The sample size is small, but so far so good for the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins earned their third straight win Tuesday, a 3-2 overtime victory, against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston currently sits in second place in the new East Division.
Center David Krejci had a pretty simple explanation for the team’s early success.
“I think guys are really buying in,” Krejci said during his postgame media availability. “You can see it in practices that guys are working hard and it pays off in games.”
The Bruins currently are 4-1-1, and their single regulation loss was decided by one goal. They’ve done so with players out of the lineup — including leading goal scorer David Pastrnak — but newcomers have integrated well.
“Some new guys in the lineup, some injuries, so I think the boys are battling. I guess that’s the way I’d assess it,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game.
“We’re in there competing every night. We’re keeping ourselves in games. We’re hard to play against. We’re getting goaltending, some timely scoring obviously. I think once we sort of get everything up and running I’ll probably answer better where I’d see us simply because that’s usually how you want to evaluate your team. Once you have the full lineup to see how you matchup.”
In other words, Cassidy wants to see what this thing looks like with Pastrnak in the mix. Cassidy shared how Thursday probably won’t be an option for the All-Star’s return, but it is on the horizon.
“Yeah, it’s been a good start for us,” left wing Nick Ritchie, who scored the Bruins’ second goal of the night, said after the win. “Obviously, some room to grow still and adding someone like Pasta back into your lineup, your leading scorer, obviously is going to help a lot. But I think guys have stepped up in his absence and we have a decent record so far and we’ll take it where we are right now.”
Brad Marchand, who scored a goal himself, feels similarly.
“We have high expectations for our group regardless of who is in or out of the lineup,” Marchand said after the game.
“We have a system that’s put in place and a culture in the room that allows guys to come in and feel comfortable and again, we expect everyone to perform at their best every night and we push each other. I think that’s a big reason why we’re good every year. And when you come in we have that next-guy-up mentality, it just kind of rolls from there.”
Here are some other takeaways from Boston-Pittsburgh:
— The Bruins killed off six penalties against the Penguins, but still fell victim to the infamous two-goal lead, which everyone knows, is the worst in hockey.
Cassidy described what he saw from his team in the third period as Pittsburgh rallied back.
“We were stuck in our end, so that was fatigue. Other than that, we had six minors so I don’t know. It seems like every time they went down we were in the box,” Cassidy said.
“I don’t know you have to look at it closer. It’s not how we play typically, a little unusual for us to have to kill that many minor penalties. I don’t know if that’s the sort of veterans Pittsburgh effect on the officials of it they were all good calls, who knows… But you kill six penalties, you’re down a body up front, they’ve got a really good power play. And then you mix in one or two shifts where you’re stuck in your end and that’s where the fatigue came.”
— When Pittsburgh scored its first goal of the game, Tuukka Rask fended off a few shots but was visibly hindered as he struggled to save a second-chance opportunity from Jason Zucker.
Cassidy provided some context as to what impacted Rask, though the goalie remained in the game and was clutch in the third period and overtime.
“Kapanen came in and I think he was trying to wipe across the crease,” Cassidy said. “Tuukka’s pad came out and more than anything he lost control of the puck and slid under him so I don’t know if his skate or stick caught Tuukka’s pad and tweaked something or not. Our players went over and asked him. We would have called time out if need be or replaced him if we really had to but he said he was OK, clearly looked good in overtime.”
Rask finished the game with 28 saves, and was clutch against quite a few odd-man rushes in overtime — one of which where he fended off a three-on-zero breakaway.
“I thought (Rask) would be pretty excited to have three guys coming down on him, but he made a great stop and got some good bounces but he played great all game,” Craig Smith said after scoring the game-winner. “He was dialed in and bound to give us a chance to win.”
— Pittsburgh is sticking around in Boston for the time being, and the two teams will face off once again Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.