BOSTON, MA – We are finally playing hockey games in 2020. The Boston Bruins better hope that the start of a new calendar year will yield better results compared to how things ended in December.
January needs to be a great month for Boston. Besides, anything will be better than winning a total of six games in the final month of 2019. With their bye week coming up in a few weeks, the Bruins were looking to accumulate as many points as possible in order to maintain their lead in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins played host to the Edmonton Oilers for a Saturday afternoon showdown. Since Edmonton is right in the thick of things near the top of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, this was going to be a great test for the Black and Gold. The Bruins were coming off a tough tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets this past Thursday night.
Saturday’s meeting between the Bruins and the Oilers was the first time these two teams saw each other this season; the second and final meeting between Boston and Edmonton will not take place until February 19. The Oilers have one of the best teams in the league on paper, and it is showing in the standings as well. The key for the Bruins heading into this game was to shut down the usual suspects of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. That tall task is most certainly easier said than done, particularly when it comes to McDavid.
“He is a challenge every night,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy prior to the game. “He plays in all situations and I do not think you can ever truly shut him down. It is a unique challenge considering how good he is.”
For Edmonton, of course, there was no question that the game plan revolved around stopping David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The tit-for-tat approach was to be expected. We’ll see how it all unfolded.
Jaroslav Halak (9-3-5, 2.20 GAA, .930 SV%) opposed Mike Smith (7-9-3, 3.11 GAA, .892 SV%) in the goaltending matchup for this game, a complete clash of styles.
It did not take long for the Bruins to get things started as Pastrnak recorded his 31st goal of the season on the power play just three minutes into the game. Both teams did not shy away from the physical play early on, either. Separating the opposition from the puck and winning battles along the boards was necessary for the Bruins to stay consistent. As a result, Boston got its chances. Overall, it was a solid opening 20 minutes for the home team.
“We think there are areas of our game that have gotten better,” said Sean Kuraly. “We always try to keep playing and trying to move forward. We just try to always get the desired result.”
In the second period, the Oilers started to get some momentum back on their side. Jake DeBrusk had a bad turnover in front of his own net, which led to Gaetan Haas sneaking to puck past Halak to tie the game. Halak did come up with some timely saves as the B’s were able to kill off both Edmonton power plays in the period, but the short-term damage had already been done. Darnell Nurse was able to put Edmonton on top with his third goal of the season just as time was expiring. Shots were 19-15 in favor of the Oilers after 40 minutes of play.
McDavid netted his 23rd goal of the season to start the third period. It is too bad because the Bruins outplayed the Oilers in every facet of the game in the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately, that lone mistake proved to be the difference maker. Edmonton would go on to win this game by a final score of 4-1. Halak finished the afternoon with 22 saves.
“We have to manage the puck a little bit better,” said David Krejci after the game. “I think we have to stick with the game plan and trust what we have here. We expected to hit a rough patch this year and it seems like we are there right now.”
The Bruins will play their next game this coming Tuesday night when they hit the road to take on the Nashville Predators.
Lineup for 1/4 vs. EDM
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Par Lindholm, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak, Chris Wagner
Defense: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore
Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask
Side Notes: Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was the fourth of 10 afternoon games that the Bruins will play this season…This game also featured four of the top-five point leaders in the National Hockey League at present time…Karson Kuhlman (broken leg) recently started skating with the team as he eyes a return to the lineup…It was announced that Anton Blidh will join the Providence Bruins on a conditioning loan as he returns from injury…Charlie McAvoy is still in search of his first goal of the season…The Bruins are now on a streak of 10 consecutive games in which they have recorded a power-play goal.