By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
If I had to describe the Black and Gold’s power play since returning from their nine-day break, and after a 6-1 win over the Wild on Saturday night, I’d have to steal a line from Emperor Palpatine. Lucky for everybody involved in this (quite operational) deflector shield, I’m not above such straight-up stupid things.
I mean, with five power-play goals in just eight tries out of the break, this has been straight-up ridiculous.
After scoring both of their goals in a 2-1 win over the Jets while up a man, the Bruins turned 2:21 of second-period power-play time into three goals (and on just eight shots), and into the deathblow to frustrate the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk out of what was beginning to look like a potentially close contest at Xcel Energy Center.
This hasn’t been a one-man show either.
When you look at Boston’s first power-play goal of the evening, you see Torey Krug jump into more of a shooting position to Dubnyk’s left and beat the towering netminder upstairs, Brad Marchand connected on what was his first power-play goal in 13 contests, and David Pastrnak finished off a loose puck kept alive by strong net-front drives from both Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. This was after Friday’s efforts saw DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron get on the board with the B’s power-play strikes.
This has actually been two nights of all five members of the Bruins’ first power-play unit scoring goals.
“It was a little bit of make the easy play and move the puck a little quicker,” Bruce Cassidy said of his team’s power-play approach out of the bye week. “The other team doesn’t know what you’re going to do, so maybe force them to open up the seams. So not forcing plays helps [and] you retain puck possession.”
But what you have to love most of all is the efficiency of the unit.
As previously mentioned, the Bruins needed just over two minutes of total power-play time to score their three second-period goals. This isn’t totally uncommon — the Bruins have made the faceoff win to Krug to Pastrnak bomb just five seconds into power-play opportunity a regular this season — but this has been primarily been done with that Pastrnak bomb taken away by the opposition’s understanding of where No. 88 has been on the ice.
It’s really been from the team’s second- and third-best options — and after some reloads — actually.
In fact, over the last two games, the Bruins have skated on a man advantage for a total of 10 minutes and 13 seconds. Over that stretch, they’ve hammered the opposition for 15 power-play shots, and have scored on five of those 15 looks.
“We weren’t stubborn the last two games, and that’s what I liked,” Cassidy admitted.
It’s been 10 minutes of turning goalies into electrocuted Mace Windus, and without their best option firing from his office.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a blowout win over the Wild…
Anders Bjork should stick with Charlie Coyle
With just over three weeks to go before the 2020 NHL trade deadline, the Bruins are still trying to figure out Anders Bjork’s optimal fit on this roster.
I think by now we know that Bjork is going to play a role on this team — he’s outlasted some other more experienced and more expensive options — but where he fits has been a highly-debated issue in recent weeks; Bjork has recently spent some time to the right of David Krejci on line two, he’s played with Charlie Coyle, and many have still an insatiable craving to see Bjork get another chance to stick with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on Boston’s top line.
But Bjork’s best fit certainly seems to be on a line with Coyle.
Together once again, but with Joakim Nordstrom on their left instead of Jake DeBrusk (he was moved back up to Krejci’s line), Bjork came through with the B’s fifth goal of the evening, scored between the circles and with two Minnesota defenders unsuccessfully trying to close in on him.
It’s a finish that seems relatively easy when you look at it again — and its ‘garbage time’ status will knock it down to some — but the Bjork of two years ago (or even last year) may have held onto that puck for too long and put himself in harm’s way. But that willingness to make decisive plays with confidence seems to be the biggest difference with Bjork this year, and it certainly plays to Coyle’s strengths as a centerman who likes to use his size to protect the puck and create openings for his linemates.
A fit from the jump, Bjork’s forechecking ability really blends well when paired with those puck-possession skills Coyle brings to the table, and it’s downright devastating when they’re matched up against an opponent’s third line and/or bottom defensive pairing. And I’ve said this before, but Bjork’s movement through the neutral zone on controlled zone entries has been steadily improving, and reminds me a little bit of what the Bruins had with Marcus Johansson a year ago. (That’s not a bad thing, especially when you look at the connection Coyle and Johansson developed on Boston’s four-round run.)
And speaking beyond Bjork’s fit within Boston’s 12-man forward group, I think we’ve officially hit the point where you’re essentially ready to shut down the idea of including Bjork in any deadline deals.
Starting with the No. 1 reason for this approach, the Bruins have already stuck with Bjork after a pair of major shoulder surgeries, and they’re finally reaping the rewards of Bjork’s promise coming out of Notre Dame. The Bruins also have cost control on their side with Bjork (a restricted free agent at the year’s end) for the next couple of seasons, which will absolutely be of value to the Bruins next year given their tight-ish cap situation.
Now, to this point, Bjork hasn’t really popped up on the rumor mill, so perhaps this worry is a little unfounded. But he’s certainly a player teams are going to ask about if he continues to play like this.
Here’s hoping the B’s are smart enough to resist such urges given the connection he’s developed as a potential third-line nightmare with Coyle.
Still waiting for the next hat trick from a Black and Gold defender
With the first two goals of the night coming off his stick, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug put us all on hat trick watch early in this one. Or, more specifically, Bruins Defenseman Hat Trick Watch.
We haven’t seen a hat trick from a Boston defenseman since Zdeno Chara torched the Hurricanes on Jan. 17, 2011, and it’s happened just three times since Bobby Orr left town; Ray Bourque had one in Mar. 1983 while Glen Wesley scored a hat trick of his own in Dec. 1993.
And Krug came damn close to ending that drought. Probably closer than anybody else in recent memory.
Boston’s 5-foot-9 power-play dynamo was hunting for that goal in the third period, and got you gasping with a net-front, near-finish on a clueless Devan Dubnyk in the third period, and came close on a one-time shot that went just wide.
This is the second time this has happened this year (Matt Grzelcyk had two goals against the Devils back in November), and I’m not gonna lie, I’m getting a little anxious to see one of these guys pull it off. Too. Damn. Close. Too. Many. Times.
(I can’t wait for Charlie McAvoy, who is still searching for his first goal of the season, to be the one to do it.)
Heinen, Kuraly take a seat and John Moore remains scratched
Bruce Cassidy’s quest for in-house competition made its way to Sean Kuraly on Saturday night, as Boston’s fourth-line heartbeat sat out of this 6-1 win over the Wild as a healthy scratch. Kuraly’s move to the press box has probably been brewing for a hot minute — Kuraly entered Saturday with one goal and one helper in his last 11 contests and had gone two straight games without a shot on goal — and it did come with a boost from Kuraly’s replacement, Par Lindholm (one assist in 13:47).
Kuraly is such a motor for this team, though, so you should be excited to see how he brings it next time around.
Danton Heinen, on the other hand, sat out because of an apparent injury sustained late in Friday’s win over the Jets.
It’ll be worth watching to see if this injury lingers and how it impacts the B’s deadline plans. At a certain point, you expect the Bruins to add, and assuming they’re healthy, and that’ll seemingly leave a healthy Boston squad with just two spots for Bjork, Heinen, and Karson Kuhlman. Heinen, of course, has the most experience (and most production) of the three.
John Moore, meanwhile, sat out his third straight game as a healthy scratch.
It’s been tough sledding for John Moore since he rejoined the Bruins after missing the first 28 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery, and it really hasn’t gotten much better. Especially when you look at how Jeremy Lauzon has stepped into his opportunity and really seized it. Moore, who has two goals and an assist in 19 appearances with the B’s this season, is in the second year of a five-year deal that comes with a $2.75 million cap hit.