Monthly Archives: December 2017

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To put it simply, Tuukka Rask is locked in.

Since ceding the net to Anton Khudobin for four straight games in mid-November – a stretch of four wins that kick started Boston’s 14-4-1 run – Rask has lost only once in regulation and has now garnered points in 10 straight games.

Named the NHL’s First Star last week, Rask is 9-0-1 during the streak, with a 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage. And over his last three games, Rask has stopped 92 of the 95 shots that have come his way.

Rask, who did not play on Thursday in Washington, is hoping to keep it rolling when he returns to the net against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night with the Bruins looking to bounce back from their shootout loss to the Capitals.

“I feel the same, I’m seeing the puck well, making saves. Don’t really feel too different,” Rask said following a limited skate at the Senators practice facility on Friday afternoon. “As a team we’ve played very good hockey and as I’ve said before that’s very helpful for goalies. When they clear out the bodies in front of you and if there’s any rebounds they clear out the rebound as well, that’s a big part of it.”

After starting 3-8-2, Rask has surged to a 12-8-3 record for the season with a 2.23 goals against average, which ranks fourth in the league and second behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy among those that have played in at least 24 games. Over a full campaign, they are numbers worthy of some hardware, not that the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner is thinking that way.

“It doesn’t matter. Things happen if they happen, we never play for the individual trophies anyways. But I think winning it once and looking back to it, the way your team plays in front of you plays a big role,” said Rask, who was named to his first All-Star team last season. “If your team doesn’t play well and they’re not playing good team defense then there’s no goalie that’s going to win it.

“It’s one of those trophies that even though it’s individual you look more at the team performance in front of the goalie as well. I’m fine with not being in that discussion.

“If it happens it happens. The biggest thing we’re worried about is our team performance.”

And it is that team performance that Rask does indeed credit for his recent string of victories. Since Nov. 16 – a span of 19 games – the Bruins have allowed 38 goals, good for second in the league. Prior to that point, the Bruins were 16th with 50 goals allowed in 16 games. For the season, Boston ranks fifth in the NHL (2.56).

“The way we play now, it’s good for goalies – you know you’re going to get some chances again. But it’s a trade-off, you know you’re going to get some chances for, too, in the offensive side,” said Rask. “It used to be that you’re focused so much on the defense that you’re only going to win games 1-0 or 2-1. As a goalie you know if you let in three goals you’re most likely going to lose.

“Nowadays, it’s more if you let in a bad goal you might be scoring four goals. That’s the biggest difference in that regard. When we’re playing well and everyone is on top of their game, it’s fun to watch and fun to play.”

Also contributing to Rask’s success is the success of Khudobin. Khudobin has eased the load on Rask – a focus for the Bruins entering the season – suiting up for 13 starts with an 8-2-3 record. The backup netminder’s 2.48 goals against average and .922 save percentage both rank 10th in the NHL.

“It’s been great. I think the things we wanted to accomplish is to have two goalies going and both feeling fresh,” said Rask. “That’s the main thing. I’ve felt fresh and I’m sure Doby’s felt fresh too. Haven’t felt like it’s been too heavy for either one of us.

“We’re on Game 35 or something right now, so almost to the halfway point, so gotta keep it going until the end.”

Getting Closer

Cassidy did not rule out the possibility that both David Krejci and Adam McQuaid return to action on Saturday in Ottawa. Krejci has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury, while McQuaid has been sidelined for some 10 weeks with a broken right fibula.

“Yes, a chance for both,” said Cassidy. “We’ll get a better idea after the skate. If we like where they’re at then they’ll both be game-time decisions. We’re not going to automatically assume [they're in] because tomorrow is a new day.”

Krejci, one of 12 players who participated in a limited practice on Friday, said he “felt good again” and is “optimistic” that he’ll be in the lineup if he wakes up feeling the same on Saturday.

McQuaid also practiced on Friday and said, “I feel like I’m pretty close. I feel better and better every day, so that’s a good sign. I’m antsy to get back in there.”

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The Bruins certainly hope so.

After 11 straight losses to the Washington Capitals, Boston is looking to snap the maddening streak when they visit Capital One Arena on Thursday evening. The Bruins have not defeated Washington since March of 2014 and have dropped both meetings so far this season.

But as the winners of five straight and 14 of their last 18 – yes, one of the losses came to the Capitals – the Bruins are hoping to finally break through in the teams’ final matchup of the year.

“Obviously we’re playing well, that helps,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “For whatever reason – there’s a number of them – but the biggest one is we end up chasing the game against them a lot, so that’s going to be our focus. Hopefully we get off to a better start.

The Bruins may be catching the Capitals at the right time, as they have lost three straight for the first time this season and have been shut out in back-to-back games, including a 1-0 shootout loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night.

“Both teams played last night, so there’s no advantage other than them being at home,” added Cassidy. “They’ve been able to make more plays than us at the appropriate times. That’s the second part of the focus – get off to a good start and make the plays that you need to to put yourself in position to win.”

Certified Bruins killer Braden Holtby, who has won nine straight against the B’s, did not play against New York and is expected to get the start in goal tonight.

“I think we just have to keep playing the same hockey we’ve been playing,” said Noel Acciari. “We need to have a good start and play our game – right now it’s working for us and if we stick to that we should be OK.”

Acciari Good to Go

After taking a hit to the head from Ottawa defenseman Fredrik Claesson on Wednesday night, Acciari said he was feeling no ill effects and would be ready to go against the Capitals. The winger, whose nose took the brunt of the blow, missed the final five minutes of the first period before returning for the second.

Acciari’s linemate and former Providence College teammate Tim Schaller took exception to the hit and dropped the gloves with Claesson, earning 17 minutes in penalties. It was a gesture that Acciari greatly appreciated.

“Tim stepped up for me,” said Acciari. “Just being a good teammate. It’s great to see and I know that any guy will step up for any guy on our team. That’s the type of team we are.”

Schaller said he was trying to avoid the instigator penalty, which automatically triggers a 10-minute misconduct, but the officials weren’t budging.

“I think anyone in the lineup would do the same thing I did,” said Schaller. “I talked to the ref before I got in the box – I said I was polite about it and I made sure [Claesson] said yes. I was surprised when I got it, but it was worth it.”

Pursuit of Happiness

Cassidy has been searching for a just a little bit more from Anders Bjork of late, particularly away from the puck, asking to see a bit more jam out of the rookie winger’s game to complement his patented speed and skill.

During Wednesday night’s win over the Senators, Cassidy got his wish. With the Bruins up, 3-1, late in the second, Bjork turned on the jets and delivered a dogged forecheck on Ottawa blue liner Dion Phaneuf.

Bjork tracked down the veteran defenseman just inside the Ottawa blue line and was hot on his tail as Phaneuf tried to escape the zone. Eventually, Bjork swatted the puck away, corralled it, and fed Riley Nash, who finished things off with a dangle past Craig Anderson for a 4-1 Boston advantage.

It was the exact kind of puck pursuit Cassidy has been looking for.

“We want him to be harder on pucks and puck pursuit because it is an avenue that he can certainly make our team look faster by tracking down pucks,” said Cassidy. “That is why we have asked him – even when he has it sometimes when he runs out of space – to chip it and go get it because he puts a lot of stress on the D. He is starting to understand that part of it.”

Rolling Along

With his win against the Senators, Tuukka Rask has now grabbed points in his last 10 games (9-0-1). The netminder, who was named the NHL’s First Star last week, has accomplished that feat four times in his career, with the last coming in 2015.

Over the 10-game stretch, Rask has a 1.41 goals against average and .946 save percentage.

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The Bruins have seen plenty of the Ottawa Senators in 2017. And they’ll close the calendar year with two more matchups against their Atlantic Division rivals.

After a six-game playoff series last spring, the teams will meet for the first time this season as the B’s host the Senators at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Boston will then visit Washington on Thursday before traveling across the border for another tilt with the Senators on Saturday night.

“We haven’t seen Ottawa at all this [season],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Obviously saw them a lot at the end of last year, so we know them well. But not having seen them we have to get back up to speed quickly and not fall into that turnover kind of game in the neutral zone that you have a tendency to do with them. I hope our guys are mindful that that’s not the way to beat them.”

Boston has not won a regular-season game against Ottawa since a 7-3 victory on Dec. 29, 2015 – a span of six games. However, the Senators have not yet played to the level that pushed them into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season.

The Senators, 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, are seventh in the Atlantic Division with 30 points, some 13 points shy of the Bruins. Mark Stone paces the way for Ottawa with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 34 games, while Erik Karlsson – who missed the season’s first five games with an injury, is third on the team with 23 points.

The Bruins are hoping to break through against their playoff foes by keeping things simple following the three-day Christmas break.

“Anytime you have a few days off, things may be a little rusty,” said Marchand. “The biggest thing is you just have to have your skating legs and things will fall into place. Keep it simple early on and just try to work, try not to do too much early on, that’s all.”

Krejci ‘Feeling Good’

David Krejci, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, skated with the team on Wednesday morning donning a red non-contact jersey. The pivot will not play against the Senators, but will travel with the team to Washington and Ottawa.

Krejci said that the injury is not related to the one that kept him out earlier this season (also upper-body). He has played in just 18 games this season with five goals and nine assists.

“I felt pretty good. It was a good day, so hopefully pretty soon,” said Krejci. “Just have to stay positive. It’s a long season, lots of games left. The season comes in February, March, April…everything bad happens for a reason, so hopefully this is it and I’ll be healthy for the rest of the season and play good hockey.”

Cehlarik Skates

Peter Cehlarik also skated for the first time since the lower-body injury that has kept him out since Nov. 24. The winger will travel with the team for the road trip.

“Cehlarik is cleared now to skate with the team,” said Cassidy. “There will be a certain amount of contact then he’ll have to go full practice…he’s progressing well. He’s on schedule. I think it’s five weeks Friday so he’s back skating with us. Then he’ll have to decide in the next week or so how strong it is or how well he’s feeling. Then go to the next phase.

“Tough year for him with injuries, unfortunately, but he’s working hard at it. Hopefully he gets back up to speed.”

Cehlarik’s season started late as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. The 22-year-old was called up from Providence in mid-November and played five games with Boston (1-1-2) before the injury against Pittsburgh.

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The National Hockey League announced today, December 24, that Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been named the NHL first star of the week for the week ending December 24.

Rask, who was selected to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, finished the week tied for first in the league with three wins, recording a 1.30 goals against average and .954 save percentage as the Bruins won all four of their games to improve to 19-10-5 (43 points), third in the Atlantic Division. On December 18, Rask stopped 16 of 18 shots to help lead the Bruins to a 7-2 home win over Columbus. On December 21, the 6-foot-3, 176-pound netminder stopped 37 of 38 shots, as well as three of four shootout attempts, to help the Bruins earn a 2-1 shootout win over Winnipeg. On December 23, Rask stopped 30 of 31 Detroit shots to lead Boston to a 3-1 win over the Red Wings before the team’s holiday break.

In his ninth NHL season, all with the Bruins, the 30-year-old Savonlinna, Finland native has compiled a 11-8-3 record with a 2.28 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Since December 1, Rask is tied for the league lead with seven wins, and paces all NHL goaltenders with a 1.39 goals against average and .950 save percentage (minimum five starts).

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Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, December 21, that the team has recalled Colby Cave from Providence on an emergency basis.

This marks Cave’s first NHL recall of his career.

Cave, 22, has appeared in 27 games with Providence this season, recording three goals and 11 assists for 14 points with 15 penalty minutes and a plus-six rating. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward skated in 76 games with Providence in 2016-17, totaling 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points with 52 penalty minutes and a plus-two rating. In his first full AHL season in 2015-16, Cave tallied 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points with 27 penalty minutes.

Prior to joining Providence, Cave skated for the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL for five seasons (2010-15). Current Bruin, Jake DeBrusk , played alongside Cave with the Broncos during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns. In 2015, DeBrusk (42-39=81 totals) and Cave (35-40=75 totals) led the Broncos in scoring.

The North Battleford, Saskatchewan native was originally signed by the Bruins to an entry-level contract on April 7, 2015.

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If the Bruins want inspiration for a potential Stanley Cup run, they need look no further than the Nashville Predators last season.

Look, it’s not a perfect comparison. The Predators had a better blue line. They have a better coach. But both teams are regular-season possession monsters. Both teams are powered by a dominant top line that can flat-out take over games — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have combined for seven goals at 5-on-5 and having given up one. Which is pretty good.

Both teams have a supporting cast at forward that’s a combination of veterans and dynamic younger players. For the Bruins, that means guys like center David Krejci playing with guys like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.

But what the Predators had last season that the Bruins aren’t sure they’ll have: a veteran goalie who finds another level early in the playoffs and wins rounds for his team. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne went from a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against in the regular season to a .930 and a 1.96 in the postseason. He started the playoffs with back-to-back shutouts. He won seven of first eight postseason starts.

Tuukka Rask has a .913 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average this season. His career playoff numbers have been quite good: .928 and a 2.12, respectively. But for the Bruins to make a serious run at the Cup, he needs to dominate the early rounds and give his team some solid defensive footing on which to climb through the conference. Especially when it appears they could open the playoffs against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Emily Kaplan: If the Bruins play like they did in a 7-2 throttling of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, no doubt about it. Pencil these guys into the Eastern Conference finals right now. But that’s just one game of evidence, of course. Let’s look at a larger sample size.

First, the positives: Charlie McAvoy is a revelation. The 19-year-old defenseman is every bit as good as advertised, handling hefty minutes (23-plus a game) against tough assignments, producing offensively (18 points in 31 games) and showing some grit, too. (I’m not just talking about his fight on Monday.) The Bruins also have what could be the league’s best line outside of Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov-Steven Stamkos. Yes, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak — the Bruins’ top three point-scorers — are that dominant.

The problem here is depth. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy still doesn’t know who to play with David Krejci, and that’s an issue. The young kids (Bjork and DeBrusk) are working through rookie growing pains. And the least-fun topic to bring up in Boston: Rask may have lost a step. Hey, that can all be solved if the veteran goalie only faces 18 shots a night while his team fires off 45 … like it did against Columbus.

I think the most emblematic game for this team was its performance last Saturday against the Rangers. The Bruins fell two goals behind, and then looked damn impressive storming back against a locked-in Henrik Lundqvist to tie and earn a point. Ultimately, a mental lapse — a bad line change that yielded too many men in overtime — did the Bruins in. This is a team that has stumbled early and has enough talent to scare some teams down the stretch, but there are too many holes in the Bruins’ lineup for them to finish off teams come playoff time.

Chris Peters: I don’t think they have enough to make a Cup run, especially with the competition being what it is in the East right now. If the Bruins can get past the Lightning in the Atlantic portion of the playoffs — a huge if — they would still have to overtake any one of the teams from the loaded Metropolitan to reach the Cup Final. As Emily notes, depth is an issue — and it’s unlikely Boston can keep pace with the scoring attacks it would have to go head-to-head with, even if it did just drop seven on the Blue Jackets. The Bruins are looking more and more comfortable as a playoff team, but it’s harder to see them taking that leap to Cup contender.

The 2017-18 season, however, is a key building-block year as the Bruins look to recover from some of the salary-cap issues left by former GM Peter Chiarelli. This season appears to be a significant step forward for a number of reasons. McAvoy looking like the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara as the team’s No. 1 defenseman is a huge development, but the Bruins are going to need a lot more than one player to fill the roles previously held by veterans. A lot of young players are getting significant reps with the big club. It’s an important development season for those players, as Boston keeps building a secondary core of young players to support the existing veterans — like Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci and Rask — who have meant so much to the organization.

Pastrnak is still only 21, which makes him the centerpiece of the young core. McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are in there, too. Meanwhile, Danton Heinen has sneaked up to third in points per game among rookies, trailing only Brock Boeser and Mathew Barzal, at 0.78. DeBrusk had the best night of his young career against Columbus and now has 17 points in 27 games. Boston has used 10 players aged 24 or younger this season and has a decently-stocked prospect pipeline, with some more talent to follow.

There may be a little more uncertainty in the coming years as some of the other veterans move on or decline, but the Bruins can start feeling pretty good about their future. To be playing as well as they have been this season is simply an added bonus.

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The Bruins were clearly frustrated on Saturday afternoon against the Rangers. Boston’s power play struggled to create much momentum on its first five chances on the man advantage – managing just one shot on goal – before eventually breaking through in crunch time with a power-play tally from Brad Marchand to tie the game in the third.

But a 1-for-7 showing, which included a too many men on the ice penalty and a shorthanded breakaway attempt for the third straight game, did not leave them feeling good about the state of their power play.

“It’s just as much a reset,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Monday’s game with Columbus. “We knew we weren’t very good on it the other night. We had to at least have a conversation about it, what’s going wrong. We brought both groups in, talked to the guys, the vocal guys in each group, tried to get everyone together on the same page, air out any differences. Sometimes that’s it.

“Guys get frustrated with each other. These are skill guys that are used to scoring. If they get overlooked or there’s a wrong decision, there can be a domino effect. We don’t want that to bleed into 5-on-5 and all of a sudden we’re complaining about the power play and it’s over and the play is still going on.”

Following a sluggish month of November on the man advantage, the Bruins have been cashing in more frequently of late with power-play goals in five of seven games in December (6 for 26). Nevertheless, Boston has dipped to 14th (19.8%) in the league after spending most of the first month in the top five and allowed shorthanded goals in two of three games last week.

“Trying to make a perfect play is part of the problem, so if that’s overthinking – not thinking enough in terms of not recovering pucks,” said Cassidy. “I think that was a big part of our success last year, particularly that first group. To get some of those teams out of position or uncomfortable when they recovered pucks and things opened up for them. And more movement. I think they’ve been a little too static at times.”

Cassidy said teams have been stacking the blue line with three or four players across to slow down Boston’s speed – mainly David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Ryan Spooner – entering the offensive zone. One way to break through that? The chip-and-chase.

“Self chipping. I don’t think it’s a strength of our team, naturally, on the entry to recover pucks because we’ve got some skills guys that want to make those plays there,” said Cassidy. “[But] we’re going to have to build that in if that’s the direction we go. We may have to because teams are stacking the blue line…they’ve got four back in the neutral zone with a 1-3, diamond, four across.

“They’re making it hard for us to get in there. That’s where I see the self chips coming in, a lot more of that – just chip it behind them and get it yourself.”

McQuaid Out, But Close

Adam McQuaid will not play against the Blue Jackets but a return sometime this week seems likely. Cassidy would like the blue liner, who has been out since Oct. 19 with a broken right fibula, to get in another full practice or two before re-entering the lineup.

“He’s still day-to-day. He’s going to get through practice today, get in a little extra work. The problem we’ve had with Adam is having a full team practice where you’re out there and it’s 5-on-5 in zone and 3-on-3 down low,” said Cassidy.

“Until he gets a couple of those under his belt – which he has had a few – but we’re thinking maybe a couple more would benefit him. We’re not excluding him tomorrow [against Buffalo]. I am [for] tonight.”

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Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid is nearing full health, as he skated with the team on Sunday morning at Warrior Ice Arena. McQuaid suffered a broken fibula when he blocked a shot in the Bruins 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on October 19. McQuaid was expected to miss eight weeks with the injury, and it appears McQuaid is a possibility to return as soon Monday against Columbus, pending further evaluation from team doctors.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously,” said McQuaid. “I’ve missed a lot of time here, but it’s a process… I’ll probably have a better idea probably tomorrow morning.”

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he is close,” added head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He is getting close. He has practiced with us, so it is imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact date.”

The return of McQuaid will give the Bruins seven healthy defensemen on the roster, providing Cassidy plenty of options for his defensive unit.

“That’s an internal discussion that we’re starting to have, and then you can play seven D,” said Cassidy. “It could be a different one every night – might play six D one night and seven the next. Again, it will create competition – good competition.”

Regardless of whether McQuaid is back in the lineup on Monday against Columbus, the rugged defenseman is excited to his return is near.

“I’m excited about where I’m at and about the possibility here going forward,” said McQuaid. “Hopefully when I get back in the lineup, whenever that is, I’ll be ready to go. It’s been fun to watch the guys and I want to get back in and be a part of a winning hockey team again.”

DeBrusk Slumping

Jake DeBrusk has experienced both the success and the struggles that are to be expected of a rookie at the NHL level. After being held out of the lineup as a healthy-scratch earlier in the season, DeBrusk caught fire, scoring six points in a five game stretch in November.

After an upper-body injury forced the rookie to miss three games, he has been unable to find the same success. DeBrusk has only two points (1-1-2) in his previous six contests. Midway through the second period against the Rangers, Cassidy elected to keep DeBrusk on the bench for the remainder of the game. DeBrusk played a season-low 7:43.

“I didn’t think he was hard enough on the puck,” said Cassidy. “He lost some battles on the walls, in the middle of the ice. By my count, he had probably two backhand turnovers… it is a learning curve. I think all of the guys have gone through it.

“When he gets his chance again, he has got to play with his forecheck, and there were some opportunities to do that that didn’t happen. So, we just decided to go a different route.”

DeBrusk recognized the areas of his game that need improvement.

“It’s one of those things that you never want to have happen, but I understood why,” said DeBrusk. “I think it was just being hard on pucks… [I'm] looking to do anything I can to find that energy and get back to my game that I was a week a ago.”

Lineup Tweaks Possible

When the Bruins take the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden, there is the possibility of minor changes to the lineup.

“We’ll go with the same D,” said Cassidy. “The forward group we’d have to look at with Anders [Bjork].”

Bjork was a healthy scratch against the New York Rangers on Saturday. The Wisconsin native has been held to just one point in his previous five games. Ryan Spooner replaced Bjork alongside David Krejci on the Bruins second line. Whether Bjork returns to the lineup is yet to be decided.

“We sat him a game; We’ve talked about how we want to handle that,” said Cassidy. “We’ll have a conversation today or tomorrow morning about that. So, I wouldn’t say the forward group would be the same for sure.”

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Finding ways to win when you may not have your best is one of the truest tests of a good team. For much of the first two periods on Wednesday night, the Bruins looked anything but the group that had won eight of their last 10 games.

Boston managed just two shots on goal in the first period – none over the frame’s final 18 minutes. The Red Wings played a stifling brand of defense for much of the night, zipping shut shooting lanes with 22 blocked shots.

But the Bruins were not deterred.

Boston twice battled back from down a goal to tie the game in the third period, before Brad Marchand sealed the come-from-behind victory with a backhand breakaway just 35 seconds into overtime at Little Caesars Arena. The Bruins’ ninth win in 11 games was, perhaps, its most telling.

“It’s big. It just shows the character that we have in the room and that we’re really learning a lot and starting to come together,” said Marchand, who also delivered a slick assist on David Pastrnak’s tying marker with 1:26 remaining in regulation.

“Different guys are stepping up every night. To have a good team you need that. We’re going to need that still going forward, but it’s great to see.”

After a Dylan Larkin shorthanded tally put Detroit ahead midway through the third, Marchand forced the game to overtime with a stellar dish to Pastrnak with the goalie pulled.

Bruce Cassidy summoned Tuukka Rask to the bench with 2:32 remaining, allowing him to deploy David Backes as the extra skater, a luxury Boston’s bench boss was without during the winger’s absence earlier this season.

With Backes’ big body parked at the top of the paint, the slightest of lanes opened up through the slot, allowing Marchand to thread a pass through three Detroit defenders. Pastrnak was positioned at the far post where he ripped the puck into an open net to tie the game, 2-2.

“What goes unnoticed is that’s where we missed Backes a little bit earlier in the empty nets [situations]. He’ll go right to the top of the paint,” said Cassidy. “He’s going to occupy the goaltender, at least one defender, so that does open up lanes. I thought [David Krejci] did a really good job up top.

“Obviously finding the lane was the key part of it and that’s on Pasta to move around to find it.”

Pastrnak did just that, admitting that he only picked up the pass from Marchand at the last second. His 15th goal of the season extended his league-leading points streak to nine games (5-6-11).

“I didn’t even see Marchy,” said Pastrnak, who was playing in his 200th career game. “Last time I saw him he was coming down the wall. I thought he was going to shoot it. I saw the puck real last second. It was not an easy shot; it was coming pretty hot. But I got it on the ice and had an empty net. I’m surprised I even hit that puck.”

Boston started the extra session with Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, and Marchand – Cassidy’s preferred overtime trio. They wasted little time ending it.

Bergeron helped Marchand dig the puck off the wall in the Bruins’ end, before Marchand quickly moved it to Krug (two assists) and started a 2-on-1 through the neutral zone. With Mike Green closing on Krug, the blue liner sauced a backhand to Marchand in open ice.

Marchand broke in all alone on Jimmy Howard and shook off a late attempt by Green to break up the play, roofing a backhander over the sprawling Howard for the winner just 35 ticks into extra time.

“They played a really good defensive game. They didn’t give us a whole lot,” said Marchand. “They play really tight, almost a man-on-man over the whole ice; they really collapse in the D-zone. If you don’t take care of pucks, which we didn’t do a good job of early on you’re not going to get much and they worked hard.

“They out-battled us early on. Luckily we were able to bounce back.”

While Boston’s top dogs carried them to victory in the end, it was a more unheralded group that lit the match early in the third period. Down, 1-0, the Bruins got a boost from its fourth line to spark the offense.

After losing a faceoff in the attacking end, Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari charged hard into the corner, forcing a turnover behind the net. Acciari scooped up the loose puck and had his attempt to tuck it in at the post denied by Howard. The rebound popped out to Schaller, who had two more attempts stoned by Howard.

Fortunately for the Bruins, Acciari had circled the net and was there to finally swat it home and knot the game 3:02 into the final frame.

“We talked about it after the second period that sometimes you need other guys to step up in these moments,” said Cassidy. “Tonight our top guys were having a tough time getting through their checks. Good for Noel and [Sean] Kuraly and Schaller to do that…gotta give them a lot of credit because they gave us some juice.”

It may have taken a little longer than they would have liked, but the Bruins got what they wanted. Another balanced effort with contributions from up and down the lineup. And two more points in the bank as they continue to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

“A lot of pride in that room realizing we needed to be better,” said Cassidy, while still preaching the importance of producing a full 60-minute effort. “Guys wanting to win, appreciating what to do to play winning hockey eventually.”

Adidas Black Paul Postma Bruins Jersey Sale Cheap

Paul Postma understands his role. As Boston’s seventh defenseman for much of this season, it’s been the veteran blue liner’s job to be prepared when called upon.

So despite having played just once over Boston’s last eight games, the 28-year-old is more than ready to return to action tonight against the Red Wings.

“That’s why you play the game and love it. You look forward to every chance you get to play,” said Postma, who has suited up for 11 games this season. “I think the hardest thing for me is more of a mental game than a physical game, just making sure that I’m ready mentally to go.”

Postma will be sliding in alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the B’s third pairing in place of Kevan Miller. Miller will miss the game in Detroit after he and his wife, Haley, welcomed their first child late Tuesday night back in Boston.

“Mom and the baby are doing very well – healthy,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Kevan is going to stay behind and hopefully will join us tomorrow. He’s a happy man right now. Didn’t get any sleep last night, so we figured for everyone’s sake let’s let him enjoy his moment.”

Postma, who has not played since Nov. 29 against Tampa Bay when the Bruins dressed seven defensemen, will be trying to keep it simple against the Red Wings.

“Don’t overthink things out there, just do what comes naturally to me and try to get pucks on net when I can,” said Postma. “My skill is skating and trying to jump up in the rush, I’m going to do that as much as I can.”

Cassidy has been pleased with that portion of Postma’s game to this point, but would like to see the blue liner be a bit more aggressive at the Bruins’ end of the rink.

“The biggest thing we’ve asked Paul to do is get up and play more of our style, where you’re up closing your gaps and confronting and denying entry at the blue line with those things,” said Cassidy.

“It’s maybe a change for him from previously. But at the end of the day, that’s one area we want to be better at and recognize and build into his game.”

Spooner Still Sidelined

Per Cassidy, Ryan Spooner is still not ready to return to the lineup and will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury.

“We’re going to wait that one out to be sure,” said Cassidy. “We’re never going to be 100 percent sure, but we just want to give it as much time as possible. He’s still day-to-day and we’ll look at tomorrow after tonight’s game.”

Counter Punch

Detroit has lost nine of its last 10 (1-5-4), but Cassidy is not overlooking the skill and speed the Red Wings present up front. Twenty-one-year-old Dylan Larkin paces the Wings with 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games this season.

“They’re a good team, they’ve played better than their record indicates lately,” said Cassidy. “They’ve got a good group of forwards that play fast. If you’re not controlling your gaps and letting them behind you it’s going to be a tough night for us.

“We’ve got to make sure that we counter that with good checking position and puck possession, force them to defend us so that they’re not always on the attack. That’s going to be our game plan tonight and let’s hope we can execute it.”

Where the Pizza At?

The Bruins are making their inaugural regular-season visit to Little Caesar’s Arena, which replaced the famed Joe Louis Arena at the start of this year. The new digs are quite impressive, but there won’t be any real adjustments to be made on the Bruins’ end.

“It’s a nice building, very nicely done and beautiful place,” said Zdeno Chara. “The plan is the same, we’ve got to come out and focus on yourself and play your game.”