Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins center Craig Smith (12) celebrates with center Trent Frederic (11) and center Charlie Coyle (13) after scoring a first period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday morning in Vegas began with a meeting between the Boston coaching staff and the Black and Gold’s new, encouraging third line with Charlie Coyle between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith.

The line, which has gotten off a strong start but was ultimately responsible for the mistake that accelerated the B’s downfall in Anaheim on Tuesday night, was going to be given a chance to bounce back. The Bruins have been happy with their overall body of work, and didn’t want to punish them for one bad mistake, but instead wanted to reinforce an attacking mindset.

They got that and then some, as Smith accounted for three of Boston’s five goals, while Frederic dished out as a career-best three helpers in a 5-2 victory.

For Smith, who had just two goals in his last 296 minutes and change entering Thursday’s head-to-head with the Golden Knights, the turnaround was only a matter of time. So long as he kept shooting. But for Frederic, the offensive outburst is what the Bruins hope — and want — to be a sign of things to come.

“He’s feeding off the other two. What he needs to figure out is how can he generate offense for himself,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Frederic after Thursday’s win. “I think Charlie Coyle understands how he’s gonna generate offense. He’s a puck possession guy, right, and he attacks. Craig Smith knows he’s a volume shooter. Freddy has to figure [that] out.”

It’s clear that the Bruins have wanted Frederic to be more of a hockey player than an antagonistic goof this season. They’ve alluded to it at various points when discussing Frederic’s play, and it makes sense given Frederic’s first-round pick status and age. It’s a little bit early to embrace the idea being a fourth-line irritant and nothing more.

“He’ll bring the physicality, we know that. But he’s learning to possess pucks better with that group, so they’re spending time in the o-zone,” Cassidy said. “Freddy has a really good shot, and I don’t think that people notice that,” Cassidy said. “His release is excellent. [Thursday], even though he got three assists, he shot off the rush a couple times, which was great. His decision making coming into the zone, or once he had the puck on his stick in a dangerous situation, was better.”

And with increased time in the offensive zone, the Bruins want to make sure that Frederic is playing to his strengths.

“We’ve encouraged him to play as much as he can on his forehand,” Cassidy offered. “And by that, I mean there’s not that many guys who can make backhand plays all over the ice. There’s [Sidney] Crosby, there’s [Patrice] Bergeron, there’s some guys out there, but in general [there’s not a lot who can]. That’s what we’re trying to preach to him.

“And that usually involves putting something to the net on your forehand.”

This kind of grinding line is what the Bruins had in mind when they started the 2020-21 season and put Nick Ritchie next to Coyle and Smith. The fit never quite took off, however, and Ritchie’s foot-speed issues proved to make him a suboptimal fit with Coyle when the pace and intensity of the games ramped up. Frederic’s fit with Coyle and Smith, however, seems to be a more natural one in terms of it pace and possession abilities, and it’s a combination that the Bruins hope to keep together.

Now, much of that may depend on what happens with the Jake DeBrusk situation, but the potential of keeping Smith in a third-line role, and allowing the Bruins to roll four lines at all times is something Cassidy would welcome given its throwback vibe.

“It takes me back to the [2019] playoffs,” said Cassidy. “[After] the Coyle and [Marcus Johansson] trades years ago, we had three lines going offensively, and our fourth line was built to kill penalties and give us energy. We have that.

“And now, if that line can generate, we become dangerous.”

Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-2 win over the Golden Knights

  • Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) celebrates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

    Just another season for the record books for No. 88

    For all the whining about the Bruins’ draft misses — and, yes, there’s been some big ones — David Pastrnak falling into the Black and Gold’s lap in the final block of the 2014 NHL Draft has been the gift that’s kept on giving for the Bruins. It’s been a legitimately franchise-changing selection for the Bruins, really, as Pastrnak’s climb only confirms.

    On the board with the 30th and 31st goal of the season Thursday night, Pastrnak now has five 30-goal seasons to his name in his Bruins tenure. That moved Pastrnak into a tie with Bobby Orr for the seventh-most 30-goal seasons in franchise history. (I absolutely love that Orr had five 30-goal seasons. Just pure insanity.) But for Pastrnak, that means that only Peter McNab (six), Patrice Bergeron (six), Cam Neely (six), Johnny Bucyk (seven), Phil Esposito (eight), and Rick Middleton (eight) have hit the 30-goal mark more times than No. 88.

    With the two goals on Thursday night, Pastrnak also became just the second player in franchise history to hit the 30-goal mark with the B’s five times before turning 26, joining Neely in that group.

  • Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) deflects the puck towards the Vegas Golden Knights zone during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

    Brad Marchand really wants the puck

    If you feel like Bruins winger Brad Marchand is shooting the puck a ton more since coming back from his six-game suspension, you’re not crazy. In action for five games on this road trip, Marchand has landed an absurd 27 shots on goal since his return. That’s without question his most shot-friendly five-game segment of the 2021-22 season, and by my count, it’s his most since a 24-in-5 barrage back in December 2018 if you extend beyond this current season.

  • Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) reacts during warm ups before the start of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

    Jeremy Swayman refuses to let up

    February earned the Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman some in-season ‘hardware’ (maybe it’s a certificate, I really don’t know), and while that may be enough to some, Swayman ain’t some, and March is off to an equally devastating start.

    Back in net for the first time since his Monday night shutout over the Kings, Swayman put forth yet another fantastic effort, and stopped all but two of the 36 shots thrown his way by the Golden Knights.

    Context is key here, too, as the Knights’ first goal came off a brutal offensive-zone turnover and equally bad line change, while the second came with the Bruins protecting a three-goal lead and Vegas pulling Robin Lehner for a 6-on-5 look. (If that’s what beats you for goals on the road against a team like Vegas, you’ve done your job.)

    But Swayman went full ridiculous in the second period with a flat-out absurd stop to keep the B’s in control.

    With the win, Swayman improved to 14-7-3 on the year, while his league-best goals against average dipped to 1.95.

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 03: A hat thrown by a fan lands on the ice as Matt Grzelcyk #48 and Craig Smith #12 of the Boston Bruins celebrate Smith’s third-period goal, his third goal of the game, against the Vegas Golden Knights. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    May your hats fly as high as your dreams

    I’m not gonna lie to you, I love looking up weird, largely meaningless stats. It makes me feel like I’m on a side quest in a video game. (I would make my character look a little cooler if this were a video game, but that’s another story.)

    But when Craig Smith found the back of the net for his first hat trick of the season, it got me thinking that there’s been an awful lot of hat tricks for the Bruins this season. Or more specifically, a notable variety of hat trick scorers.

    Sure enough, with five different players recording hat tricks this year — Smith joined a club that features Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak this year — this is indeed the most hat tricksters the Bruins have had since a 1995-96 campaign that featured six different players score at least three goals in a game.

    That list is a sweet, sweet mix, too, including Steve Heinze, Cam Neely, Adam Oates, Dave Reid, Jozef Stumpel, and Rick Tocchet.

  • Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Tomas Nosek (92) acknowledges the crowd as fans applaud a video was played recognizing his time as a Vegas Golden Knight.  (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

    Tomas Nosek gets original ‘Misfit’ welcome back to Vegas

    For the first time in his NHL career, Tomas Nosek entered T-Mobile Arena as a visitor.

    Fortunately, the ex-Golden Knight was welcomed with open arms, even with a different shade of gold on his sweater.

    Nosek, who started his career with the Red Wings before being plucked by Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft, spent four seasons in Vegas and ranks eighth on the franchise’s all-time games played list, with 240. The Czech center certainly seemed to leave his mark on the Knights even after his jump into free agency, with Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer raving about Nosek on and off the ice when Bruce Cassidy came calling to pick his brain.

    Nosek, who finished with one hit and two blocked shots in 14:57 of time on ice Thursday night, has tallied three goals and 12 points through his 49 games with Boston. If his current production plays out through the end of the season, Nosek would set a new career-high in points, with 19. (His previous high is 18, set last year.)

    I gotta feel that Nosek is also the most offensively-capable player the B’s have iced as a fourth-line fixture since Cassidy took over as this team’s head coach in 2017. Gives him an awful lot of options.

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