The Boston Bruins picked a good time to compile victories.
Wednesday’s 5-1 drubbing of the lowly Montreal Canadiens in front of a rabid TD Garden faithful marked Boston’s sixth triumph in seven games since their COVID-19 pause.
Bruce Cassidy has a healthy scoring balance with his four forward trios. His elite players, like a stitched-up Brad Marchand, who notched his third-straight multi-goal game following his fifth career hat trick, have led by example. The bottom-six continued to contribute to the scoring uptick highlighted by Curtis Lazar’s three-point outing against the Habs.
And they’ll have a reinforcement in Tuukka Rask for the second half of their scheduled back-to-back Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Typically, this team goes on a run sometime early in the year where they can separate and build their game every night and add wins every night,” Cassidy said. “It just so happens to be now. Like I said, I think the break helped us. It came at a good time both mentally and physically…”
The Bruins now sit five points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the East’s final wild-card spot. Here’s what we learned following their 20th win of the campaign.
Marchand is in the hottest stretch of his career.
Amid all of Marchand’s success, the crafty winger finds himself in the middle of the hottest run of his illustrious 12-year tenure.
Not even a high stick from Washington Capitals forward Nic Dowd two nights prior could prevent Marchand from lighting the lamp twice. Even with five or six stitches following the slash to the nostrils, Marchand’s nose for the net was on full display against the rival Canadiens.
All three of his tallies came in the dirty area against Montreal’s two goaltenders, Jake Allen and Sam Montembault. The latter appeared in relief after the former exited the game with an undisclosed injury following Marchand’s second goal of the night, a mere 15 seconds after his first marker.
Marchand finds himself amid a four-game goal streak and three-game multi-tally run. He’s notched an eye-opening eight goals since Jan. 6, upping his season total to 19. He appropriately celebrated his latest trick by picking out a good-looking hat to his collection.
“The hat just speaks for itself,” Marchand said. “It has sexy written all over it.”
Marchand flirted with Hart Trophy consideration in the past. He’s absolutely performing at an MVP level at a pivotal point of Boston’s season.
“We were catching a little heat early on,” Marchand said of the team’s turnaround from the start of the year. “But we knew we were going to get better.”
The Bruins-Habs rivalry finally had a few recent heated moments
Hockey’s greatest rivalry simmered a bit over the last half-decade. Then the divisional realignment for the pandemic- shortened 2021 campaign put future Bruins-Habs matchups on pause.
The disparity between a Bruins squad on the up and a downtrodden Habs bunch suggested the two would encounter relatively calmer matchups. That wasn’t the case on this night.
The crispy meter reached peak levels on a handful of occasions. For every Michael Pezzatta borderline hit on John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk came a response from Marchand and, of all people, Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins punched and counterpunched the Canadiens through a Chris Wideman headbutt on Erik Haula, prompting a few retaliatory jabs. Likewise, the Habs came to the aid of Nick Suzuki following a third-period hit from Marchand.
The snowball effect started with Bergeron’s aid of Moore and Grzelcyk. The rest of the team adhered to their leader as he relayed the message.
“Trust me, when these hits happen, Bergy is not on the ice, and he points out right away on the bench that we finish every check,” Cassidy said. “He doesn’t come out and say ‘oh we have to kill this guy or that guy…we just have to finish every check and respond, push back’ whatever words you want to use and let them know we’re not going to take that whether it’s in our building or your building.”
Old-time hockey returned to TD Garden. But an old and nagging wound came back to haunt one Bruin in particular.
Moore’s injury potentially puts depleted Bruins D in a tougher spot.
Moore’s journey with the Bruins organization provided more valleys than peaks. This season saw the oft-injured veteran start the year in Providence upon clearing waivers. But when called upon, Moore provided a decent hand on the back-end more often than not.
As he slowly settled into a decent role, however, Moore encountered another setback after leaving with an upper-body injury following an uncalled hit from behind by Pezzatta.
Moore’s exit provided another hit for Boston’s defense, with Connor Clifton and Derek Forbort still in COVID protocol. The duo served as Boston’s third pair for most of the season, but both popped positive tests during the team’s recent two-game trip. Forbort and Clifton didn’t travel with the team after their respective diagnoses in Tampa and Washington.
The Bruins recalled Tyler Lewington on an emergency basis ahead of Wednesday’s contest. He’ll likely enter the lineup against the Flyers, barring another transaction or unforeseen development. The 27-year-old appeared in 10 career tilts at the NHL level, with his last appearance coming on May 10 during his brief two-game stint with the Nashville Predators.
Even in victory, the Bruins couldn’t escape another tough development ahead of Rask’s likely first appearance since Game 6 of last year’s second-round matchup with the Islanders. But even with the looming defensive questions, the Bruins faithful who prompted “we want Tuukka” chants on Causeway St. will finally get their long-awaited wish.
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