Boston Bruins

Mar 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Craig Smith (12) defenseman Connor Clifton (75) center Trent Frederic (11) react after a goal by center Charlie Coyle (13) during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A good ol’ fashioned script flip is never a bad call.

But for the Bruins, who have surrendered game-tying or game-winning goals in the final minute of play in three of their last four games entering Thursday’s meeting with the Blackhawks, it was about damn time.

“For us to score one late [with] all the ones we’ve given up late, that’s a nice turn of events for us,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. “Hopefully going into Arizona [on Saturday night], we can build off [those] good habits we had in the third and not have to talk about the bad habits.”

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For the Bruins, that started almost from the moment that the Blackhawks’ Brandon Hagel created his own break and scored the game-tying goal at the 3:24 mark of the third period.

“I think our guys knew, ‘OK, they got one. They have some skill guys [and] they’re gonna cash in, so let’s just start our push again,'” Cassidy said. “I liked that part. That we responded well. It didn’t bother us that much. We kept after it offensively.”

The push was a consistent one, too, and led by the Bruins’ second line with Erik Haula between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak.

This was a line that created and created and created some more. Especially late. And though it was fair to wonder if they squandered their best chance when Charlie McAvoy found himself right in Kevin Lankinen’s home plate area and with the puck on his stick, a buzzer-beating strike from Pastrnak gave the B’s the turnabout they desperately wanted and needed.

Wins against rebuilding squads don’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, we all know, but winning in this fashion? It means something, if only because it’s breaking out a potentially troubling trend in a necessary fashion.

“It was a big bounce-back for us,” Pastrnak admitted. “We were around it today. We could’ve had a couple more and that’s how it goes sometimes. You just have to stick with it.”

Until the final horn. As they know better than most these days.

Here’s some other thoughts and notes from a 4-3 win over the Blackhawks

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MARCH 10: Brandon Carlo #25 of the Boston Bruins skates during the third period at TD Garden on March 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Blackhawks 4-3. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Defense takes some chances — good and bad — in winning effort

    If it feels like the Bruins are a team constantly looking for more offensive production from their backend, it’s because they are. It’s a big reason why they kept Mike Reilly around, and why they often go with some supercharged top-pairing looks, like Reilly with Charlie McAvoy, or the B(r)U-ins look with McAvoy opposite Matt Grzelcyk. (That nickname sucks, I know.)

    But the offensive push from the backend has certainly been more noticeable of late, and was a big factor in Thursday’s win. It started with a Connor Clifton activation and shot that produced a big-ass rebound for Charlie Coyle, Jack Ahcan took matters into his own hands with his first career goal, and even McAvoy was hunting for a little somethin’ somethin’ late in this one.

    “We’re trying to generate more offense from our backend,” Cassidy said. “There’s usually two ways: It’s offensive blue line, getting your shots through to the net and then supporting the rush. We’re trying to build a bit of both. And if we can get more shots through, it leads to second chances, and we got lines that are willing to go the net. Coyle’s goal is a good example of that.”

    A stat that may surprise you? The Bruins have actually generated a decent amount of goal production from their defense this year, with 26 goals from defenders. That ranks as the 16th-most in the NHL. (The leader in goal production from the backend? Colorado, with a staggering 51 goals from defensemen this year, headlined by Cale Makar and his 21 strikes.)

    But you’re talking about a Boston defensive grouping that’s gone through a pretty significant drought on that front in recent weeks, with Reilly in the midst of a 20-game goal drought, Grzelcyk stuck in a 19-game goal drought, and Derek Forbort without a goal in 40 straight games. Of course, not all of these guys are expected to score goals in bunches (Forbort’s two-goal performance against the Flyers back on Nov. 20 may be the greatest outlier in hockey history), but the threat needs to be there.

    “It’s an area we need to be better at — finding our shooting lanes,” Cassidy noted. “That’s where we gotta stay with it. How do you find your shooting lane, right? You either gotta move your feet or the puck’s gotta move quick and get it off. There’s some skill involved there and I think that’s an area that our guys have to keep working on.”

    On the flip side, of course, was the ill-timed pinched by Brandon Carlo that opened up the scoring for the Blackhawks by way of a four-on-one that left Ahcan and Jeremy Swayman trapped in an actual no-win situation.

    “It’s [Patrick] Kane and [Alex] DeBrincat,” Cassidy said of the first goal against. “They do this every night to teams and we gave them a four-on-one. It’s just not smart hockey. Those are the things you gotta avoid, and I think that’s all between the ears.”

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MARCH 10: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with fans after scoring the game winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden on March 10, 2022. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Pastrnak stays hot for B’s

    A two-goal and three-point performance and First Star performance didn’t exactly feel like it for David Pastrnak.

    “It was a little different game,” Pastrnak offered. “Especially for a guy [like me] who plays power play but doesn’t play on the penalty kill. It felt like it was either or for the whole game.”

    (To Pastrnak’s point, in case you’re wondering, Thursday’s game featured 46 minutes of five-on-five play. That’s the 18th-lowest figure of their 58 games to date. So, the flow issues were indeed real.)

    But it wasn’t enough to slow No. 88 down. With two goals, Pastrnak bumped his 2022 line to a league-leading 25 goals since New Year’s Day, with the Leafs’ Auston Matthews right behind him at 24. Pastrnak also leads the league in power-play goals (nine), and is second in even-strength goals (16) and shots (135) over that span.

    Look at his year as a whole and Pastrnak begins Friday with the seventh-most goals in the NHL this year, with 33, and sits 11 behind Matthews for the league lead. Not too shabby for a guy who sat in 104th on New Year’s Eve.

  • Mar 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Hagel (38) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Window shopping: Blackhawks edition

    17 points out of a playoff spot, the Blackhawks are certainly looking at selling off some pieces this deadline. Now, unfortunately for a team in need of right wing help like the Bruins, the plan in Chicago will not include selling off a superstar like Patrick Kane. But that doesn’t mean the Blackhawks are a team without some intriguing options if you’re the Bruins.

    An obvious one from tonight’s game: Brandon Hagel. A left-shot winger (though he’s played both the left and right side), Hagel stood out with a Blackhawks-best two goals in the losing effort, and certainly seems to play with the compete and effort that a playoff team can always use more of when it’s winning time. The 24-year-old wing is also in the midst of a career year, with a career-high 20 goals, 35 points, six power-play points, and three game-winning goals through 53 games this season. Hagel is also signed through 2023-24 at $1.5 million per season, and while it may be surprising to hear that the Blackhawks want to move on from a player like Hagel right now, his value may never be higher.

    Some other potential trade options from the Blackhawks include winger Dominik Kubalik and defenseman Calvin de Haan.

    Similar to Jake DeBrusk (a player linked to the Blackhawks at times this season), Kubalik is left winger in the final year of his current contract and is a pending restricted free agent. The Czech-born wing has totaled 11 goals and 21 points through 59 games this year, and has scored just 28 goals in his last 115 games after scoring 30 goals in 68 games as a rookie in 2019-20.

    De Haan, meanwhile, is a left-shot defender who ranks fourth on the Blackhawks in hits (108) and second in blocks (136). The 30-year-old, who began his career with the Islanders and had a stop in Carolina before joining the Blackhawks, is also in the final year of a deal that pays him just over $4.5 million per year.

    The Bruins will get another pre-deadline look at any Chicago players of interest next week at the United Center.