By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins don’t utilize their fourth line — which features Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner as the constants and continued to feature Joakim Nordstrom to their left for the second straight game — like your typical fourth line.
They have nights where they go against top lines, they have nights where they’re considered tone-setters with their physicality, and there are some nights where they struggle to start a shift anywhere other than their defensive zone.
But when they deliver the way they did in Saturday night’s 3-0 win over the Devils, it makes the B’s one dangerous team.
“They did what they typically do, which is play against good players, manage the puck, check well to get it back, long shots, killed penalties,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of his team’s fourth line. “They were able to chip in offensively which is — I think it picks everybody up on the team when they get rewarded because they do a lot of the grunt work, rarely see the power play. When they get opportunities to finish, I think it picks up our team.”
And with the Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner line handling the challenges put forth by P.K. Subban and the Travis Zajac line, the Bruins were able to find themselves some downright lethal matchup advantages. Perhaps no group excelled more in this respect than the Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Karson Kuhlman line, which did everything but score in the winning effort, as they were on the ice for 11 shots on Cory Schneider in 10:43 of even-strength action in the victory.
“If [Kuhlman] and Jake are skating, it allows Krech to be the smart guy in the line and read off those two and I think that’s when he plays his best,” Cassidy said. “Kuhly adds that dimension. And hopefully, we get production out of him. That’ll be the last part of it here, but with the way he’s playing, that should follow.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 3-0 final over the Devils…
Second period saved the Bruins from sweating this one out
This was about as dominant a win as you’ll see from the Bruins, but the team did seem to play a little too fast-and-loose for the coaching staff’s liking in the second period, as noted by Cassidy, and were forced to rely on Tuukka Rask in net.
Hammered for 16 shots on goal in the middle frame, Rask turned away all who dared challenge his crease — and from all angles — for a perfect 16-for-16 line in the period. There were more than a few highlight reel stops, especially with New Jersey invaded his space when up a man, headlined by some major net-front stops on rebound looks for Wayne Simmonds.
“In between, we had some moments where we could have been better,” Cassidy admitted. “We’re still working on our game like every other team, and I thought that’s where Tuukka [Rask] really stepped up and that’s when he should get the credit. In a game like this, I thought that’s when he earned his paycheck tonight, was, we broke down a lot there. Trying to break pucks out and had some loose play, and he was really good. But, our start, I liked it a lot, and it’s not easy to do. Coming back from the road, kind of the way our travel worked out, our guys got some disjointed sleep. But they had their legs.”
The Bruins also made sure to get out of the middle period with extra cushioning on their lead, as Patrice Bergeron scored 12 seconds into Boston’s last-minute power-play chance, giving the B’s a three-goal lead through 40 minutes of play.
An interesting sidenote from the second period: David Pastrnak committed a faceoff violation to send the Bruins to the penalty kill at the 13:52 mark of the second period. Now, not that I would expect them to admit this, but in a weird way, I wonder if this was accidentally-on-purpose, as the penalty was committed on a defensive-zone draw on the heels of an icing. That meant that Torey Krug, who had already been on the ice for 2:23 straight, was still out there and absolutely gassed. The penalty allowed the Bruins to get Krug off the ice and replaced by some capable (read as: fresh) penalty-killers. The Bruins did say they’d learn from the mistakes made when Tyler Toffoli beat ’em with one second left in overtime. Not exactly the same situation, but you could argue that the Bruins certainly saw the value in having fresh bodies out there after an icing.
Bruins sticking to script with David Backes
The Bruins did not play David Backes in their preseason finale because Cassidy didn’t want to play him three times in one week. And after playing in the season opener, Backes was scratched for last Saturday’s head-to-head with the Coyotes, and found himself back in the lineup for back-to-back games, only to be scratched on Saturday night. In other words, the Bruins are currently sticking to what would appear to be the plan of limiting the 35-year-old Backes to a couple of games per week.
With Backes scratched, Brett Ritchie returned to the Boston lineup and skated with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle on the Black and Gold’s lineup, and finished Saturday’s win with two shots and four hits in 10:23 of time on ice.
The Bruins will have three games next week — two at home (against the Ducks and Lightning) and then a road game against the Maple Leafs — and the current trend seems to indicate that No. 42 will draw in for two of those games. The home games seem like the likeliest ones, as Backes doesn’t seem like an ideal fit for a road game against the stupidly-fast Leafs.
New Jersey feeling the pain of offseason hype
Through five games of the new season after a summer of wheeling-and-dealing and high expectations that pegged them as a potential playoff darkhorse, the Devils have been railroaded by the hype-train many expected them to ride.
I mean, let’s be real: This team straight-up stunk on Saturday night. The Devils were reckless with the puck, they failed to generate second-chance looks throughout much of the night, and their power play is still posting zeros, as they went 0-for- 4, dropping them to 0-for-15 on the season. Their penalty kill, meanwhile, killed off two of their three runs down a skater, improving their penalty kill to an even 50 percent on the year. In a way, it’s almost hard to believe; New Jersey added 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, acquired Nikita Gusev, P.K. Subban, and signed Wayne Simmonds to a team already featuring some promising young guns and a former MVP and yet, this team still looks like it’s their first skating session together.
It’s all grosser than the smells on the Jersey Turnpike.