Boston Bruins

Jan 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) is treated for an injury in the first period against the Boston Bruins at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It took all of two minutes and 15 seconds for the first meeting between the Bruins and Avalanche in over two years to turn downright nasty with a Taylor Hall hit that left Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon in a bloodied heap.

Fed a pass from Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in an attempt to spark a rush the other way, MacKinnon attempted a deke through an oncoming Hall, but was instead whacked by Hall, and then crushed in the face by his own stick. As MacKinnon gushed blood onto the Ball Arena ice, Landeskog wasted no time trying to get Hall to answer for the hit.

He did it in the immediate aftermath of the hit, and wasn’t done there. Landeskog tried to hunt down Hall twice on the same shift later in the game, and Erik Johnson tried to get his money’s worth with about five crosschecks to the back of Hall during the Black and Gold’s second-period power-play opportunity. Johnson stopped getting the benefit of the doubt after the third crosscheck and was whistled for a penalty, and the Bruins scored two goals during Johnson’s time in the penalty box.

But throughout the night, Hall had no interest in answering for what he clearly felt was a clean hit with an unfortunate result.

The on-ice officials actually agreed with Hall, too, as they initially ruled Hall’s hit a five-minute penalty but knocked it down to a two-minute minor upon video review and confirmation that it was MacKinnon’s stick that did the bulk of the damage. (It probably would’ve been nothing at all if the officials were allowed to reduce a five-minute penalty to nothing at all.)

Still, Hall’s decision to keep his gloves on for all of his 17:37 of time on ice didn’t sit well with the Avalanche.

“We might have spent a little too much time [chasing Hall], but that’s why I was hoping Hall was going to settle it with me and we could move on,” Landeskog said. “Hall didn’t wanna answer for it, and that’s unfortunate.”

“We wanted the guy to answer,” Cale Makar added.

It was a hit that Avs coach Jared Bednar believed Hall had to answer for, too.

“I think in the regular season, you just have to answer for things you do on the ice, you know?” Bednar said. “Just because the officials or the Department of Player Safety doesn’t deem something that bad, it’s what your team is willing to accept as playing within the way they see the game should be played. And if your teammates don’t like something that a guy on another team does, and they feel like that was inappropriate, then they’re going to try and get you to answer the bell or force you into it. That’s the way I see it. The players discipline the game as much as the officials do.”

It’s hard to find much of anything wrong with the hit itself. Players like MacKinnon need to be played physically. It’s your only hope of slowing them down because you’re not going to out-skill or out-talent them. It’s just impossible. It feels weird every time we act that all-world players aren’t allowed to be hit. I mean, we saw the Blues do this all the way to a Stanley Cup in 2019 and it was universally praised as “tough hockey.” And if the Avalanche wanted true revenge, they would’ve thrown MacKinnon’s stick rack into the incinerator. That’s what did in MacKinnon more than Hall and his 24th hit of the season.

So, what was wrong with the hit?

“Little high, little late. Don’t love the hit,” Bednar said when asked about the incident. “It’s the type of hit — whether it’s really solid or a glancing blow — that the league is trying to get rid of.”

“They’ve made it pretty clear over the last couple of years that they’re trying to get rid of those [hits],” echoed Landeskog. “At the end of the day, when one of your best friends and teammates and ultimately your best player gets hit like that, you just gotta make sure that next time anybody thinks about doing that, they have to pay a price and there will be some consequences with that. Doesn’t have to be a dirty play for us to feel that way. It’s just the way it is.

“I was trying to force him to [fight]. But he didn’t want to.”

The Avalanche will get another chance to get at Hall when they make the trip to Boston on Feb. 21.

Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-3 loss in Colorado

  • Jan 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin (13) celebrates an assist in the first period against the Boston Bruins at Ball Arena. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

    Bruins take another gut punch early

    Given the circumstances — the Avalanche’s 16-game home winning streak, the Bruins’ current situation on the backend, and the general absolute-wagon-vibes of the Avs — it was an absolutely perfect road start for the Bruins. They were hard on pucks in the attacking zone, extended plays, and though they had nothing to show for their efforts, it felt like they were indeed going punch-for-punch with a team widely regarded as a potential Cup favorite. But then an ugly habit crept back into the B’s game, as they allowed one of Colorado’s first shots of the evening to find the back of the net and put ’em in an early hole. This time, the marker came from fourth-line heavyweight Kurtis MacDermid, and on the Avs’ second shot of the evening.

    It’s like a girl says she’ll make out with you, but then her boyfriend is waiting around the corner with a pee-filled balloon.

    No, but really, this trend is killing the Bruins.

    Over their last five games, the Bruins have allowed the Hurricanes to score on their third shot of the game, the Capitals to score on their first shot of the game, the Jets to score on their first shot of the day, Anaheim to jump out front on their seventh shot of the night, and Colorado to score on their second shot. Oddly enough, the Bruins have actually won the games where they’ve been put in a hole on the opposition’s first shot of the night. (Might be a strategy to consider Friday.)

    Someone order some smelling salts for the goalie room.

  • Jan 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) makes a stick save in the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

    Linus Ullmark’s strong night isn’t enough

    That said, Linus Ullmark rebounded from that slow start in a major, major way. And he undoubtedly deserved a better fate in what ended as a 37-of-41 losing effort for the 28-year-old netminder.

    “Linus played such a great game and he deserved better from us,” Bruins center Charlie Coyle admitted.

    Coyle ain’t lying.

    Following the MacDermid goal in the first, it took a bounce off Curtis Lazar’s skate and then Urho Vaakanainen’s stick on the same shot to beat Ullmark for the second Avalanche goal of the evening, a busted clearing attempt and sweet Nazem Kadri dish to draw things even, and then Cale Makar (on pace for approximately one thousand goals this year) power-play bullet in overtime to win it for the Avalanche. Ullmark also turned aside all eight high-danger shots faced by the night’s end.

    It was just a ridiculous mix of crap luck and being on the wrong end of high-skilled plays over the final 12 minutes of Ullmark’s night. But that didn’t make the defeat sting any less for the 6-foot-4 goaltender.

    “That’s on me,” Ullmark said of Colorado’s game-tying goal with 36 seconds left in the game. “I should have known that was the case because the puck traveled from that side to the other side. So that’s something to bring with me to the next game.”

    As for the game-winning goal, Ullmark’s frustration was obvious.

    “I’d rather not,” Ullmark said when asked for a rundown of what happened on the Makar goal. “I think everybody saw it on TV and in the replays that played afterwards. So I don’t think I have to go through it.”

    For all the early-season bellyaching about Ullmark, the first-year Bruin is off to a solid start in Boston, with a 14-5-1 record and .914 save percentage (14th among the 32 goalies with at least 20 appearances). Ullmark has been solid since late November, too, with an 11-2-1 record and .918 save percentage (8th-best in hockey) since his Nov. 20 win over the Flyers.

  • Jan 26, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) shoots the puck at Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) and defenseman Cale Makar (8) at Ball Arena. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

    Jake DeBrusk continues heater

    Winger Jake DeBrusk kicked things off for the Bruins in the losing effort with a snipe through the Avs’ Darcy Kuemper. It was DeBrusk’s second goal and his fourth point in his last four games, and continued what’s been a solid January for the disgruntled lefty, with two goals and six points in 10 games since the calendar flipped to 2022.

    The 25-year-old is also up to four goals and eight points in 17 games since his agent confirmed his desire for a trade.

    So, about that trade request…

    Whether or not you believe in being for real or a long-term solution (and I would certainly understand why you don’t given the track record), DeBrusk looks to be on the same page and building real chemistry with Charlie Coyle and Oskar Steen. He’s also the most dangerous player on that line with his ability to turn on the jets from end-to-end. There’s value in that. Especially for a team that always needs more depth scoring in the playoffs. DeBrusk’s minutes have been on the rise, too, with eight nights of at least 15 minutes in his last 17 games. It feels like the sides are closer to being on the same page. If that’s the case, perhaps a trade out of town isn’t in the cards and the Bruins wanna go for one more run with No. 74 in town.

    That said, I still think DeBrusk wants out. There’s been nothing to indicate otherwise. He still hasn’t talked with the media since his request went public, and last we knew, it wasn’t a matter of the request being rescinded, but rather the Bruins not finding a deal they liked enough to make the move. The Bruins have also needed DeBrusk really since the moment he requested the trade, too, whether it be due to COVID-related absences, suspensions, or injuries at the left wing position.

    That doesn’t seem likely to change in the next week, either, with Trent Frederic and Nick Foligno still out of action.

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