In the Bruins’ final game before Monday’s trade deadline, they delivered a message that they haven’t delivered enough this season: This group can be dominant.
The team needs reinforcements to go far, with a top-four defenseman rivaling consistency for the biggest thing standing between this Bruins team and a deep run. Still, Boston turned in a thorough performance Saturday and took an easy 4-1 victory against a bad Coyotes team (box) in an effort that was more promising than
Patrice Bergeron‘s line scored a pair of goals against potential trade targets, while Ryan Spooner’s line continued to show it has the offensive chops to make up for its defensive shortcomings. The team chased Arizona starting goalie Mike Smith after putting four of their first 20 shots past him.
Tuukka Rask, after finally getting a night off Friday, came 9:39 away from his third shutout of the season, with Martin Erat breaking it up late in the game.
The Bruins’ play of late – wins in three of four games – and their current standing in the final Eastern Conference wild card spot leaves management with a difficult decision regarding whether the Bruins should be big buyers in a season that’s seen injuries and subpar play prevent the team from getting any traction.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
VERMETTE LOOKS ROUGH IN LIKELY FINALE
Antoine Vermette may be the biggest name remaining of the players expected to be dealt, which probably says more about this trade market than it does about Vermette.
Nevertheless, Vermette being in town Saturday meant the Bruins, who are believed to be interested in Vermette’s services, got a chance to watch him on Garden ice. The takeaway: He isn’t going to dominate top lines, and he’s now gone six straight games without a point.
Matched up against Bergeron’s line early, Vermette was exposed Saturday night for a first-period Brad Marchand goal. Vermette was passive in the offensive zone, as Marchand broke the puck out cleanly with a pass through Vermette to Bergeron. The Bruins took the puck the length of the ice before Marchand took a feed from Reilly Smith and fired it in from the left circle.
Patrice Bergeron is as difficult an opponent as there is in the NHL and Saturday was in all likelihood Vermette’s final game with the Coyotes, so the environment and circumstances may have factored into the veteran center’s performance. Either way, the guy isn’t worth a first-round pick.
BRUINS BEAT YANDLE, TOO
The thought here has been that the Bruins shouldn’t give up much for Vermette unless defenseman Keith Yandle comes with him. Well, just in case the Bruins are interested in that, the Bergeron line did its best to lower his value, too.
Bergeron scored his 18th goal of the season thanks to Smith outbattling Yandle in front of the net. With the players fighting for position in front and Yandle’s stick elevated, Bergeron’s pass in front went off the Milton native’s skate and past Smith to make it 3-0.
Yandle has one more year remaining on his contract after this season at $5.25 million. He’s a terrific offensive player, but plays like Saturday’s will happen with him.
SPOONER LINE SCORING
As we’ve written before Ryan Spooner’s line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak is going to make defensive mistakes, and the Bruins can live with that as long as the line scores.
Four games into the experiment, the Bruins (relatively, given what this season has been) are alive and well. Members of the Spooner line have totaled three goals over the last two games and four in the four games they’ve been together, as Spooner netted the game-winner Friday night in overtime and Pastrnak scored on the shift following a power play in the second period.
Lucic scored his 13th goal of the season Saturday after Pastrnak chipped the puck into the zone, with the bouncing puck causing Mike Smith to leave his net and quickly retreat. This allowed Lucic to throw the puck off the goalie’s skate from behind the net for the game’s first goal.
The line had to be bailed out a couple times ‘ Dennis Seidenberg bailed out Pastrnak in the second and Rask bailed out Spooner after missing the puck in the neutral zzone on a third-period chance, but that’s to be expected. As long as the goals for outweigh the goals against, the Bruins can get away with playing the three together.
CHARA ON POINT LIKE A DECIMAL IS
Part of the Bruins’ recent revamp of their power play included a position change for Zdeno Chara. It worked out for the Bruins Saturday night.
After playing forward as the net-front man on the first power play unit since the beginning of last season, Chara was moved to the point on the second unit. Boston’s second group had a very rough go of it during Boston’s first power play, struggling with a pair of entries, the first of which resulted in a clear and the second of which saw Pastrnak go offsides.
The group made up for it in the second period, as Chara took a pass from Reilly Smith and stepped into a one-time from the top of the right circle that went flying past a screening Carl Soderberg and Mike Smith.