Boston Bruins continue their hot play against the Devils

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 22: Jake DeBrusk
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 22: Jake DeBrusk /

The Boston Bruins brought their first winning streak of the season into the Rock to face the Metropolitan Division leading New Jersey Devils.  Did the streak extend to 3 games?

The Boston Bruins have played some solid hockey the last week or so.  On a three-game California road-trip, the Bruins went 2-1-0, taking 4 points from two solid Western Conference teams in the Kings and Sharks.

Part of the Bruins renaissance so to speak has been consistent goaltending.  To the surprise of many fans, that consistent goaltending has come from back-up goalie Anton Khudobin, not starter Tuukka Rask.  Hence why Khudobin was named the starter of Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boston Bruins
NEWARK, NJ – NOVEMBER 22: Keith Kinkaid /

The Bruins got back Ryan Spooner for the game, however, were still missing the services of Brad Marchand, Anders Bjork, and Torey Krug.  Matt Grzelcyk was recalled from Providence, and slotted in next to Kevan Miller in the lineup.

1st period

In most road games this season, the Bruins have started the first 20 minutes in lethargic fashion.  Something must have gotten into them this holiday season, because they started this game the exact opposite.  The team was rushing the puck up the ice quickly and efficiently, without compromising themselves defensively.  THIS is the Bruce Cassidy system we saw glimpses of last season when he took over as head coach.

What better way to get rewarded for starting the game hot than scoring the first goal?  After a solid play in the defensive zone by Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci found themselves on a 2-on-1.  DeBrusk kept the puck in a shooting position, and fired the puck past Cory Schneider 1:25 into the game.  The Bruins scored first, which has been a rarity this season, and Grzelcyk tallied his first career NHL point.  Oh, and does anyone in the NHL celly with as much enthusiasm as DeBrusk?

The Bruins had a power play with about 12 minutes left in the period.  The Bruins had 0 shots on the man advantage, and the Devils had a couple opportunities short-handed.  Khudobin held strong, but the Bruins power play woes are becoming seriously concerning.  It’s bad enough to not have scoring chances.  But giving them up…that’s rough.

With 8:58 left in the period, the Bruins struck again at even strength.  David Pastrnak was strong on the puck at the offensive blueline.  When he got the puck, he drove towards the net, selling a shot.  However, after Schneider had committed, Pastrnak slid the puck cross-ice to a wide open Patrice Bergeron who had a yawning cage.  Bergeron didn’t miss, and the lead was extended to two.

Zdeno Chara made a bit of a sloppy play in the offensive zone in 4-on-4 hockey, which led to a breakaway for #1 overall pick Nico Hischier.  Khudobin, as he’s been doing recently, stood tall and stoned the opportunity.

However, on the penalty kill after a Tim Schaller penalty, rookie Jesper Bratt scored for the Devils when Khudobin thought he had the puck covered.  Unfortunately, Khudobin had a stick under his glove, not the puck.  Bratt took the puck off Khudobin’s pad and buried it, and it was now 2-1 Bruins.

2nd Period

The Bruins only had 1 shot on goal in the last 7:30 of the 1st period.  The team started the game hot, and they were clearly looking to do that in the 2nd period as well.  The Bruins had an incredibly strong and aggressive forecheck, many times having 3 or 4 players in the offensive zone, harassing the Devils players.  With a strong forecheck usually comes chances.

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The first half of the period was pretty even hockey.  Each team had their opportunities up-and-down the ice.  At no point however did either team really seem close to scoring.  Schaller had a chance in close from a nice feed by Sean Kuraly.  Both goalies were on their game early in the period.

The Bruins went on the power play with 12:25 left in the period after Krejci was taken down.  The power play, once again, was plagued with bad decision making and inability to set anything up.  In fact, the best scoring opportunity was a shorthanded breakaway after Charlie McAvoy fired a shot into Blake Coleman’s legs.  Khudobin, after looking behind himself, had the puck between his pads, preserving the lead.

The Bruins had a couple more man advantage chances in the period.  There was some improvement in the puck movement and possession, but the puck stayed out of the net.  After some opportunities for each team, the period ended the way it started, with a 2-1 Bruins lead.

3rd period

The Devils started the 3rd period the way the Bruins started the 2nd.  A strong forecheck kept the Bruins hemmed in their own zone for the first few minutes of the period.  And when that happens, rubber gets thrown on your goalie more than you’d like, especially with tired players on the ice.  The Bruins appeared to be trying to sit on the lead, which is a practice that usually ends up backfiring.

The Devils were doing everything they could to get the equalizer.  Halfway through the period, the Devils were outshooting the Bruins 7-0.  Even though the Bruins were giving up the shots, most were from non-scoring areas, and Khudobin was able to see the puck the entire way.

After taking back-to-back penalties, the Bruins found themselves shorthanded for four consecutive minutes.  As the second penalty expired, Rob O’Gara foolishly tried to rim the puck around to the open point.  Damon Severson gather the puck uncovered and fired a shot on net.  Brian Gibbons deflected the puck, scoring his 10th goal of the season, tying the game at 2.

The last two minutes of regulation were an absolute whirlwind.  Both teams had decent chances, but no goals were scored.  Overtime was needed to settle this one.

Extra hockey

Entering tonight, the Bruins had yet to win in overtime.  The Bruins started with the first 1:12 of OT in possession of the puck, with Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy getting their chances.  The Devils then took over the action.  Anton Khudobin absolutely stoned two Devils opportunities, one on a Henrique breakaway after a neutral zone turnover by the Bruins.

After some back and forth, as is intended by 3-on-3 hockey, the teams headed to the shootout to determine the winner.  New Jersey went first, and Taylor Hall went bar down on Khudobin.  Bergeron and Jesper Bratt were both stopped on their attempts.  David Pastrnak then deked the jock-strap off Schneider and scored.

Then things got…long.  David Krejci, Brian Boyle, Jake DeBrusk, Pavel Zacha, Ryan Spooner, Nico Hischier, Peter Cehlarik, Adam Henrique, Riley Nash, Will Butcher, Brian Gibbons, Tim Schaller, Damon Severson, Frank Vatrano (clanged the pipe), Travis Zajac all could not find the twine.  Then, Charlie “Dangles” McAvoy decided enough was enough, and just absolutely roofed a backhand over Schneider.  With that, after 10 rounds in the shootout the Bruins win.

Takeaways from the game

  • Does anyone in Boston think that Tuukka Rask should be starting over Anton Khudobin at this point?  With tonight’s win, Khudobin now sits at 6-0-2, with wins over the Coyotes, Canucks, Sharks (2), Kings, and now the Devils.  Obviously, as is the nature of hockey, Rask needs to get some work in.  But I think right now, Khudobin is the team’s starting goalie.
  • This team is really starting to round into form.  The young players like DeBrusk, Heinen, McAvoy are really starting to gel as a team with the veterans.  Watch out for this Bruins team when vets like David Backes, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, and Torey Krug are all back full-time.

Next: Boston Bruins Mount Rushmore

  • The NHL and the Bruins have tomorrow off for Thanksgiving.  The next Bruins game will be Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  This is the Bruins first meeting with the defending champs this season.  The game is an NBC matinee, puck drop at 1:00 pm.