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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Jekyll & Hyde Bruins Continue to Mystify Us

If you are trying to make sense of the Bruins through the first seven games of this season, don't bother because it'll only give you an ice cream headache. Boston (3-3-1) won 5-3 tonight at Barclays Center against the Islanders (4-2-1) who are supposed to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The B's improved to 3-0 on the road while backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (23 saves) earned his second win in as many starts. Haha trade Tuukka! (Just kidding of course).

What's more strange is that head coach Claude Julien shuffled up the forward lines for once and they paid immediate dividends as Ryan Spooner (1 goal, 1 assist) and rookie Joonas Kemppainen (1 goal, 1 assist) each had two points on the rejiggered fourth line. Another good sign for Boston is that they rallied from down 2-1 in the first period (when it could have been worse since they were outshot 18-8) but recovered to go ahead in the second period and then continued to build on that in the third period before New York scored in garbage time.

Brett Connolly opened the scoring with his second goal of the season and in as many contests. He actually beat Islanders superstar John Tavares to a loose puck and slammed in the rebound at 9:51 of the first. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron had the assists on their temporary linemate's tally (Matt Beleskey remained out with an upper-body injury). Marchand took a needless hooking penalty and New York cashed in on the power-play as Josh Bailey put in a rebound of his own at 14:08. Tavares and Ryan Strome had the assists on Bailey's third goal of the season.

A crazy sequence began at 15:27 when Casey Cizikas tipped in Johnny Boychuk's pass by Gustavsson for what turned out to be New York's only lead, 2-1. Matt Martin had the other assist on Cizikas' goal and after the play, he dropped the gloves with Adam McQuaid. This is where I'm supposed to bitch about fighting having no place in today's NHL but I'd say that it at least settled down the frazzled Bruins who had allowed two goals in 1:19.

Kemppainen fittingly was rewarded with his first NHL goal after some excellent backchecking caused a Bruins-style turnover in New York's end. Jaroslav Halak (21 saves) stopped Spooner's initial shot but the big Finn was there to score on the second chance at 16:13 of the second period. That turned things in Boston's favor as David Pastrnak made it 3-2 Bruins 2:03 after it. He showed off his creativity and impressive skills by kicking the puck with his skate to his stick where he shot it into the corner through traffic. Loui Eriksson had the lone assist on Pastrnak's second goal of the season (his 1st since Opening Night).

Spooner has often been in Julien's doghouse the last two seasons so it was nice to see him get a bounce to go his way rather than the opposite unintended consequence. He had a clear lane at Halak with his backhand but he chose to pass it to a trailing Kemppainen. The puck went off an Islanders' skate and into the net at 8:09 of the third period. Halak was pulled for an extra attacker with nearly three minutes left in regulation (why not?) but Krejci potted an empty-netter for his league-leading 12th point (5 goals, 7 assists). He has a point in every game so far in 2015-16. Eriksson and McQuaid had the helpers.

The Bruins get a couple days to relax in Boston before they host Arizona (3-3-1) on Tuesday (7, NESN) at TD Garden. The B's beat the Coyotes 5-3 last Saturday in Glendale, AZ. Since winning their first three games of the season, Arizona has predictably dropped its last four. Additionally, they are in Ottawa (3-2-2) tomorrow night and Toronto (1-3-2) on Monday so Boston is the last stop on a six-game road trip. In other words, they should be exhausted and the Bruins have no excuse but to beat them and pick up their first long overdue home win.

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