The Boston Bruins just played a hockey game in July. Yes, you read that right!
The game itself looked exactly like what it was: the Bruins first game in 141 days. The Bruins were as expected, rusty in a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night in their one and only exhibition but hey! We’ve got hockey and soon, the Stanley Cup playoffs in July.
Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner put the “home” team up 1-0 4:27 into the opening frame. Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy had the lone helper as he sent Jenner barreling down the wing and Jenner basically man-handled Bruins forward Sean Kuraly.
After that, the Bruins were playing on their heels but goalie Tuukka Rask looked like he’d be able to bring the Bruins into the break down just 1-0. Then the damn broke and the Bruins found themselves headed to the dressing room down 3-0 as Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski and forward Gustav Nyquist (on the powerplay) scored 18 ticks apart.
Bruins winger David Pastrnak picked up where he left off in the regular season and cut the Blue Jackets lead down to 3-1. Kuraly and defenseman Charlie McAvoy got the apples on the Pastrnak tally.
Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier added an empty-netter with two ticks left in regulation to give the Jackets a 4-1 win.
Tuukka Rask (17 saves on 20 shots in 25:30) and Jaro Halak (10 saves on 10 shots in 22:50) split time as head coach Bruce Cassidy promised they would following an optional skate Thursday morning.
Here’s your first Boston Hockey Now Five Takeaways since March 10, when the Bruins shut out the Flyers 2-0 behind a 36-save performance from Rask.
Rask Shaky, Halak Solid
As mentioned above, Rask and Halak split time as Cassidy played Rask until the 9:54 mark. Ironically, Rask had just made his two best saves of the game on a penalty kill by the Bruins. Overall though, even the usually blunt Rask would admit he was not himself but that’s to be expected after not playing in a game for 141 days. One could argue Rask should’ve stopped Jenner’s early goal but he really had trouble tracking Werenski’s shot from the point. However, there was nothing he could’ve done on Nyquist’s back-door one-timer. Halak stopped all ten shots he faced in 22:50.
Al Dente Pasta Still Good For Bruins
If Thursday was what a rusty David Pastrnak looks like then whoever plays the Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs better watch out! Pastnak’s pump fake and slide through the five-hole of Elvis Merzlikins was straight out of a video game. Maybe a goal like that won’t happen often in the playoffs but the fact that Pastrnak is already scoring a goal scorers’ goal again is a good sign considering he only practiced four times during training camp. The reigning co-Rocket Richard winner already looks like he’s in the zone that netted him 48 goals in 70 games this season.
— NHL (@NHL) July 31, 2020
Marchand Likely OK
Bruins winger and leader Brad Marchand left the game about nine minutes into the final frame after coming up a bit limp while killing off a Par Lindholm goalie interference penalty at 7:28 of the period. The guess here was he tweaked his groin. Marchand immediately sought medical help when he got to the Bruins’ bench but following the game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he didn’t think the injury was serious and would know more Friday morning.
Might not be serious but nonetheless Brad Marchand has gone down the tunnel and into the Bruins dressing room after attempting to make this hit on Werenski. pic.twitter.com/JFWmXUpFQU
— Kyle Cannillo (@KyleCannillo) July 31, 2020
Studnicka Locking Down A Spot
After being one of the best players in camp, rookie Jack Studnicka continued to look right at home on the right side of David Krejci and Jake Debrusk on the Bruins’ second line. The 21-year-old continued to show poise and a willingness to go to the dirty areas, as well as shoot more. More and more, it appears Ondrej Kase will have to really earn his job back.
Jack Studnicka with more quality looks in this game than any 2RW the Bruins have had the last decade. pic.twitter.com/IjKumza6Eq
— Matt Castle (@Matt_Castle22) July 30, 2020
Kuraly Lays Blueprint For Playing Without Fans
As expected both teams were rusty but it was obvious that every player had to really dig deep as the game went on to replace some of that energy fans provide. Playing in an empty arena is going to take some getting used to for sure and its likely most players won’t find their comfort zones until the playoffs begin. Well, they might want to watch Kuraly’s game Thursday. The Bruins winger started off by getting absolutely abused on the Jenner goal, seemingly not having that trademark intensity that’s earned him a real look on the third line. As the game went on though, it was clear Kuraly was mentally digging deep and it paid off as he assisted on Pastrnak’s goal in the second period. He also gave it back to Jenner in the third and by the end of the game, the two could be seen chirping each other pretty good. Give Kuraly credit for sticking with it.
Solidarity And Bruins Remembering A Friend
As promised, the Bruins and Blue Jackets locked arms for both National anthems as a sign of solidarity in the fight against racism. The moment was beautiful but it also presented a funny moment when the camera focused on 6’9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara with 5’4 Nathan Gerbe on one arm and 5’8 Cam Atkinson on the other.
Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo brought their children to the game, that’s nice. pic.twitter.com/bL4nOVDja3
— Scott Bonin (@ScottBoninCHN) July 30, 2020
The Bruins also honored their late friend and former teammate Colby Cave who suddenly passed away in April at just 26 years of age.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 30, 2020