Following their tremendous Cup run this past spring, the Bruins headed into the 2011-12 season with a pretty similar roster.
While minor transformations took place – the losses of respected veteran winger Mark Recchi and big time playoff performer Michael Ryder – the Bruins welcomed a few new faces as well, like the once-hated, former Montreal Canadien Benoit Pouliot and the supposed replacement for Tomas Kaberle, defenseman Joe Corvo.
Following Saturday’s highly spirited Stanley Cup rematch between the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, forward Brad Marchand received a five-game suspension for his “clipping” penalty on Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo, who suffered a concussion on the play.
Filling in for Marchand’s absence on the Bruin’s talented second line will be Pouliot, who has showed signs of chemistry in the past when playing with the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin.
Pouliot, who got off to a somewhat slow start this season, taking a plethora of hooking calls while producing little offensively, has really turned it on of late; he dazzled against the Florida Panthers recently, scoring quite possibly the goal of the year. Pouliot has three goals and five assists in his past eight games played, and looks to continue his production tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.
We will focus on the Bruins’ second line for this breakdown, keeping track of how well they perform without recently suspended, “bad brat” Marchand.
Tuukka Rask, who is 9-4 with a 1.49 GAA, started in net for the Bruins. Opposing Rask in net was Ondrej Pavelec for the Jets. Pavelec is 15-13 with a 2.88 GAA, performing fairly well since his move north-of-the-border.
The Bruins opened the gate with good offensive pressure from their first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton. The second line followed this shift with one of their own, Pouliot filling in nicely for Marchand, using his big body to help cycle the puck along the boards, and create space in front of the net.
Andrew Ladd went the box for holding just a few minutes in, and the Bruins got on the power play first. Both power play units produced good chances, but failed to capitalize, as they were shut down on the two-minute man advantage.
Shortly thereafter, Shawn Thornton muffed a puck at the opponent’s blue-line, leaving Chris Thorburn behind the Bruins defense for a breakaway chance on Rask, only to be stopped on the play; Thorburn was rewarded a penalty shot, but was denied on that as well.
Just as Winnipeg started to take the play to the Bruins, they earned the game’s first goal. Ladd scored on a beautiful deflection off a Zach Bogosian shot from the point, coming at the 16:53 mark of the period. Rask, who was badly screened on the play, had little chance of stopping the deflected puck. The other assist went to Tobias Enstrom.
With just 39 seconds left, the Bruins scored on a beautiful up-ice rush from their first line, Lucic feeding Horton the perfect pass for the easy backdoor goal. They worked the “triangle offense” to ultimate perfection, and were rewarded with the goal. After one period the game was knotted at one.
The Bruins opened up the second period with sloppy play in their own end, leading to the second Winnipeg goal of the game. Former Bruin Blake Wheeler scored his ninth goal of the season, assisted by Enstrom and Bogosian, just 30 seconds into the period.
Following the Winnipeg goal, the Bruins were whistled for two penalties. The team used dynamite defense to not only kill off both penalties, but create a short-handed breakaway for Thornton, who was brought down on the play, and rewarded with a penalty shot. Thornton then scored on a beauty of a backhand shot that beat Pavelec, the first penalty shot goal of his career.
Eric Fehr then scored for Winnipeg on a wicked wrist shot, one Rask may want back as he had a fairly good look at the puck. Tim Stapleton had the lone assist on the goal that gave Winnipeg the lead, coming at the 11:11 mark of the second period. The second period ended with a 3-2 lead for the Jets.
Just 8 seconds into the third the Bruins knotted the score at 3, as Krejci made the perfect pass to Horton after a Winnipeg breakdown in their own end. Krejci did a spin-o-rama by the boards before centering the puck to Horton, who slammed it home directly in front of Pavelec; Lucic recorded the secondary assist.
Tyler Seguin then scored his 17th goal of the year just minutes after the Horton goal, as he flew past the Winnipeg defense to beat Pavelec on the backhand; the lone assist went to Bergeron on the play. Nice to see that line get on board with a big goal as Marchand watched from the press box. It was Seguin’s speed that separated him from the Winnipeg defense, after a good feed from Bergeron, and nice work by Pouliot angling off the opposing player.
This line added another goal shortly after, this time coming on the power play. Pouliot used his big body to gain perfect position in front of the net, and jam home a loose puck after receiving the perfect pass from Bergeron. It was Pouliot’s eighth goal of the season, while Bergeron recorded his second assist of the game. Rich Peverley recorded the other assist on the play.
The score was final at 5-3, as the Bruins were able to cling to the lead and earn Rask his 10th win of the season. Next they face the hated Habs at Td Garden, Thursday night.
From The Room