It was a holiday festival at the Garden Monday. It’s not every day the home team wins and you see a guy score four goals in one game.
With lots of families on hand for the Columbus Day matinee, David Pastrnak found the back of the net four times and the Bruins improved to 5-1-0 with a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Brad Marchand, the goat of Game 7 in June, had assists on two of the goals and seems to be on a mission to get back to the Cup Finals. Marchand has five assists and four goals in the last five games.
Like the Patriots, the Bruins seem to be doing a better job than the Red Sox of picking up where they left off. The Sox never figured out how to follow up on their World Series win, but the Bruins are playing the same inspired hockey that got them to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I think the best thing to happen to our group was pretty much staying together,’’ Marchand said. “It allowed us to continue our chemistry and kind of roll in from last year and feel confident and comfortable with one another.
“It’s easy to get on our game quickly when you already have the chemistry and already feel comfortable with one another, and that’s what’s going on here.’’
Keeping things the same seems to have been the offseason goal for Bruins hockey bosses Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. This is the same team that got to Game 7. Playing at the same level so far.
Everything else about the Boston Garden Bruins experience feels different. The locker room is new, there are no more paper game tickets, and there are new food emporiums in and around the arena. Oh, and as you may have heard, the seats are all new and all black.
Many of those seats feel as though they have lost legroom. Perhaps it’s the pitch of the new chairs, or maybe the padding, but some of them make fans feel as if they are sitting in the middle coach seat of a United Airlines flight after the guy in front reclines his seat.
There should be a lot of standing ovations at the Garden this year. It hurts too much to stay seated. That’s why family days are good. More children. Fewer complaints.
Just over four months ago, before the new seats, the only thing between the Bruins and their seventh Stanley Cup were the flippin’ St. Louis Blues.
That was one beautiful afternoon in our fair city. Spring had officially sprung, and most everybody took off from work. Streets around the Garden were alive with anticipation and beer. We were going to see Boston’s 13th championship of this century, a righteous follow-up to the Sox winning the 2018 World Series in Los Angeles and the Patriots winning the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
And then it all went away in the final seconds of the first period when Marchand, after making a faint effort to check Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, inexplicably skated to the bench in the closing seconds of the period. This left the Bruins shorthanded, and Alex Pietrangelo took a pass from Schwartz, skated free toward the net, and potted a backhand past a defenseless Tuukka Rask.
After the game, Marchand said, “I thought that guy [Schwartz] was by himself. Obviously he wasn’t.’’
The mistake effectively ended things. It turned a 1-0 game into a 2-0 game and took all the air out of the Garden. There was no recovering.
Fortunately, our recent regional sports successes have reduced the burden of making a mistake in a big moment. There will never be another Too Many Men On The Ice, or Ben Dreith roughing-the-passer call, or Bucky Dent/Bill Buckner/Grady Little moment. We have simply won too often, and the weight of goat horns has diminished proportionally.
Accordingly, Marchand skated freely from his line-change brain cramp. He’s been too good for too long, the Bruins have won enough to satisfy the masses, and fans are never going to hate the Li’l Ball O’ Hate. This is good.
Marchand was on the ice in the first period Monday when Pastrnak gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Getting out quick has been a staple of the Bruins’ early success. They have scored 16 goals in six games, 10 of them in the first period.
The Li’l Ball made the second goal happen midway through the second when he stole a pass after Boston finished killing a power play. Marchand feathered the puck to Pastrnak for an easy goal and a 2-0 lead. He also avoided a retaliation hit from Max Comtois with a nifty duck-and-cover move. Marchand assisted again on Pasta’s final goal in the third period.
“He’s always got it,’’ Marchand said of Pastrnak. “He’s such a talented player. He’s dangerous on every single play regardless of where he is or where he gets the puck.’’
Are the Bruins blocking out Game 7 or using it as motivation? I wondered.
“I’m not really talking about that anymore,’’ Marchand said, politely. “We’re moving forward. You can’t do anything about it. So we’re really focused on this year.
“I think we’re happy so far this year, but we’re not comfortable. We can do better, and I think that’s the message we all know and understand in this room.’’
The Bruins play the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues at the Garden on Oct. 26.