By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Pasta was finally back on the menu for the Bruins on Tuesday night, as the left thumb ailment that put David Pastrnak on the shelf for 16 straight games was finally healed enough for Boston’s most dynamic right-side scoring threat to get back in action.
And though it was a quiet night by Pastrnak standards (No. 88 finished without a point and three shots on goal in just under 14 minutes of time on ice), it didn’t really seem as if Pastrnak really lost his touch during his five-week absence from the lineup. Pastrnak’s skating legs were there, he seemed to have a handle with the puck on his stick (one of the worries given the injury), and his chemistry on Boston’s top line remained.
Back with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the trio picked up right where they left off as a dominant trio, as their 11:21 of five-on-five action saw them post a possession metric of 81.8% and generate 11 scoring chances in all.
“We got a lot of chances as a line, just didn’t capitalize on chances I would usually,” said Pastrnak.
It could have been better (read as: seen Pastrnak score), of course, but it was far from the worst return to action.
“Good legs, puck was finding him,” B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Pastrnak’s first game back. “Looked like he was a half a second off in his decisions a little bit, a little off net with his shots. But I like that we won the game, we didn’t have to press him into any more minutes than necessary. Was able to find his game without a lot of pressure on him.
“Worked out well for everybody.”
Here are some other various thoughts and notes from a 5-0 win on Long Island…
Configuring the bottom-six remains interesting ‘dilemma’ for Bruins
Speedy ‘sled dog’ Sean Kuraly potted two goals, fourth-line bruiser Noel Acciari scored a goal of his own, and the Bruins have a bottom-six forward group that looks every bit capable of handling their own in any building. Now, how Cassidy manages and molds that come grouping postseason time (assuming the Bruins are healthy) remains perhaps the most interesting thing facing the Bruins as they head into the final stretch of the regular season.
The Kuraly-Acciari-Chris Wagner combo has been a reliable one for the Bruins this season, but Wagner’s recent offensive pop could be enough for Cassidy to think he could do even more if he were plugged into a third-line role on a consistent basis (Wagner was on what I think you could consider a third line with Kuraly and Danton Heinen on Tuesday).
The wild card here? Charlie Coyle. Originally acquired to be the answer to the Bruins’ woes on line three, Coyle has spent the last few games as David Krejci’s right wing. It seems like a simple tweak with the Bruins down Marcus Johansson, but it’s been an incredibly effective duo, especially since the return of Jake DeBrusk.
I still think the B’s best play is to try and recreate some Riley Nash magic from a year ago and plug Coyle between Heinen and David Backes on the Black and Gold’s third line, but Cassidy has options.
That’s not the worst position to find yourself in this time of year.
Zdeno Chara celebrates 42nd birthday with fight, dominant d-zone effort
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara may have turned 42 years old on Monday, but that won’t stop Big Z from accepting a scrap.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Chara’s impact in this one.
Deployed for 19:43 of action in all by the night’s end, Chara was downright devastating at five-on-five, as the Islanders fired just one (one!) shot on goal during Chara’s 17:16 on ice. With an effort like that from Boston’s top defender, it’s not hard to see how the Isles landed just 13 shots on Tuukka Rask in this one.
Bruins continue to dominate Isles
The Islanders may have entered Tuesday’s game atop the Metropolitan Division, but the Bruins beat ’em up like a cellar-dweller, which has become a theme of sorts in recent meetings between these two clubs.
With Tuesday’s 5-0 win, the Bruins have victories in seven straight meetings with the Islanders (or since Cassidy took over as Boston’s head coach in Feb. 2017). They’ve outscored them 25-7 over that stretch.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 16, 2017 to find New York’s last win over the Bruins. That was a 4-0 shutout win over the B’s that by all means saved then-coach Jack Capuano’s job behind the Islander bench (for the time being). Truthfully, I don’t remember much about that game. I do remember thinking that Claude Julien was absolutely going to get fired after that lifeless loss. The Bruins instead waited about four more weeks before they finally pulled the plug on the Julien tenure.
The Bruins are back in action Thursday night against the Devils.