In a classic, late ’80s movie scene, a floor full of partygoers-turned-hostages is horrified at the sight of the crazed, gun-waving thug emerging from the Nakatomi Tower elevator mid-tantrum, but Holly Gennaro’s eyes light up with hope.
“Only John can drive somebody that crazy,” she whispers.
If Brad Marchand wins an award this season, let it be a sweaty, blood-stained, ripped-up, sleeveless t-shirt for performances like the one he gave in the third period of Saturday night’s 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.
Engaged in puck battle with the great Nikita Kucherov at the right point near the end of the Boston bench, each wily combatant reached deep into his file cabinet for just the right maneuver to disrupt and upset, neutralize if not fool, his opponent. Marchand somehow made the puck leave the defensive zone. He was sitting on one of his skates when he managed to do so.
His shift expired and his personal stranglehold on the game slipping away, Kucherov glided back across center and with his right hand slammed his stick into the boards like cracking a whip. The contact point was inches from the dasher. The players on the bench were standing as the “boom” reverberated throughout TD Garden.
Imagine being good enough at a sport to send an athlete of that caliber over the edge.
Only Brad can drive somebody that crazy.
Speaking of Die Hard, just when it seemed the Boston Bruins were falling back to the pack, they find a better version of themselves and get the car back on the tracks.
How the Bruins were able to calm down what had started out as a chaotic game – Kucherov interrupted a system play and set up Brayden Point 21 seconds in – was a sight to behold. And, before the Bruins clamped down in the third period to pull away, the game required timely saves by Linus Ullmark to not get completely out of their control. Somehow, the Bruins found themselves defensively, even as Tampa Bay made its push.
“The mindset of just doing the right things the next shift, that’s what we always say in here is it’s all about that next play, that next shift, no matter what happens,” said Charlie Coyle afterward. “If we score (or) they score, we need that next shift to go out and put the puck behind them and go to work and either sway momentum back or start to or keep that momentum going.
“It really doesn’t matter what happened the instance before, it’s all about that next play. That’s kind of our mindset. We think that way we play that way.”
Not only Kucherov and Point, a duo as dynamic as any in hockey, but the Lightning (out of the playoff eight today) needed the game and ran into the best version of the Bruins in the decisive third period of what looks on paper like a rout. It was an intense hockey game with playoff flavor, only in unfolded the way games tended to for the heavier Bruins of a decade ago.
If ever there was proof that the foundation of the Lightning’s extraordinary 2018-19 record, 2021 Cup and ’22 final was defense, it is now.
A big goalie like Andrei Vasilevskiy will need many reps to get back his old form, but the combination of Ryan McDonagh’s 2022 departure to Nashville with Mikhail Sergachev on long-term injured reserve and missing Erik Cernak on Saturday’s left mainstay Victor Hedman (27:53) surrounded by developing or bottom-pairing skaters. None of Coach Jon Cooper’s defensemen skated fewer than 10 minutes.
It is intriguing to see offensive impact steadily rise for the likes of Morgan Geekie and Trent Frederic, the latter of whom has become the subject of random 7th Player Award musings. The annual NESN award for unsung Bruin begun in 1969 by TV38 will be presented at season’s end.
Frederic, though, was a first-round pick (29th overall, 2016) and is more accurately seen as a beautiful example of patient player development. After Saturday’s win, Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said Frederic has great hands. Turns out Coyle, Frederic’s mentor this season, sees his teammate similarly and showed no hesitation in piling on Montgomery’s narrative as to the Frederic’s potential.
“It’s always been there for him, but I think he’s starting to home in and get those opportunities and he’s cashing in on them and it’s a great thing to see, a guy who works like that, just a good first-team guy and just a solid human being,” said Coyle. “He’s such a good guy and, yeah, we’re pretty close, but everyone’s close to ‘Trenty.’ He’s just one of those people you gravitate to, and it’s good to see those type of people get success.”
Good game Saturday for Jesper Boqvist, who at last put all that speed to use with a strong disruption game in a depth role (11:22 ice time) for the Bruins. Yes, Johnny Beecher had struggled of late in the fourth-line center role, so Boqvist’s pedal-to-the-metal was a welcome sight.
Between Patrick Brown, who brings his own, widebody version of hustle, the promising project known as Matt Poitras, faceoffs taken by resident fire hydrant Oskar Steen, the brief (and disappointing) NHL debut of Georgii Merkulov and whatever else General Manager Don Sweeney has in mind down the middle, this is shaping up as one of those seasons where the regular-season scoring list is bound to exceed 30 names.
In other words, it’s a long year and one that could reach conclusion with a deadline move that solidifies the position and the depth chart, rendering all of these opportunities as part of the development process.
It turns out the Boston Bruins are not the only division leader to have hit recent pot holes. All the good teams are taking turns, and the Bruins (5-3-2 in their last 10) sit in a three-way tie for points pct. (.711) with the N.Y. Rangers (6-3-1 in their last 10) and red-hot (8-0-2) Winnipeg Jets at the top of the NHL. It’s January.
The popular narrative for the hockey pundits is don’t get too excited because this Boston Bruins team isn’t worth topping off at the trade deadline; management will wait for more money to come off the books and for the salary cap to go up. Next year, not this one, is their year.
But that’s not how the Boston Bruins do it.
They base their deadline philosophy on their record and will tell us upon a major, deadline acquisition that the guys in the room earned the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup so it was right to support them.
In Sweeney’s tenure, notable deadline acquisitions include Rick Nash (2018), Coyle and Marcus Johansson (2019), Ondrej Kase (2020), and Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway (2023).
With the season the Boston Bruins are having, it would be willful ignorance to rule out a significant acquisition.
How good were the Boston Bruins last year?
Today, there isn’t a single team in a playoff spot that’s completed even half its schedule, and already the list of teams that mathematically could exceed the Bruins’ 135-point total is down to nine. Vegas is not among them; the Golden Knights would need to run the table just to tie the mark.
The last email from Las Vegas announcing Stanley Cup odds had the Colorado Avalanche winning this year. That was before the Avs had it handed to them by the Florida Panthers, 8-4, on Friday night in front of their own fans.
While the Avs will never have the same umph without Gabe Landeskog, when is a bad time to play a good team? Answer: Coming off an embarrassing defeat. Bruins at Colorado Monday (9 pm ET, NESN in the Boston market).
With seven straight regulation wins, it seems the 25-12-2 Panthers are on a mission to let the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones know they are not the hot mess that had apparently forgotten how to play hockey after being made to wait 10 days for the puck to drop on the 2023 Cup final.
Finally, the feedback I get from respected hockey friends is that the PWHL is a good take, great for the family. The feedback I get from talking off the record to players is the loosened-up rules on physical contact is great for their game because it allows them to just play hockey.
Puck battle on the boards. Under the no-check rule, the stick battles that become body-position battles become body-leverage battles. Now players can engage the game as it is meant to be engaged in those battles. What will not be allowed is the rogue hitter darting into the fray at a player in a vulnerable position.
Good on the PWHL.
The testosterone leagues should take note.