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Bruins 3, Flyers 0: Turns out a healthy Bruins team is pretty good

Ty Anderson
December 02, 2017 - 5:31 pm

With their three-leader forward trio of Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and David Krejci all in the same lineup for just the second time this season, the Bruins absolutely laid waste to the hapless Flyers by a 3-0 Saturday matinee final in Philadelphia.

And it turns out that a (mainly) healthy Bruins roster is actually pretty good.

In a season that’s become just straight-up impossible to judge because of the B’s ridiculous injury woes -- Krejci and Anders Bjork returned to the lineup today, meaning that the Bruins now need just Jake DeBrusk and Adam McQuaid to return to lineup for the club to be at ‘full health’ -- you’re beginning to see glimpses of their promise.

“It was a matter of time, we knew that," Brad Marchand said. "Anytime you have a lot of young guys starting in your line up early in the year, you need to give them some time to adapt and find their game. We might have played one game all year with our full line up, which is a big difference when you are missing guys. It’s tough to have guys like that out of our lineup, but with everyone back and young guys hitting their stride, we are a pretty deep team we can compete every night and we want to keep going the way we have been.”

A 15-shot opening period came with Ryan Spooner’s first goal of the season, and allowed the Bruins to skate to a 1-0 advantage through 20 minutes of play. But the period seemingly came with a loss -- fittingly enough, because Orr forbid they get healthy -- as it was Marchand that was drilled upstairs on a clean hit from Ivan Provorov.

But Marchand returned for the start of the second, and immediately made an impact.

Marchand came through with a primary assist on a David Pastrnak goal scored 6:38 into the period, and then finished an offensively limited second period (the B’s had just eight shots on goal) with a putaway on Flyer netminder Brian Elliott at the 10:44 mark.

The agitating winger then put an end to a Philly power play when he essentially goaded Shayne Gostisbehere into a needless retaliatory penalty. That was beyond key for the Bruins, too, as it didn’t allow the Flyers to make this a game (not that they had much interest in ever making it a game, really) before the end of the second period.

The three-goal edge allowed the Bruins to focus on their defensive game in the third, and let Tuukka Rask cruise to his second straight win, with a perfect 28-for-28 (including stops on all nine shots faced with the B’s shorthanded) afternoon in the crease.

The scoring contributions mainly came from the B’s top line, but this was as balanced an attack as you’ve this season, and that’s really not a shock given these returns.

"I think the older guys set the tone tonight and the younger guys kind of followed. That’s what we want. We need good followers to learn from the best," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the victory. "Even with Krejci back in there, Bjork coming back to be able to play with him. I think helps his game. I thought [Zdeno] was as good as I’ve seen him with the puck in the time I’ve been here, making plays and skating. That’s going to make Charlie [McAvoy] better. I thought Brandon Carlo had one of his strongest games in a long time. As a result, [Matt Grzelcyk] kind of gets going offensively because Torey [Krug]'s going. I think they followed the leaders very well. You never know what you’re going to get out of another team that’s going like this, desperation or a team that’s fragile. You try not to focus on that, focus on yourself. We were able to enough to win."

And while I know that I’ve said it again and again, it goes beyond the simple veteran know-how of their leaders. 

The Bergeron line held the Flyers' ultra-talented top line of Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek to absolutely nothing, and also scored two goals. Krejci, while held without a point in almost 16 minutes of time on ice, dominated possession at five-on-five as well, and provided the much needed breather for the B's loaded top line against a high-end Philly top six. And it was in more of an energy role that Backes produced three takeaways, two blocked shots, and one hit as part of a grind-it-out looking third line that forced the Flyers into bad decisions with the puck. 

It's obvious why having that flexibility to roll three different lines -- and with each line having one of Bergeron, Backes, and Krejci -- truly changes the dynamic of this Bruins team. You’re talking about two premier puck-possession centers (Bergeron and Krejci), and then an effort-based forward (Backes) capable of contributing with points, hits, and playing both center and on the wing. This not only allows the Bruins to dictate matchups and situations, even on the road, but also puts some of the Black and Gold’s secondary scorers and roleplaying talents into better spots. Or at least in situations where they’re not over their head against superior competition, and closer to where they can be at their best (see: Spooner’s success.)

And today was just the second example of everything that this group can do when together, joining a 6-3 victory over the Canucks in October as the only other three-headed monster's sample to date. 

"We’re a resilient group and we like the feeling of winning," said Cassidy. "I think that’s what is going on in the locker room. Once we get ahead you hear a lot of that chatter on the bench. Positive talk. Talk about what you need to do. The details. That’s a good sign of the leadership."

Forced to simply survive, and with varying success -- Danton Heinen has become an admirable top-six winger while Riley Nash has continued to adjust to a greater role without much of a drop in his game -- the return of these accomplished bodies and progression of those asked to step up that should allow the Bruins to finally thrive.

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