Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Bruins 5, Wild 3: How is this group still winning?

Ty Anderson
November 06, 2017 - 11:47 pm

On their way to capturing at least one point for the seventh time in their last eight games (they’ve grabbed 11 of a possible 16 points over that span), the severely undermanned Bruins defeated the Wild by a 5-3 final. But that’s not the impressive part, really.

What is impressive was the fact that they did it on the backs of a rookie that entered play without a goal in eight straight games, a winger that seemingly played his way out of favor with the coach that developed him in the American Hockey League not that long ago and went 25 regular-season games in between goals, and a career AHLer.

Oh, and their 40-year-old captain Zdeno Chara, who led all Bruins with 25:48 of time on ice (including a staggering 10:18 in the third period) and a plus-3 rating on the night.

And at what point do you stop and ask exactly what the hell is going on with this team?

To suggest that the Bruins -- who remain down David Backes, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, Noel Acciari, Adam McQuaid, Ryan Spooner, Anton Khudobin, and now Brad Marchand -- have exceeded expectations over this span would be to suggest that they should have had any positives expectations with their borderline AHL lineup.

But it’s a simplification that’s brought the best out of those healthy -- or healthy enough to play, such as Patrice Bergeron -- and challenged the rest to rise to the challenge.

“We had good jump tonight,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We pushed back against the Capitals the other night, so we’re starting to – we pushed back against Columbus, so you’re starting to see that personality of our hockey club that we are not going to be an easy out. We are going to keep ourselves in games, and work hard to get back in games. Some nights it’s going to work out, and some nights it’s not. That would be a great personality to have on the team. It just shows the character of the group.”

Realistically speaking, the Bruins would have had every night to shut it down after Nino Niederreiter scored on the Wild’s second shot of the game and made it 1-0 at the 4:53 mark of the first period. The goal happened on Minnesota’s first real flurry of the night, and with Minny in need of a bounceback game, this wasn’t going to be the B’s night.

Devan Dubnyk’s 120 minutes and counting shutout streak against Boston didn’t help.

But Jake DeBrusk banked a shot off a Minnesota defender and through Dubnyk at the 10:23 mark of the frame, Frank Vatrano threw the monkey out of the building when he scored a knucklepuck goal 2:19 after that, and Matt Beleskey quieted any possible Wild momentum with a Garden-erupting fight with Luke Kunin eight seconds after that.

This helped pave the way for a second period that saw the Bruins straight-up take over, with 15 shots compared to just four for the Wild, and a 4-1 lead by the end of 40.

Down big, the Wild did make things interesting in the third period, at one point cutting the Boston lead to just one behind an Eric Staal shorthanded breakaway goal scored with under five minutes to go. But the Bruins, forced to be survivalists on their roster and on the ice, patched their leaks, and sealed the deal with a Tim Schaller empty-netter.

By the night’s end, 10 different Bruins had at least one point to their name. Schaller had his first career multi-point night, and Jordan Szwarz recorded his first NHL point since Mar. 2015 (Szwarz recorded his first NHL assist and first multi-point game of his career, as well). And nobody played fewer than 11 minutes or 17 shifts, meaning that Cassidy seemed to have full trust of any and all lines he threw out there in defense of his lead.

“Well we’re going to need it right? I mean look at the Vegas game, not to go too far in the past, [Riley] Nash and [Sean] Kuraly chip in and the other night it was just [David] Pastrnak so small samples size but we’ll win some games with our top end guys but if we’re going to win consistently then we need it from everybody,” Cassidy said of the production. “Szwarz did a really good job tonight. Frankie gets on the sheet. [Sean] Kuraly again with good all-around play and that’s important for us. It’s nice to see Jake [DeBrusk] get rewarded, even though it was a bit of a lucky goal. We talk about his foot speed, getting his legs underneath him, he’s attacking, winning pucks and if you get towards the net you’re going to get some of those breaks so good for him.”

“We can’t be feeling sorry for ourselves. We accepted a few days ago that everything is going to be battling, or facing some kind of challenge with injuries, missing players,” Chara said. “I think it’s a great chance for our players to step up, and they did. They played really well. We had a really good team effort. That’s important that you don’t always rely on the same guy. It’s other guys stepping up and making big contributions.”

Even guys you didn’t expect to see on a roster, let alone a scoresheet.

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