‘They play for one another every night.’ Thoughts on the Bruins’ latest thriller
Admit it. You knew they were coming back.
What other town can be this confident in its teams? When the Bruins are giving you the same feeling as the title-winning Red Sox and Patriots, well, it’s a good time to be a Boston fan.
So enjoy this. It doesn’t happen often.
“They play for one another every night,” Bruce Cassidy said of his Bruins, who pulled off another dramatic comeback win Thursday, and at No. 2 in the NHL’s overall standings seem to have all possibilities in front of them.
Evidence was everywhere after Matt Grzelcyk scored the tying goal with 37 seconds left against the Florida Panthers. Brandon Carlo hopped out of his seat on the bench and gave “Grizzy” a bear hug, while John Moore repeatedly pounded his arm and an assistant coach slapped his back.
Patrice Bergeron’s winner set off a wilder celebration, which saw Zdeno Chara leaping out of his skates like a rookie who just scored his first goal.
“It’s not always perfect, but they’re great that way, and they’re happy for each other,” Cassidy said. “You don’t see that in every team, trust me. Some guys are not happy for others. They want to be the guy, and I think our guys are genuinely happy for each other’s success.”
■ This 18-game point streak has reached the point where it demands historical context. If the Bruins beat the Senators Saturday, they would become the 13th NHL team with a point streak of 19 games or more. The franchise record is 23 games in 1940-41. The league record is 35, set by Philadelphia in 1979-80.
■ Just 20 other teams in NHL history have matched this point-getting run. Consider that since the league’s inception in 1917, there have been (by my quick math) some 1,582 team-seasons.
■ The Bruins became one of only 10 teams to overcome a deficit and score the winning goal all in the final minute of regulation. That includes the Dec. 4, 1986, Bruins, who beat the Nordiques, 3-2, on goals by Tom McCarthy (19:42) and Ray Bourque (19:59).
■ This run, put another way: The Bruins have lost just three times in regulation in 2019, and it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day.
■ Another measure of David Krejci’s excellent season: He has centered at least a dozen different wingers. He had three sets Thursday, when he scored a goal and had a game-high five shots on net (10 attempts). Great centers can play with anyone. That’s Krejci, who is producing at a points-per-game rate (0.87) near his career best (0.89, set 10 years ago as a 22-year-old).
■ Marchand (three assists), whose puck protection and playmaking are a treat to watch, moved into 10th in the league in assists (a career-high 59), and cracked the 80-point barrier for the third time in his career.
With 15 games left, he is all but certain to eclipse his career high in points (85). He owned Florida’s defense in the final minute, setting up Grzelcyk’s tying blast with a fake shot-pass, and drawing three Panthers along the boards to free Bergeron for the winner.
■ Tuukka Rask made a huge play with 1:25 left, making the correct read and beating Vincent Trocheck to a loose puck. For someone widely criticized for his puckhandling earlier in the season — Cassidy deemed his work “very poor” in a Dec. 23 loss in Carolina — Rask has been sharper there, too. Then again, had Rask conceded the race to Trocheck, he probably would have stopped him on the breakaway.
■ During their off day Friday, the Bruins assigned Karson Kuhlman to Providence, though he could return Saturday if Jake DeBrusk (foot) can’t go. The bet here: all three of DeBrusk, David Pastrnak (thumb), and Marcus Johansson (bruised lung) are rolling by Round 1 of the playoffs, set to begin April 10.
■ Cassidy, admittedly not really a superstitious type, plans to break tradition in the second-to-last game of the season, even if the Bruins’ streak is still going. He has started the Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner line for most of the streak, even on Feb. 26, the night an East Weymouth kid made his TD Garden debut as a Bruin.
“I apologized to Charlie Coyle,” Cassidy said. “First game here back in Boston. I told him I can’t mess with the streak. Typically, you want to start a guy in his hometown, but we’ll start him in Minnesota [April 4, against his old team], whether we have a streak or not. We’ll give him that.”