I was in and out for this one, so not going to publish a complete game recap (and sorry for missing the win over Florida, so maybe I’ll do a twofer of limited observations in this post) of Edmonton’s 3-2 overtime victory in Peter Chiarelli’s return to the TD Garden (his club is 2-0 against Boston, taking the season sweep).
The Boston Bruins played well enough to win this one, battling back from an 0-2 deficit on goals from Matt Beleskey (a flukey play that happened because of his sheer work and hustle) and Brad Marchand, who wired a snipe top cheddar to tie it late in regulation for his team-leading 15th goal.
First period breakdowns led to goals by Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (that one happening when Zdeno Chara lost an edge in the corner by Boston’s net and gave the puck up to Eberle.) The Bruins actually caught a break when Eberle scored what should have been his second goal of the game but the refs had blown the whistle and assessed Marchand with a hooking call. It didn’t make sense, and should have given the Oil a 3-1 lead, but instead, gave Boston a chance to salvage a point. See? The officiating isn’t always out to get the Bruins…they lucked out on this one.
So, without further ado, here are some observations. I’ll post a prospects update in the morning. Sorry for the lack of posts, but my other life has intervened of late, so given that I’m not getting paid to do this blog, you can appreciate where the priorities lie.
Beleskey is a true Bruin. Yes, he only has 4 goals as the B’s approach the 30-game mark, but man- the guy is a gamer. Tonight, his goal was vintage Beleskey as he took the puck to the net and from beside the left post chipped it in at Cam Talbot, who had completely stymied the Bruins on some great scoring chances. The puck seemed to skip over Talbot’s left pad, then dropped in behind him and when he tried to close his right leg, he pushed the puck over the goal line. Ugly? You betcha. Will Boston take it? Absolutely! Sometimes, you just need to make your own luck and after a season in which Beleskey hasn’t had a whole lot of bounces go his way, that one was a gift from some sympathetic Hockey Gods, perhaps.
Curious decision by Claude Julien to go with the combo of Landon Ferraro-Ryan Spooner- Torey Krug in the 3-on-3 overtime. Edmonton won the faceoff and possessed the puck the entire time, as none of Boston’s players could make a play in the defensive zone. Andrej Sekera’s winning goal happened because Ferraro got stationary and when an initial shot from the veteran defenseman hit Krug, Sekera motored around Ferraro, who was puck watching (as NESN’s Andy Brickley correctly observed) and fired it into the net behind Jonas Gustavsson.
Boston fans immediately took to Twitter to lambaste Julien for not having at least one (if not more) of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Krejci out there to start the OT. They’re right. But, I can also live with the decision, as costly as it was and here’s why. Some of the same fans lighting the coach up are probably the same folks who have jumped on the coach in the past for playing favorites or sticking with veterans over some of the younger, more exciting players like Spooner. If he wins the draw and the Bruins take it the other way and score, Julien looks like a genius. It didn’t work out, and so we’re left with a good teaching point here- the next time Julien is rolling out some of the savvier veterans in OT and they are perhaps getting beaten by the other guys, you’ll remember that he wasn’t averse to giving the kiddos a shot in the past. Hey- the other guys wearing blue and orange get a vote, too- they made the plays and won the game. There’s no guarantee that Bergeron and/or Marchand, Krejci would have played it any differently. But of course- when you’re on the couch or sitting in front of the computer- it’s pretty easy to wag the finger and talk about what Julien should have done. I’m not saying you’re wrong for thinking that, but I guess I don’t have as big an issue with the roll of the dice he made as others do. Spooner and Ferraro have the speed/quickness and skill to excel in the extra space afforded them by the 3-on-3 format. Unfortunately, they got outplayed by Edmonton’s starting trio. It happens.
Speaking of Marchand…wow! That was just a wicked, wicked shot and goal on a guy in Cam Talbot who was having a career night. He almost stole the game in regulation, so B’s fans should be happy their team got a point out of it, and great setup pass by Ferraro to give Marchand the time and space to rip that one into the upper corner. He’s a snipah!
Frank Vatrano is finding ways to contribute, even if the pucks aren’t going in for him of late. He negated an icing call with a Charlie Hustle play in the first period and you can see the way he recognizes instant openings in the unfolding play and takes off up the ice. That’s a good sign, even if he might not quite be ready for primetime and could be sent back down to Providence at some point. So far, though, I have to think the coaches are fine with the lack of production because he’s doing the little things that are usually out of place for a rookie. Now, that’s not to say he’s got it figured out, but the kid from Western Mass. has been good. Better than good. Everything he does this season in the NHL should be gravy, but when David Pastrnak returns to action, I’m thinking that Vatrano might be headed back down I-95. We’ll see.
And on that note about the little things- Jimmy Hayes continues to struggle. He’s a lumbering skater who like most big men tends to glide and it often looks like he’s not trying even if not necessarily the case. Unfortunately for the Dorchester native, he’s also not getting many pucks to the net, so his issues are magnified. I think Hayes needs to simplify his approach…stop gripping the stick so tight. Just go to the net, get the stick down look for a simple play and not try to make it all back up on one single shift. Hayes is too talented not to be doing more for this club, but it looks like the pressure is getting to him.
Not a great night for Jonas Gustavsson…he wasn’t terrible, but when the other guy stands on his head, the guy seeing less action’s mistakes are magnified. He was giving up fat rebounds all night and the one to Nugent-Hopkins was particularly egregious. With Tuukka Rask playing his best hockey of the season, Gus might be taking a seat for a while. Cam Talbot was outstanding- if not for him, the B’s could have run the Oilers out of the building because they played well enough to do that if some of those quality shots he nullified had gone in. Sometimes, it’s okay to give the other goalie credit and admit that this just wasn’t your night.
The Oilers are for real. This was their sixth win in a row, the second over Boston this season and first in TD Garden since Mariusz Czerkawski scored a hat trick against his old club and Curtis Joseph blanked the B’s in a 6-0 shellacking on November 7, 1996. B’s were bound to lose one to the Oil on home ice eventually.
I’ve killed Kevan Miller on this blog quite a bit this season, but I’ve also tried to be fair. Sometimes, it’s easy to pile on him, because he’s getting more ice time than a player of his caliber should receive. I don’t say this to be condescending to Miller, but back in the day, the B’s were forced to play Hal Gill in a bigger (no pun intended) role than he was suited for and it put the spotlight on him for negativity. Miller had one particular memorable play tonight when Krug made a bad pinch up into the offensive zone with the game tied, allowing what looked like a potential odd-man rush for the Oilers the other way. Miller shut it down by taking a good angle on the Edmonton puck carrier and snuffing out the rush. It was one play, and I’m sure there were some mistakes out there too (and there will be many more of them over the course of the season, thank you) but in a game I didn’t admittedly see all of, the B’s had bigger issues than Miller tonight. Chara’s mistakes are proving pretty costly in their own right, for example. But that’s a story for another time- even with some of the gaffes from the captain, the B’s are screwed without him- warts and all.
And on that note, I’m signing off. Thanks for reading.