This story was originally posted on CLNSMedia.com:
Tuukka Rask continued his dominance between the pipes making 37 saves and helping the Boston Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a game the Bruins arguably had no business winning. Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist, Patrice Bergeron scored and Riley Nash lit the lamp as well, giving the Bruins points in 17 straight games as they kept pace with first place Tampa Bay Lightning who also won (4-3 over the Predators in overtime) to remain five points ahead of Boston.
Playing without their star rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy for the first time since the last game of the 2016-17 regular season, the Bruins struggled mightily to come out of their zone and generate scoring chances in the first period as they were out-shot 20-9 in the first period and 12-4 in the final frame, but thanks to Rask, some gifts from an officials crew that had some questionable calls on both teams, a scoreboard malfunction delay and the now trademark resilience this team has thrived on all season, the Bruins escaped with two points. The Bruins are now 13-0-4 during this point streak and have not lost in regulation since December 14.
Here’s some Extra Beats from a rather strange Tuesday night at TD Garden but none the less, another win for the streaking B’s:
1.) Crickets From The Tuukka Haters
When the Bruins struggled out of the gate in October there were plenty of fingers being pointed at goalie Tuukka Rask. Truth be told, even though he claimed to “feel good” at the time, Rask was at best mediocre, and that’s being kind. Blaming the goalie however is an easy excuse or way out and good on the Boston coaching staff and Rask’s teammates for realizing he was far from their only issue.
The Bruins were giving up nonstop odd-man rushes and there were plenty of times when they left their goalie out to dry. Many of the scoring chances allowed wouldn’t even be stopped by Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur in their primes. Yet, the Tuukka haters continually said he was “not elite”and “never steals games”. Well on Monday night against the Devils, the Finnish netminder basically committed grand larceny with 20 saves (17 of them grade A scoring chances), in the first period and then more thievery in the third period with 12 saves when the Bruins were holding on for dear life against a Devils team who had played in Detroit the night before. One of the biggest
Through it all though, and just like during this now 15-0-2 run that Rask is on, the Tuukka Haters were crickets on social media. Rask is now 18-8-4 with a 2.16 GAA and .923 save percentage and while he’s a big Metallica fan, Simon and Garfunkel might sound pretty sweet these days too.
2.) Transition Game Struggles Without McAvoy
While one player doesn’t make a team, if that player plays top three minutes played almost every game, then his absence is naturally going to be felt and that was the case Tuesday against the Devils. With McAvoy missing his first game as he recovers from successful surgery to treat an abnormal heartbeat that’s expected to keep him out for two weeks, the Bruins couldn’t seem to find their rhythm offensively in the opening and closing periods.
McAvoy is easily the Bruins’ most crisp passer coming out of the d-zone and making that first outlet pass. With the exception of Torey Krug – who assisted on Bergeron’s second period tally – that pass was hardly there against the Devils. The forwards, namely the Marchand-Bergeron-David Pastrnak line, as always did a solid job of trying to alleviate that, but it’s clear the likes of Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and Zdeno Chara will need to collectively thread the needle even more coming out of the d-zone and through the neutral zone.
Can someone please explain to me how Bergeron isn’t in the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) conversation as we approach the 2018 NHL All Star Game Sunday in Tampa Bay and better yet, how he’s not going? With the former, spare me the malarkey about the roster format. I get it! However, and I think Marchand would agree, Bergeron is the Bruins’ MVP this season and he’s got one less goal than the pesky sniper. Also, with Hedman’s injury, and now McAvoy, how about sending Keith Yandle (25 points) to replace Hedman, omit Aleksander Barkov and slot in Bergeron as the second Bruins forward? But I digress..
The season the Bruins center is having deserves much more than just all star recognition. With Bergeron the clear cut favorite for a record fifth Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward, it’s high time to start the Hart Trophy campaign. The Bruins are not on this amazing run if not for their amazing two-way forward and fearless leader. With his goal Tuesday, Bergeron now has 20 lamplighters to go with 20 assists, but points aren’t the only thing that makes him so valuable and that was on prime display in the second period, not just when he tied the game at two for Boston at 12:53.
Earlier in the period, with his team trailing 1-0, Bergeron, as well as his linemates, Marchand and Pastrnak had the best energy shift of the game for Boston to that point, and on the following shift, the Nash, Danton Heinen (one assist) and David Backes line found the back of the net as Nash tied it 1-1 at 7:03 of the middle frame. It was just another example of how Bergeron can set the tempo or provide a spark and his teammates follow.
4.) Special Teams Continues To be Special
The Bruins killed off all four Devils powerplays and then went 1-for-4 on the powerplay themselves with Bergeron’s goal coming on the man advantage.
During their 17-game points streak, the Bruins powerplay is scoring at a 2.31 clip. Bergeron and Marchand are tied for the team lead with seven powerplay tallies a piece.
Boston’s penalty kill has been huge as well as they have killed off 83 percent of opponents’ powerplays.
5.) Marchand Could Be Facing Another Suspension
Just when it seems Marchand has turned the corner, ridding himself of the shenanigans that have gotten him seven career suspensions in the NHL, he just can’t resist.
When yours truly first saw Marchand’s elbow collide with the had of Devils forward Marcus Johansson in the final minutes of the game Tuesday, the feel was it was incidental and a result of the Boston forward driving to the net. However, after watching the replay, the feel here is that Marchand could very well be headed on a league imposed vacation for the eighth time.
Johansson did not return and following the game, Joe Haggerty of NBCBoston cited a league source saying the hit was being reviewed despite it not being penalized in the game.
6.) Bruins and Penguins Talking Trade?
Prior to the game Tuesday, news came out of Pittsburgh via Dan Kingerski of PGH Hockey Now that Bruins Assistant GM John Ferguson Jr. was scouting the Penguins-Hurricanes game in Pittsburgh.
While it’s always notable when a team’s Assistant GM is scouting another game, NHL sources have recently told this scribe already, the Bruins have been scouting the Penguins a bit more than normal in recent times, and Kingerski’s report supports. According to Kingerski, the Bruins also had scouts following the Penguins on their recent road trip out west.
This comes as no surprise here, considering a well-placed source told me a few weeks back that Boston and Pittsburgh had discussed Pens defenseman Ian Cole who GM Jim Rutherford has long made clear is available for the right price. According to this source, the talks stalled when the Penguins asked about defenseman Kevan Miller as a return for Cole.