century Cassidy Has The Midas Touch

After taking over for longtime head coach and 2011 Stanley Cup champion on February 7, 2017, Cassidy turned that season around and got the Bruins into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in two seasons. The B’s would lose to the Ottawa Senators in six games in the first round of the postseason but since then, they have never finished the season with less than 100 points. They lost to the Lightning in five games in the second round of the 2018 playoffs and then lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. 

On Tuesday, Cassidy once again showed why he’s had such instant and consistent success as he wasn’t afraid to shake things up in-game and break up arguably the best line in the NHL, Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. Midway through the second period, with his team getting beat to every puck and leaning heavily on Rask, Cassidy shuffled the top nine forward lines as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Ondrej Kase

Sean Kuraly-Krejci-Pastrnak

Nick Ritchie-Coyle-Jake DeBrusk

While those combinations didn’t directly produce points, they sent a wake-up message to the big guns and Bergeron’s third period goal capped off a brilliant third period by the ‘Perfection Line’. 

Turning It On In The Third

‘The Perfection Line’ wasn’t the only line clicking in the final frame as the Bruins out-shot the Flyers 15-12 in the third period and finally produced some sustained pressure on Hart and the Flyers defense. They may or may not have had the aforementioned ‘Rocky 3’ approach, taking the Flyers’ best punches and hoping they’d tire out but the Flyers puck-moving defense surely looked exhausted in the third period and their breakouts got sloppy. The Bruins should not make it a habit to just try and turn it on in the final period but they have to be happy that they at least know they can depend on Rask and do it if need be. 

Patchwork D Delivers

The Bruins were missing what on paper to start most games, is their second defensive pairing in Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo – both out with upper-body injuries – but on many nights turns out to be their best. With Krug and Carlo out, John Moore – who also played in Carlo’s absence Saturday – and Connor Clifton were drawn in and depended on more. Moore played 19 shifts for 14:44 and Clifton played 17 shifts for 12:44. Neither was that noticeable and that’s a good thing for reserves thrown into the fire. 

Grzelcyk however, was very noticeable as minus a couple of turnovers, he filled in for Krug nicely on the powerplay with that first period tally and transported the puck smoothly to create offense.

 

Here’s what the defense looked like Tuesday:

Zdeno Chara (Assist)-McAvoy

Grzelcyk-Jeremy Lauzon

Moore-Clifton

With over 18 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 15 of his 18 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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