For much of this season, the Boston Bruins’ physicality was called into question, and deservedly so.
But in their first game back from a 10-day layoff, they showed they’re trying to distance themselves from the notion that they lack physicality.
In the aftermath of their relative lack of a response to Emil Bemstrom concussing Tuukka Rask on Jan. 14, the Bruins have been a far more physical team. That never was more apparent than in their 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday at Bell MTS Place.
The Bruins were involved in a whopping four fights, with Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand, Brandon Carlo and Karson Kuhlman all dropping the gloves. In McAvoy and Kuhlman’s case, fights were the result of massive hits they laid on Jets players.
While throwing weight is nice and all, the Bruins getting the result obviously is the more important matter. And after earning the win against Winnipeg, Carlo outlined the Bruins’ mindset when it comes to physical games now.
“I think for us, we’re trying to build more into our identity of being a physical team and never backing down,” Carlo said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “I think when a team wants to start playing physical with us we definitely want to show that that’s not going to work and it’s honestly going to maybe feed into our hands a little bit. So that was the kind our mentality tonight.”
Now, getting into four fights a game isn’t exactly sustainable long-term. But if nothing else, the Bruins have been showing lately they’re willing to answer the bell if need be, and that they can play a physical brand of hockey.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Bruins-Jets game:
— McAvoy laying out Mark Scheifele was a clear shot in the arm for the Bruins.
As Winnipeg’s top line center skated with speed through the offensive zone late in the first period, McAvoy slid over and laid a heavy, clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit on him. Neal Pionk then engaged McAvoy and a fight ensued.
Carlo and head coach Bruce Cassidy both admitted McAvoy’s play helped energize the group.
“I think so,” Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley following the game. “I think Zee had one earlier in the neutral zone too, so we started to push back a little bit. I thought early on we were kind of feeling our way through it, and that’s a tough way to go through it. I know — listen, you come off the break, you’ve lost a little bit of your competitive edge, but the quicker you get it the better off you’re going to be. And yes, I thought (McAvoy’s hit) was a big part of it and kind of got us pulled together in the same way and off we went.”
It was an all-around solid defensive game for McAvoy. who added another hit and three blocked shots in 25:08 ice time.
— Boston’s special teams were top notch.
Due in part to the slew of fights, the Bruins had to go on the penalty kill six times, and they successfully weathered all of them. Meanwhile, both of Boston’s goals came on the man advantage, with the B’s cashing in on half of their four opportunities.
“Special teams on both sides of the puck tonight were very good,” Carlo said. “That’s something that we obviously take a lot of pride in. I know myself being a penalty killer, that’s a big thing for myself is to kill it off. Whether that be 5-on-3, 5-on-4. We take a lot of pride in that, like I said. And same thing for the power play.”
“That was a good battle, we needed those kills,” the goaltender Rask said. “It was one after another in the second period, were never able to catch the breath there for the killers, but we battled hard, showed some physicality and grinded a win out.”
— Playing in his first game since the Bemstrom elbow, Rask didn’t seem to miss a beat.
The netminder stopped all 12 shots he saw while the Bruins were on the penalty kill, ultimately turning away 37 of 38 attempts. While there was some rust in the first period, Rask settled in nicely and was playing without fear of being a step behind physically.
“I’ve played enough hockey to — it’s more mental,” Rask said. “You’re just trying to feel those first few shots, I think first period my rebound control wasn’t where it could’ve been. But after that I kind of found the pucks and held onto them, but I wasn’t worried.”
Over his last seven starts, Rask is 5-0-1 (he didn’t get a decision in the Columbus Blue Jackets game due to the injury) with a 1.99 goals against average and .943 save percentage.
Thumbnail photo via Terrence Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images