By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It wasn’t exactly how the Bruins drew it up, but at the end of the day, they escaped Winnipeg with a 4-1 win to move to 2-1 on the young season. All in all, a successful road trip to start off 2016-17, even if it wasn’t a perfect effort.
One Bruins player who will spend the whole season under the largest of microscopes is goaltender Tuukka Rask, who will have to do a lot to remove the bad taste from the mouths of many Bruins fans after he sat out last season’s must-win regular season finale. The Bruins lost that game 6-1 and missed the playoffs as a result, leaving a giant question mark hanging over Rask’s head as to how much he can be relied upon as the third-highest paid goalie in the NHL.
For one night, anyway, Rask silenced his critics with a 34-save performance against a Jets team that went on five power plays and had the Bruins under siege for most of the first two periods. He kept the game tied 1-1 with two big-time stops at the end of the first period, which certainly kept the momentum of the game from shifting entirely in Winnipeg’s favor, and bailed out several bad turnovers by the Bruins in their own zone.
Rask wasn’t the only Bruin who earned an “Up” Monday night, and it was certainly not a night of all “ups.” Let’s get to the Ups & Downs of the Bruins’ 4-1 win.
Rask. No. 40’s effort on Monday night almost can’t be understated. Winnipeg’s top line of Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifle, and Blake Wheeler controlled the puck for most of the first two periods when they were on the ice and generated eight of the Jets’ 35 shots on goal, one of which Wheeler potted on a breakaway off a bad defensive miscue by the Bruins. But Rask was strong in net all night long as he turned away several key scoring chances and kept the Bruins alive as they played sloppy, undisciplined hockey for much of the game.
Rask’s performance was also something of a bounce-back from the season opener against Columbus, in which he allowed one of the softer goals of his career and looked shaky for much of the game, despite turning away 28 shots after the first goal from the Blue Jackets. The Bruins will need Rask to deliver the kind of game he did on Monday night on a more consistent basis – if only to earn his keep as a $7 million goalie.
There’s no doubt that the young Bruins defensemen will continue to make mistakes in their own end as they develop their game at the NHL level, and that is where Rask is going to need to come up with timely saves more often than he has in the past two seasons. He showed that he is definitely capable of such efforts on Monday night; it’s time for him to show it on a nightly basis.
David Pastrnak. The 20-year-old Pastrnak continued to make mistakes moving the puck in his own end against Winnipeg, which is to be expected from a young, still-developing player. But Pastrnak has been outstanding on the offensive end of the ice so far this season with four goals and six points in the first three games, and he showed his tremendous skills once again on Monday in Winnipeg.
When Pastrnak had the puck, at times he looked like the fastest, most explosive player on the ice. This was most evident on his goal that he “scored” after throwing the puck at the net and catching a fortunate bounce off the Jets’ Toby Enstrom. It was a bit of “puck luck” for Pastrnak, but still a good see-what-happens kind of play that Pastrnak made possible with his speed through the neutral zone and down to the net.
A nifty off-the-boards pass from Brad Marchand helped set up Pastrnak’s eye-popping rush that led to the goal, which turned out to be the winning score for the Bruins.
Brandon Carlo. The 19-year-old looked shaky in his NHL debut and spent much of Monday’s game pinned back in his own end, along with the rest of the Bruins defense. But Carlo held his own playing against the Jets’ top line, often tasked with covering dynamic rookie sniper Patrik Laine.
Carlo put his greatest asset, his 6-foot-5 frame, to good use as he blocked two shots and largely limited his opponents’ opportunities around the net, something that was a major issue with Bruins blueliners in the past two seasons.
Carlo is still very green as a player and will be prone to mistakes and consistency issues that are typical of teenage rookies at the NHL level, but on Monday night against Winnipeg, he showed that he can play like an NHL-caliber defenseman. He capped his strong effort in his third career game by potting his first career goal as he blasted a loose puck off the post and in to put the Bruins up 3-1 with less than two minutes to go in regulation.
If anything, Carlo is giving the Bruins a decision to make when Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are healthy. Hopefully, for the sake of his development and ability to play actual defense in his own end, the team finds a way to keep him in the lineup. He was second only to Zdeno Chara with 24:27 of ice time, so the team clearly trusts him in a significant role on the blue line.
Dominic Moore. The 36-year-old veteran only played 11:14, but made his presence felt along with fellow fourth liners Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller, scoring his first goal of the season just 19 seconds after Wheeler put the Jets up 1-0. Moore dumped the puck into the corner for Acciari then glided into a perfect position for the rebound off Schaller’s wrap-around attempt, firing the puck past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game at 1.
Moore has always been a streaky player in terms of his offensive output, which is a big reason why the Bruins are his 10th team in 12 NHL seasons. He won’t light the lamp nearly as consistently as you’d like, considering the potential he showed on Monday night. But he should bring a consistent effort in terms of defense and grinding, which makes him a solid fourth-line center and a good fit for the Bruins’ style of play.
Colin Miller and John-Michael Liles. The Bruins’ third defensive pairing looked solid (for the most part) when the Bruins were on the power play, making good passes and setting up their linemates for several scoring chances. But the duo made the team’s most egregious mistake of the night, which could have been an early backbreaker, on Wheeler’s breakaway goal exactly halfway through the first period.
The Bruins were on the power play as Wheeler himself went to the sin bin, but once Wheeler got out of the penalty box, Miller and Liles appeared to completely forget the Jets captain was there in the first place. Miller and Liles both pinched in on the Jets’ Alex Burmistrov, who hit a wide-open, streaking Wheeler through the neutral zone as he easily got behind everyone on the Bruins and deked Rask’s legs out from under him for the goal, his third of the season.
Mistakes like that are inexcusable at the NHL level. Miller has shown his ability on the offensive end of the ice and Liles has long been a solid power-play defenseman throughout his career, but the pair clearly has plenty to work on in terms of communication on the defensive end.
David Krejci. The Bruins center has registered just one assist through the first three games of the season, and it came on an empty-netter for Pastrnak in the season opener. His only notable play against Winnipeg was a roughing penalty that earned the first of five Jets power plays.
Krejci has never been known for speed or explosiveness, but the center has looked noticeably sluggish in the first three games of the 2016-17 season. You’d hate to think that his offseason hip surgery, the second of his career, is still slowing him because it could do so for the whole season. But Krejci does not look like the same guy that he was at the start of last season when he scored 15 points in his first nine games.
Krejci could also be struggling to get acclimated with linemates Ryan Spooner and Danton Heinen, as the line has generally looked out of sorts in the early going. Things could open up more for Krejci if David Backes moves to his wing after the return of Patrice Bergeron, but as of the first three games Krejci has not come close to measuring up to the dynamite performance of the Marchand-Backes-Pastrnak line.
Bruins’ penalties. The first “up” or “down” that’s not a specific person. The Bruins took far too many penalties in the first two periods of the game, as Rask was forced to make several key saves on Winnipeg power plays and the team struggled to clear the puck on the penalty kill as much as they did at even strength.
Zdeno Chara’s boarding call as he hit Scheifle from behind was a little ticky-tack, as the Jets center turned his shoulder at the last second, but he’s going to get that call in his home rink. Colin Miller committed almost the same exact penalty in the same area of the ice.
The Bruins simply won’t survive many games committing five or more penalties, especially with the defense and penalty kill unit looking as shaky as it has despite the absence of Patrice Bergeron. They will need to show more discipline in future games, especially their younger players.
Offside replay review. Another abstract concept and man is it a frustrating one. Not really a “down” for the Bruins, either – this is more on the NHL rulebook. Zdeno Chara scored a goal early in the second period that appeared to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead, until Jets head coach Paul Maurice challenged the call to say Chara went offside before the goal.
The referees reviewed the play for several minutes before overturning the goal. The replay looked like the Bruins were ever-so-slightly offside on the play, which negated everything that happened after it. The question you have to have for the NHL after this is, “Why does offside review exist?”
Of course, it could be useful for officials to overturn obvious offside calls when a player’s skate is clearly way over the blue line before the puck. Chara’s goal was not one of those cases. It absolutely was not conclusive enough to overturn the call. It’s not in the spirit of the rule to play this “Gotcha!” game with players being offside by mere millimeters.
The rule definitely needs to be tweaked, but ideally it is removed entirely. Fans should be able to live with plays like last night counting and not be outraged over a skate being a millisecond too early into the zone.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.