Fresh off acquiring Patrick Kane before the trade deadline, the New York Rangers entered Boston Saturday afternoon hoping to snap the Bruins’ nine-game win streak while protecting their third-place spot in the Metropolitan Division.
But once again, the Bruins showed no signs of slowing down.
New addition Tyler Bertuzzi quickly endeared himself to the hometown crowd, providing a brilliant feed to Charlie Coyle from behind the Rangers’ net to set up the game’s first tally late in the opening period.
With Bertuzzi in the box for slashing, Tomas Nosek extended Boston’s lead to 2-0 early in the second after beating Igor Shesterikin with a slick forehand-backhand for a shorthanded tally.
Alexis Lafreniere redirected Jacob Trouba’s blueline snapshot past Linus Ullmark to cut the New York deficit to 2-1.
With 7:04 remaining in the third, captain Patrice Bergeron collected a feed in the high slot from Brad Marchand and fired a shot under the blocker of Shesterkin for Boston’s third of the game, regaining their two-goal lead.
David Pastrnak provided another insurance tally less than four minutes later, burying an easy one-time shot from a Charlie McAvoy feed for his 44th of the year.
Lafreniere capped off the scoring with his second of the game late in regulation. The Bruins staved off the desperate Rangers in the final minute to secure the 4-2 win.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 49-8-5 on the season.
Bertuzzi adds more depth to an already deep roster
In recent years, the Bruins relied heavily on the “Perfection Line” comprised of Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Marchand to provide the bulk of the offensive production.
That has hardly been the case during this historic season. Ten different Bruins have hit double-digit goal totals thus far.
Prior to the trade deadline, the Bruins boasted arguably the deepest lineup. A few of their NHL regulars had to sit in the Level 9 press box or trek down to Providence for no reason other than their proverbial overflow of talent.
Over the last week, Sweeney upgraded Boston’s already stellar depth after acquiring Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, and Bertuzzi.
Orlov continued his stellar run thus far in Boston, notching his ninth point in five games. Bertuzzi tallied his first point with a primary assist on Coyle’s opening goal.
Not only does this trio provide a scoring touch, but their playing hardworking, dogged, and physical brand of hockey matches up perfectly with Boston’s team-wide philosophy.
Beyond the scoresheet, Bertuzzi stood out with his ability to protect the puck and deliver passes through traffic to generate quality scoring chances. Playing alongside Coyle and Trent Frederic, the trio’s impact didn’t go unnoticed.
“Charlie Coyle’s line was probably our best offensive line today. So, I was giving them some o-zone starts because they were playing so well,” head coach Jim Montgomery said of his third line. “[Coyle] is hard to handle, and so is Frederic, and so is Bertuzzi.”
Coyle was quick to praise his linemates as well.
“Those two guys made me look good tonight,” the Weymouth native said. “Just their forecheck, Freddy on the forecheck, being a big body like he is. The vision and playmaking ability of Bertuzzi, that was great to get that goal right away…to capitalize right away. That can definitely help settle you down and get more comfortable.”
“It was awesome,” Bertuzzi said regarding his first game in Boston. “All the guys were awesome. Just feels good to get this one out of the way and just move forward.”
Bruins still seek ‘fine-tuning’ amid their latest streak
It would be easy for Boston to glance at the standings and feel as though they’ve reached the top of their game. But the Bruins will hardly allow complacency to creep in as the season nears its conclusion.
After Saturday, the Bruins extended their insurmountable lead over the league’s next-best team to 15 points. The league’s wins and points record are well within reach. Yet, their focus of the final 20 games isn’t steadfast on stamping their names in the NHL regular season record books but rather on ironing out the final wrinkles in whatever deficiencies remain.
“It’s fine-tuning our game, getting better at what we think we have to get better at. There’s areas of our game that have to improve in order to be better in the playoffs,” Montgomery said. “You can get away with a lot of turnovers. You can get away with giving up odd-man rushes when you’re playing non-playoff teams. But when you’re playing playoff teams, you can’t get away with that.”
“We know what the end goal here is, and we can’t get to that right now,” Coyle echoed. “So we want to get better, keep getting better, keep our head down, work, get the two points when you can.”
One area the Bruins can iron out between now and the end of the season: the power play.
The Bruins now sit seventh in the league on the man advantage, converting 23.6 percent of their chances. That’s a steep drop off from earlier this season, where they sat in second place trailing only the Connor McDavid-led Oilers.
Jake DeBrusk’s return to the top unit provided a little lift. And as the chemistry builds between Orlov, Bertuzzi, and the rest of the secondary unit, the power play should return to its former glory sooner rather than later.
While scoring has not been an issue for Boston, putting up 18 goals in their last four games, Montgomery still expects more efficiency from the two man-advantage units.
“We gotta get better,” Montgomery said. “We aren’t creating enough scoring chances.”
Some needed time off before a marathon finish.
Saturday’s afternoon tilt marks one of their last significant stretches away from the rink.
Boston doesn’t play again until they host Edmonton Thursday night, and indeed, they’ll enjoy their well-deserved time off.
Following the four-day break, the Bruins will play 15 games over a 24-day stretch before having consecutive days off again.
While the Bruins escaped the general weariness and mental fatigue thus far, the injuries and scrapes from the season’s grind have begun to take their toll. And with a denser-than-usual schedule ahead of them, every minute of recovery counts.
“The last 20 games, we will look to rest certain players for sure,” Montgomery said. “But these next four days allows us a break to recover. So we’ll be off Sunday, and Tuesday, we’ll probably be off too.”
So long as Boston enters the first round of the 2023 playoffs healthy and hungry, it’s hard to imagine how any team could manage four wins in seven games over this behemoth of a hockey club.
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