By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
They just win, baby.
If the late, great Al Davis was a hockey fan – which is likely, he was born in Brockton, Massachusetts on the 4th of July in 1929 – he would have loved this Bruins team. The final 10 minutes of Tuesday night’s come from behind 6-4 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina was a microcosm of this sensational season.
After simply going through the paces in the first period in which goaltender Tuukka Rask was called upon to save their bacon on more than one occasion, the B’s still went to the dressing room up by a goal due to a superb backhand dish by David Pastrnak to a waiting Brad Marchand at the corner of the ‘Canes net in the closing seconds of the first.
However, if they thought it would be a cake walk win – as it looked like they did when they mailed it in during the second-period – they were sadly mistaken. Already without Patrice Bergeron (foot) and Charlie McAvoy (knee) to start the game, the Bruins would see Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara and Tory Krug all leave the contest with various upper-body injuries.
When Carolina scored a shorthanded goal in the first minute of the third period, it looked like a seldom seen stinker was in the making for this burgeoning team in Black and Gold.
Not so fast. After all, this isn’t Claude Julien’s “pack it in and call it a night” Bruins team anymore, this is Bruce Cassidy’s crew that believes that skill, and scoring are two of the most important thing that a winning team can have.
At the 10-minute mark of the third – as they have nearly every time that they have faced adversity this season – the Bruins responded, or should I say, exploded. With three goals in less than a minute and twenty seconds from Matt Grzelcyk, Pastrnak and Danton Heinen, the B’s put a poor Hurricanes team in its place and showed why no one is going to want to see this squad once the NHL’s second season starts in four weeks.
“Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] to me, got the big goal, got us going. They won the puck, that line, and finally got it behind them and nice play, nice shot, it gave us some life,” said Cassidy almost sheepishly following the fantastic finish from his club.
“I don’t know if it was right before that or probably right after it, but [Marchand] said, ‘Listen, there’s a lot of time, we’re not out of it. We hadn’t been generating much, but it wasn’t like the bench was dead,” said the B’s bench boss. “We knew it was a big ask, to come back. We talked about it after the second. We said just play better than the guy across from you, compete and win some pucks. We may or may not win the game, but that’s just the way we need to play. It’s how we’ve played all year.”
As for his role in rallying him teammates on the bench in the third, the Little Ball of Great had this to say, “I’ve learned from great guys through the years. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is such a big voice. When he’s out of the lineup, everyone has to talk a little bit more. It’s a role that I enjoy being in and I’ve wanted to be in more over the years. We have to do things like that.
“With this team…we are never out of a game,” said the B’s leading scorer. “The character in the room, it’s come through all year long. It just kind of feels on the bench, when we get a goal, we just kind of start to take over.”
Character, it is what has separated this Bruins team all season long. Even when their lineup changed seemingly every game in October and early November, their fight never did. And even though some worried that too much change at the trade deadline (Guilty, as charged.) might alter the incredible chemistry that Cassidy helped forge with his young club, the depth pieces – Brian Gionta, Tommy Wingles and Nick Holden – along with an aging superstar in Rick Nash, have deftly fit and contributed almost on a night basis.
What the playoffs will bring, no one knows. Health, hot goalies and momentum is what makes the run to the Stanley Cup the most intriguing post season in all of sports. Nevertheless, what Bruins fans have witnessed so far this season has been a most pleasant – and unexpected – gift.
Based on the talent, the character and the will Cassidy’s kids have shown, only a fool would count them out no matter how difficult the road in front gets once things get real in April.