There is no secret that the Ottawa Senators have been struggling of late. Coming into the first of two games this week against the Boston Bruins—with the first in Boston—they were 3-6-2 in their December games, and had lost their last three games, though got a point in overtime out of one of them. Meanwhile, the Bruins, who had struggled at the beginning of their season, went into the three-day holiday break on a happy note, riding a four-game winning streak.
The opening twenty looked a bit like two teams that had just had three days off; feeling each other out and having limited shots on net in the beginning. When Kevan Miller sniped the puck past Craig Anderson at 5:22 of the period, it was only the Bruins’ third shot on net. The previous two had been off the stick of David Backes, so it seemed only fitting they he had the primary assist on Miller’s first goal of the season. The secondary assist was credited to Riley Nash, whose name the Senators would likely get sick of hearing as the game progressed.
Three minutes later Danton Heinen would get the Bruins a two-goal lead as he tapped the puck into a wide-open back door. And once again the younger players were getting on the scoresheet and the secondary scoring was rolling for the Bruins.
“A balanced scoring, secondary scoring – it’s something we were searching for. Nice to see the D get involved tonight. Nash’s line has chipped in on a fairly regular basis. Spooner’s group certainly has the ability to do it. You saw that with Anders [Bjork] tonight, found his legs,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “It’s a big plus for us, takes a lot of load off of those guys. They’re going to want to score every night; it’s how they play. I think they had drive tonight – [Patrice Bergeron’s] line – it just didn’t go in for them, or maybe one too many passes or however you want to analyze it, so for us to be able to do that is a good sign.”
Cassidy mentioned the Nash line, and for Nash himself it was a three-point night, with two goals and the assist on that first goal. His first goal, which came 1:25 into the second period, was unassisted.
The Senators would get one back 3:49 into the second, off the stick of Thomas Chabot, and the teams would go to the locker rooms at the second intermission with the Bruins still up by two goals. However, it was clear that the Senators were beginning to push back, as they outshot the Bruins in that period. Perhaps it was the three-goal lead, or perhaps it was over-passing as Cassidy suggested, but Tuukka Rask was again having an impressive and confident night between the pipes for the Black and Gold.
The score would remain 3-1 until Nash got his second of the game, off a pass from Bjork, at 14:43 of the third.
“I kind of saw someone coming back door, so I was waiting. If that D man slid across I was going to try and feather it back door to… not even sure who it was. I think it might have been Heinen,” Nash shared on the thoughts he had on that second goal. “But that D man there kind of committed to me, so I started running out of room, and usually that goalie starts to loop off that post, and he waited a lot longer than I thought, and eventually there was just a little gap, so that’s nice.”
Backes would seal the game with a nice little goal right on the blue paint at 18:40 of the final frame. He was assisted by Matt Grzelcyk and Heinen. For Grzelcyk, that was his second point of the game.
Despite still not having David Krejci or Adam McQuaid on the ice for games, this Bruins team continues to find ways to win. For Coach Cassidy, when McQuaid is cleared to play, it will mean making a difficult decision as to who he sits if he dresses McQuaid.
Those who perhaps questioned some of the acquisitions through the NHL Drafts over the last few years, should really be rethinking their complaints. These young players are buying into the system and working to remain in the lineup. And that only means good things for the future of the Bruins.
Boston has a quick turnaround as they will be playing the Washington Capitals on Thursday night in D.C. The Capitals were on the road in New York City Wednesday night, where they lost to the New York Rangers. So both teams are traveling to D.C.
Thursday night’s game against the Capitals will be a real test for the Bruins. The Capitals have beaten Boston in their last 11 matches. It will be interesting to see if this new found confidence, and the ability to get secondary scoring, makes a difference.
The Bruins will then have a rematch with the Senators–this time in Ottawa, on Saturday.