Here’s some notes and quotes as Zdeno Chara makes his annual delivery of pies around town . . .
■ Solid Bruins debut for Brendan Gaunce, who logged 9:10 Wednesday night at Ottawa, assisting on Chara’s third-period winner and adding two hits in a 2-1 win.
“In the first period, I was trying to anticipate everything instead of just reacting,” said Gaunce, who replaced rookie Jack Studnicka in the lineup. “In the second, I remembered it’s just hockey, and I had my game from there.”
Gaunce, 25, produced a 6-5—11 line in 14 games in Providence, and was appearing in his 118th NHL game. The Vancouver first-rounder (26th overall in 2012), who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with Boston July 1, was up and down with the Canucks and AHL Utica the last four seasons.
A left shot, he plays center and wing. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Gaunce (6 feet 2 inches, 216 pounds) was as advertised.
“He’s hard on pucks,” Cassidy said. “When he gets there first, he can protect it. He can make plays — it was a great play to Z — when he has time.
“It’s just the pace of this league. Guys are stronger. You have to bring that mentality. The more you play, the easier it is to do that. Your first game, you’re typically surprised by some of that stuff.”
On Oct. 18, Gaunce left a game at AHL Laval on a stretcher when Montreal farmhand Michael McCarron blindsided him in the neutral zone. He said he sustained his first concussion and had a badly broken nose. He was off the ice for 18-20 days, he estimated.
“I was lucky,” he said. “I didn’t have any symptoms for four or five days after. My nose wasn’t in a great spot, so I had to have surgery.”
Given eight weeks to wear facial protection, he chose a wire cage, which he donned Wednesday. He tried a plastic bubble (in the style Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari wore last year) but it kept fogging up.
“Everyone chirps me,” he said. “But I feel comfortable with it.”
■ The Senators raised eyebrows in the visiting locker room by shadowing David Pastrnak.
“You don’t see that often in the NHL,” Brad Marchand said. “I think it speaks volumes about how well Pasta’s playing.
“They’re a young team. They don’t have anything to lose. They’re playing well. They’re playing very fast. Why not try something different? If you shut Pasta down, you shut down a big part of our offense.”
It was a slow night for Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 23 goals (23-16—39 in 25 games). He landed two shots, saw two attempts blocked, and missed the net twice. He also had David Krejci as his center for the first half of the game, Charlie Coyle for the latter.
If another team tries the Sticky Pasta strategy, Marchand sounded like he would be prepared. That would include route changes and crosses to set legal picks on defenders.
“When that happens,” Marchand said, “other things open up.”
■ Unlike Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, who are due a raise in salary in the final years of their deals, both Chris Wagner and Coyle will have hit their salary peak when their deals expire.
Coyle, whose cap hit is $5.25 million for the six-year deal, will earn $8 million in salary next season, a source with knowledge of the deal told the Globe, then $6 million in 2021-22. He drops to $3 million in the third year, with a $1 million signing bonus, and makes $4.5 million in the final three years. He will be 34 at the end of his deal.
Wagner, according to PuckPedia, will make $1.525 million in base salary the next two seasons, and $1 million when his deal expires in 2023, at age 32.
McAvoy, who signed a three-year bridge deal, will be looking for a raise on a $7.3 million salary in the summer of 2022. Carlo, who will also be well into his prime, will be making $3.5 million.
■ Finally, Jaroslav Halak could rest easy.
The veteran goalkeeper ceded the net to Tuukka Rask on Wednesday, the night after he stopped 36 of 37 shots against Montreal in the Bell Centre, a building where his name used to ring through the halls. Had the Bruins not won by a touchdown, his effort might have been the story.
“Jaro was strong [Tuesday],” Rask said after making 33 stops of his own against the Senators. “Obviously we scored eight goals, but they had a lot of chances, a lot of shots.”
For Halak, it came after a month of sour finishes. He allowed two goals in each in his previous two starts, but lost in shootouts to Washington and Philadelphia. Before that, he was a 6-4 winner against Pittsburgh, a game in which he splintered his stick after allowing a go-ahead goal with seconds left in the second period.
In late October, he was a 7-4 winner over the Rangers, but allowed three strikes in the third. He also was part of the two-disallowed-goals night in Denver, taking his only regulation loss of the year so far.
Halak, now 5-1-3, boosted his save percentage to where it was in the opening weeks of the year: .930, with a 2.40 goals-against average.
His play in the first period (12 saves) lifted the Bruins, who were finding their way without the injured Patrice Bergeron.
“He was excellent,” said Cassidy. “I think he’s had a real good year. A few nights, we didn’t score in the shootout, but that’s for both guys. That’s not our strength right now. Hopefully we have games like [Tuesday] and we don’t have to worry about it.”
■ Though their heavy legs made it slow going, the Bruins had the necessary level-headedness to forget about Tuesday’s blowout win and focus on the Senators.
“We can enjoy it tonight,” Pastrnak said after the Montreal win, “get some confidence, and you know, wash it off tomorrow, just like we would lose, and be ready for tomorrow night.”
The Bruins kept mashing the pedal in Montreal, after going up, 6-1, after 40 minutes. That was Cassidy’s focus during his intermission chat. Even last year, he said, he might not have addressed the need to keep pouring it on, but this is the new-new NHL.
According to the NHL, through the first quarter of this season (317 games; a point reached early last week), the number of goals (1,956) was the highest since the post-lockout year of 2005-06.
Along with that, some 44 percent of games have featured a comeback of some kind. The Bruins, who choked away a four-goal edge Nov. 12, didn’t want to become the first team this year to blow a five-goal lead.
“We learned from our mistake against Florida,” Cassidy said. “And that’s what good teams do.”
■ The Senators (11-13-1) were scrapping harder than many expected from a team that still might finish loaded with lottery Ping-Pong balls. They had been 7-3-0 in their last 10, and allowed one goal in each in their three previous games. Leading scorer Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13-6—19 in 25 games), a pending UFA, was shooting at 21.7 percent.
“No professional athlete wants to get walked on,” said “Hockey Night in Canada” analyst Garry Galley, a Bruin from 1988-92. “They’ve got pride. They know it’s not a playoff team . . . but you want to be a guy they want to build around.”
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.