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Brad Marchand spoke on Thursday morning for the first time since the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced his five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Bruins winger addressed a large media contingent following Boston’s pregame skate at the Canadian Tire Centre ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.

“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” said Marchand. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.

“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”

The suspension, which was levied on Wednesday night, marks the eighth time Marchand has been disciplined by the NHL (six suspensions, two fines) in his career. This one comes at a time during which the Bruins have collected points in 17 straight games. Marchand is also leading the league in scoring this month with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists).

“The last thing I want to do is do anything to hurt the team, and that’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do,” said Marchand. “We have a great team, and they’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be there rooting them on, but I put my team in a disadvantage at the end, and I feel very bad about that.”

Marchand is allowed to participate in this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa and said he will still attend. It is the 29-year-old’s second consecutive selection.

“I’m going to go. I’m very proud of that opportunity,” said Marchand. “It is something I’ve worked very hard for and never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, so it’s something I’m very proud about, and I’m going to go and enjoy every second of it.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has had a relationship with Marchand since the winger’s first professional season in Providence, when Cassidy was then an assistant with the P-Bruins. Cassidy chatted with Marchand during Thursday’s morning skate and encouraged him to think about what he would like his legacy to be.

“The thing with Brad is I’ve known him since he was a first-year player, so I know him as a person,” said Cassidy. “That’s what sometimes has disappointed me, that gets lost. I hear opinions out there, they don’t know him as a teammate, as a father, the work he puts in to be a better player. After games he’s always with children in the family room signing something – he’s just a great person with a big heart.

“But Brad does have to take responsibility for his actions, he’s aware of that. He’ll sit his five games and we’ll welcome him back.”

Despite this latest misstep, Marchand believes he has made progress in buttoning up his on-ice actions.

“Obviously, I want to be known as a good player. I’ve worked very hard to become a decent player in this league, and things like this obviously hinder that,” said Marchand. “It’s something that I will continue to work on and be better at, but [Cassidy] is not wrong. I think that some things behind the scenes get lost when things like this happen, but I think that I have good teammates and the organization, my family and friends, they know what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to be and how much I care about this team, organization, the guys in the room.

“That’s not going to change. Obviously, I am going to be better in areas. I’m going to continue to work on it, but it’s just another step in the road.”

With Marchand out of the lineup, Anders Bjork was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday night. Bjork played in eight games for the P-Bruins after being assigned on Jan. 3 and notched two goal and two assists. The 21-year-old, who has four goals and eight assists in 28 games with Boston this season, will likely start in Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against the Senators.

“He’s played well. He started offensively very well,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s play in Providence. “What we’re trying to get out of Anders is play a little bit more straight line, understanding when he can make plays, when he’s got to manage the puck better. That was the biggest issue for him coming to this level, where the open ice is, how to get there.

“He’s been working on that. We’ll see where he’s at. He played very well for us earlier this year. We’re confident he can do the job. We’re not asking anyone to replaced Brad – that would be unfair – but just to go play his game and contribute.”

 

Bjork is hoping to make the most of his chance to play on what has been the hottest line in hockey for the better part of two months.

“It’s exciting. It’s obviously a great opportunity, tons of players would die to be in my position right now,” said Bjork. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make the most of it, do what I can to keep up with the line and be a positive impact.”

Acciari Out, Too

In addition to the absences of Marchand and Charlie McAvoy (ablation procedure), Boston will also be without Noel Acciari on Thursday night as the winger battles a lower-body injury. Frank Vatrano will slide into his place on the fourth line.

“Hopefully the All-Star Break will do him some good,” said Cassidy. “And then we’ll see where he’s at on Tuesday against Anaheim.”

Pushing Through

As they did during the season’s first six weeks when they were beset by an unseemly amount of injuries, the Bruins will have to battle through some adversity as they look to extend their points streak to 18 games.

“We’ve had to find ways and simplify our game, make it blue collar and do what we do best,” said Backes. “This is no different of a scenario than if [Marchand's] hurt or suspended. Same with Charlie being out. Hopefully it’s short term and we’re going to have to patch holes, different guys step up to be the hero each night.

“Those guys are significant players, but we’ve done it before and we’ll have to do it again. Every team’s got injuries this time of year or guys out.”

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Matt Grzelcyk knows perhaps better than anyone in the Bruins dressing room what the New England Patriots mean to the region. The 24-year-old blue liner grew up in Charlestown as a Patriots fan and has watched firsthand the team’s dominant run of five Super Bowl titles over the last 17 seasons.

“I can remember when they won their first Super Bowl,” said Grzelcyk. “Obviously they’ve been unbelievable, this stretch they’ve gone on is insane. There’s a reason why they’re so good, you can see how they are on the sidelines with each other, how passionate they are.

“It gives us a little bit of motivation to try to keep up with them. It’s awesome to see and it’s been great to be a part of it and see it firsthand growing up in Boston.”

Grzelcyk was one of several Bruins who attended the Pats’ thrilling 24-20, comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Also in attendance were Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Paul Postma, and Tuukka Rask.

“It’s nice to be a Patriots fan the last few years, a great day yesterday,” said David Krejci. “A few guys went to the game so I’m sure they had a blast. We do have lots of Americans on the team, they have their own team, but playing here I think you have to become a Patriots fan, they always win. It’s good to be a Boston fan.”

The Pats’ victory clinched a spot in their eighth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, an unprecedented run of success that has highlighted the golden age of Boston sports.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it. I’ve been in New England 10 years…you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots way…they’re in people’s heads,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who visited Patriots training camp this past summer and met with owner Robert Kraft.

“It’s an amazing quality that this team has, the culture that they’ve created, their identity. We’d love to be that, where we’re coming at you, we’re coming at you and it doesn’t matter what happens right until the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes.

“You’ve got to be champions to do that, there’s guys in this locker room that were and would like to again. The younger guys that haven’t hopefully that’s one of the things that they embrace.”

Grzelcyk, one of the Bruins’ five rookies, believes the Patriots provide plenty of lessons he and his fellow youngsters can draw from.

“I think they’re just really good at not overcomplicating things,” said Grzelcyk. “The motto is do your job, just very simple, just go out there and do what’s asked of you. I think that’s something that’s stuck with us. We’re trying to take it one game at a time right now and apply that to our game.”

One of the other special things about Boston sports is the camaraderie between all the teams in town. Last spring, Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined the B’s for a skate at the end of practice and earlier this month Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, Jordan Richards, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom attended the B’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cooks, who purchased a Patrice Bergeron jersey before the game, then joined his teammates for a visit with Boston’s alternate captain following his four-goal outburst in the 7-1 win over the ‘Canes.

In addition to Cassidy’s visit to training camp, a group of Bruins, which included Rask, Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Nash, Brandon Carlo, and Tim Schaller, took in a Patriots practice earlier this fall.

“Year after year, they’ve been really good. Obviously Tom Brady has been around a long time and they have a good coach. It’s fun to watch,” said Krejci. “I picked good years to be playing for Boston and becoming a Patriots fan…once our games are done we try to support the other teams as well.”

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Coming into the season, the Boston Bruins appeared to meet all the qualifications of a team whose window to win a Stanley Cup was closed.

The B’s looked as if they would be heavily reliant on stars who were either in the latter years of their prime or past it; they’d made questionable trades of young stars and had a goalie coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons.

Instead, Boston is not only competitive, but they’re also making a case as the NHL’s second-most-dangerous team behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boston ranks No. 3 in team Corsi for percentage, second in even-strength goals for percentage, ninth in power play percentage and eighth on the penalty kill.

Simply put: The Bruins’ Stanley Cup window is wide-open.


Elite players are still elite

Years down the road, we might find that age curves shifted in the 2010s. With an emphasis on health, fewer fights and head hits as well as more work being done to study factors like dehydration and workload, it’s possible that hockey players’ primes will last into their 30s instead of ending in the late 20s, as current age curve models suggest.

The Bruins could be evidence of this effect. Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, ages 32 and 29, respectively, are having among their best seasons in 2017-18.

With a hat trick on Thursday night, Bergeron has 19 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. His 57.9 percent Corsi for percentage ranks third in the NHL among forwards, with only Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Columbus’ Artemi Panarin ahead of him. When Bergeron has been on the ice this season, the B’s have taken 161 more shots than their opponents and outscored them 30-9.

Bergeron’s longtime linemate Marchand is leading the team with 46 points, placing him just inside the top 20 in the league despite missing a handful of games. He ranks fifth in even-strength scoring rate, with 3.39 points per 60 minutes.

These numbers are all on par or better than when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11. Bergeron produced 57 points in 2010-11 with a 54.2 Corsi for percentage, while Marchand had 41 points in 77 games.

Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 in March, is still playing more than 23 minutes per game, down about just two minutes from 2010-11. And while his shot differential numbers have slipped from seasons past, the 6-foot-9 blueliner still isn’t letting anyone get in front of the net. With Chara on the ice, the Bruins have produced 158 high-danger chances to their opponents’ 129, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Veteran stars David Backes (33) and David Krejci (31) have missed time this season, but when in the lineup they are each making significant contributions. The former Blues captain has 18 points in 27 games and wins 52.9 percent of his faceoffs, while Krejci has 23 points in 26 games.

The combination of all of Boston’s veterans clicking at once has helped push the Bruins to an 8-0-2 record in their past 10 games and moved them into the top five in even-strength goals for and fewest goals allowed.

The youth movement

Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Backes and Krejci aren’t driving the Bruins’ success alone. For a team that has rarely drafted early in the first round during the past decade, Boston has a remarkable number of key players under the age of 23 playing key roles. In fact, of the Bruins’ top six scorers, four are 23 and under.

That group starts with David Pastrnak, 21-year-old right winger flanking Bergeron and Marchand on Boston’s deadly top line. Last season, the Czech forward broke out to the tune of 70 points in 75 games. He’s been even better this season, with 41 points in 44 games.

The Bruins selected Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The knock on him was size and strength, but his high-end skill allowed an instant jump from playing in Sweden. Of all the players drafted in 2014, only Leon Draisaitl has more points than Pastrnak.

Another first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, 21, has made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign, scoring 20 even-strength points in 40 games while largely playing alongside Krejci.

The pleasant surprise of the group is Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who scored more than a point per game at the University of Denver and had a solid 2016-17 in the minors. He’s made the jump smoothly, adding 19 even-strength points in 40 games, playing the majority of his minutes with Riley Nash and Backes.

The biggest difference-maker in the bunch is 20-year-old rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He joined the Bruins in the postseason last spring and immediately took on a top-four role. He’s built on that experience this season, averaging 22:47 per game in ice time. The former Boston University blueliner has 24 points, 15 of which have come in even-strength assists. McAvoy has become a consistent puck-moving partner for Chara.

Boston’s collection of under-23s isn’t just bringing them value in the form of impressive production; those players are also allowing the B’s to survive huge veteran contracts.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks for example. With mega deals handed out to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago struggles to find cheap depth that will support its stars. For the Bruins, the total cap hit of DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy is just $2.65 million. Boston saved in per-season spending by doing a six-year deal with Pastrnak, whose cap hit is a reasonable $6.66 million.

The youngsters also give the Bruins the type of depth required to go deep in the postseason. Even if players like DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy are inexperienced, Boston has them playing alongside veterans who have made deep postseason runs.

The goalie

No matter how deep we dig into the numbers or what technology arises, we might never fully understand a team’s impact on goalie performance. But in Boston’s case, it’s pretty easy to draw a connection between a stronger, deeper team and a better defense corps this season helping out Tuukka Rask.

At his absolute peak, Rask’s even-strength save percentage was an otherworldly .943. That mark slipped for three straight seasons, all the way down to .919 in 2016-17. Normally a goalie’s even-strength numbers are more predictable from season to season than his overall save percentage, so a three-season slide would be cause for concern. But he’s rebounded to a .928 save percentage in 2017-18, which may have something to do with the Bruins allowing the fewest high-danger chances in the NHL, per Natural Stat Trick.

Debates will rage for eternity as to whether teams should pay big money for top-notch goalies, but one thing is clear: Good goaltending is a requirement to win the Stanley Cup. Rask has been excellent in his postseason career, posting a .928 save percentage and giving the B’s quality starts in 62.3 percent of his starts.

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Brad Marchand knows he was not always the easiest person to deal with when he first entered the league. As a young player, there were plenty of times he needed to be reeled in as he tried to establish himself.

That’s where Claude Julien came in.

“He gave me an opportunity to play, dealt with me more than I think a lot of coaches would have, worked with me tirelessly,” Marchand said of the former Bruins coach. “Had plenty of conversations about how to act and how to be a good player, a good pro, how to learn the game and become a better player.

“He definitely gave me a huge opportunity and allowed me to grow into a better player.”

Across the Bruins dressing room, players shared similar stories regarding the impact Julien had on their careers. And that’s why it is sure to be a special moment when Julien – the Bruins’ all-time winningest coach – returns to Boston for the first time on Wednesday night when the B’s host his Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

“He’s the one that I was given the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said David Pastrnak. “We had a bunch of meetings in the time I was here…obviously have a lot of good memories. He spent so much time with this organization and has given a lot.”

Marchand credited Julien with helping him to become more of a dependable offensive force every night. The 29-year-old began his career in as a fourth-line grinder and has since blossomed into a two-time All-Star, who is well on his way to a third straight 35-goal season.

“You could go through a lot of different things, but the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent,” said Marchand. “That’s one thing we talked about is consistency. And if you want to be in this league for a long time you have to be able to bring your best game every night or close to it. That was probably one of the biggest things I took away.”

Julien won 419 games over 10 seasons with Boston, twice leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final, including the club’s first title in 39 years in 2011. Overall, the Bruins made the playoffs seven times under Julien and captured the Presidents’ Trophy in 2014.

The Ontario native also won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2009 and twice coached at the NHL All-Star Game during his time in Boston.

“He was here for a long time, did a lot of great things for this team, for the organization, for the community and for the fans,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who played under Julien for 10 seasons.

“He definitely should be recognized for that…he’s a great coach, a great person, taught me a lot about how to play the game the right way in certain situations. He’s just a great teacher.”

For Boston’s remaining championship core – which includes Marchand, Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Adam McQuaid – it will no doubt be a bit strange to see their former boss standing behind the visiting bench on Wednesday night.

“I’m sure there is going to be some emotion for them,” said current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who replaced Julien last February. “They won a Stanley Cup under Claude – there should be. I think there was a bit of that in Montreal in terms of the first time looking across the bench and seeing him behind a different group, and I would imagine there would be a little more tomorrow. Then, the game will kind of take care of itself, and off we go.

“There’s some great relationships developed between Claude with the guys that have played with him for a length of time, so you don’t forget about that.”

Cassidy, who was an assistant under Julien last season before taking over the reins, acknowledged that some of his predecessor’s philosophies remain in place, particularly on the defensive side of things.

“The biggest was probably the layers and D-zone,” said Cassidy. “I think there’s a lot of teams that go man-to-man nowadays in the NHL in D-zone. We haven’t changed, and we feel it’s worked very well for us to stay with our layers and our zone coverage. I would say that is probably the biggest thing because it has worked.”

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The Boston Bruins and the Boston Bruins Foundation announced today, January 11, the first annual Patrice Bergeron & 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Pucks and Paddles, which will be held at Royale Boston (279 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116) on Thursday, February 15 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The tournament will feature players from the active Boston Bruins roster, on-air personalities from 98.5 The Sports Hub, and patients from Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

The event will feature a single elimination tournament featuring Bruins players, on air talent and the winning bidders. The rounds will advance to a championship game featuring the final two teams, with a winning tandem being crowned the Patrice Bergeron & 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Pucks and Paddles champions. In addition, the four best Bruins ping pong players will participate in a separate informal singles competition to demonstrate their talents to the crowd. All attendees upon arrival will have the opportunity to purchase an entry into a raffle to participate in additional ping pong games against select players.

Fans have the opportunity to bid on the opportunity to play doubles ping pong with the celebrity of their choice. Fans can place their bids by visiting bruinsauctions.org.

Fans can purchase tickets for both the VIP and General Admission sessions by visiting bostonbruins.com/pingpong.

VIP attendees will enjoy a pre-event meet & greet with members of the team. When purchasing VIP tickets, guests will either choose to be a part of the Gold VIP session featuring Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Torey Krug and David Krejci or the Black VIP session featuring Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, David Backes, and David Pastrnak .

Tickets will be available to the general public on January 11. Prices are as follows:

VIP: $200 – includes admission to autograph session

GA: $50 – entrance into the event (no player access)

Bruins season ticket holders will have exclusive early access to purchase tickets on January 10 and be able to purchase tickets at a discounted rate:

VIP: $175 – includes admission to autograph session

GA: $40 – entrance into the event

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Despite a thrilling four-goal outburst in the second period that propelled the Bruins to a two-goal lead, Boston headed into their bye week with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Evgeni Malkin potted his second goal of the night at 2:51 of the extra session, marking a sour – albeit respectable – end to the B’s first half, as they head into their five-day break riding an 11-game points streak.

“We got the start that we wanted, we got that first goal. But then we got away from our game and they took it to us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We know they’re a good team, especially on the power play. We didn’t go a good job on the penalty kill. We got back, the second period was a great period and third was up and down, we could have done some better things.

“But they’re a good team, they’re good offensively and there’s some breakdowns that were uncharacteristic of us lately, but we stuck with it and got a point out of it. Obviously we know we can be a lot better.”

After the four-goal barrage during the second, which included tallies from Brad Marchand, Noel Acciari, David Pastrnak, and David Backes, the Bruins appeared poised to pull away for another convincing victory as they opened up a 5-3 advantage. But Pittsburgh was not interested in going down quietly.

With 3.6 seconds to go in the middle frame, Malkin struck for his first of the game and the Penguins’ second power-play tally of the night to get back within a goal. It was not quite a dagger, but it was certainly a damaging blow, as Pittsburgh came out with plenty of momentum in the third and tied the game, 5-5, on Riley Sheahan’s tally just 2:54 into the period.

“I imagine it gave them more life than sucked life out of us. We still had a lead, we came from two down. But I think it gave them some pop going into the third and it showed,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “You don’t want to give those up. We had two opportunities to clear, that’s the unfortunate part. But that’s been a bit of an Achilles’ heel – our PK’s been terrific all year, the one area that we need to sure up is our clears and it got us there.”

Boston had a golden chance to re-gain the lead when Marchand was awarded a penalty shot with 1:01 to go in regulation. Marchand nearly sneaked a backhander through Matt Murray, but the netminder – who had replaced Jarry following the Bruins’ fifth goal – made the stop, as he did on all six shots he faced in relief.

“When I pulled to my backhand it got stuck in the snow a little bit. There was room there, I just missed it,” said Marchand, who had a goal and an assist. “Back-and-forth game. We didn’t have the start that we wanted, but we bounced back. Gave away a point there, but three out of four on a back-to-back is not bad and now we have to make sure we continue after the break.”

Boston’s five-goal output marked the fourth straight game and fifth time in the last six that it has scored at least five. Four of the goals came within a 9:50 span of the second period.

After Marchand’s goal brought the Bruins back within a goal at 7:18, Acciari struck just 60 seconds later when a Brandon Carlo shot tipped off his chest to tie the game at 3. Pastrnak followed up with his marker just under four minutes later to put Boston ahead, before Backes doubled the lead with 2:52 remaining in the third.

“Ebbs and flows I guess,” said Cassidy. “It seemed like we had pockets of really good hockey. We had pockets where we just lost focus and didn’t look like the team I’m used to seeing every night, in terms of how we played, respect of the game, manage pucks and decisions on line changes – right to the bitter end.

“At the end of the day, we get a point out of it, so you look at the positives, against a good hockey club. But it looked like we were gonna do better than that.”

Bergeron Stitched Up

After taking a Kris Letang shot to the inside of his right knee, Patrice Bergeron needed assistance as he hobbled down the tunnel to the dressing room in the closing seconds of the first period. But the centerman, fresh off a four-goal, five-point night against the Hurricanes, escaped any major damage and returned for the second

Bergeron said he felt more and more stable on the knee as the final two periods progressed. X-rays taken during the first intermission were negative, though he did require a few stitches following the game.

“It didn’t feel good. It was one of those that hit where there was no padding and it was a pretty good shot,” said Bergeron, who still managed to play over 18 minutes. “It definitely stings. We just wanted to make sure there was nothing – X-rays were negative, nothing’s broken. I needed stitches there.

“I was trying to get that going and we decided to just do them after the game so that I could come back for the second. It was good that I had the intermission to kind of reset.”

His return was certainly appreciated by his teammates.

“He’s a warrior. Got to give that guy a lot of credit, he’ll play through anything. We’ve seen it plenty of times before,” said Marchand. “He’s the kind of guy you want to follow and that’s why we’re good because we have that leadership. He’s an incredible player to watch and learn from and we’re lucky to have him.”

Rask Streak Continues

Tuukka Rask (29 saves) extended his career-high points streak to 13 games (11-0-2) with the overtime setback. But Boston’s ace netminder was far from pleased with his performance, as the six goals allowed were a season high.

“I was [bad] all game, all night. I felt like [crap] and didn’t see the puck,” said Rask. “Wasn’t sharp. Weak goals…one of those days. Not feeling as sharp as usual. Against a team like this that’s going to create some scoring chances, probably not ideal.”

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The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.

“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”

The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.

“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.

“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”

The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).

“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.

“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.

“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”

Opposing View

Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.

Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.

Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).

“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.

“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”

Question Mark Up Front

Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.

“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.

Pasta Snaps Skid

David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.

“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”

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When the Bruins and Islanders hit the ice tonight, it will be a matchup of two of the most effective lines in the NHL. The B’s trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has made a habit of shutting down the opposition’s top line.

The Isles boast one of the most dynamic first lines in all of hockey. The grouping of Josh Bailey (12-38=50), John Tavares (21-28=49) and Anders Lee (24-15-39) are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s line of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov for the lead league in combined points with 138. Bailey and Tavares rank 2nd and T-3rd in the league in points, respectively, and Bailey also leads the league in assists.

When Bergeron and Co. took on the high-flying Tampa Bay first line earlier this season, they submitted a stifling performance. They possessed the puck to such an extent that Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper elected to split up Stamkos and Kucherov in order to get one of them away from the Bergeron line.

“Bergy has been doing it for 10 years,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s just a matter of being on the right side of puck battles and not allowing odd man rushes. Taking away time and space through the neutral zone so they don’t get clean entries with a lot of options.”

When the Bruins knocked off the Islanders at TD Garden on December 9, the Isles first line accounted for the lone goal late in the third. Lee finished a scramble in front with Josh Bailey recording an assist. Tonight, the focus for Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak will again be on out-possessing their opposition.

“Against those lines if you have the puck a lot, they are forced to defend,” said Cassidy. “They are forced to check. That takes a lot of energy, so that’s one of the biggest deterrents of keeping a good offensive line off the board.

“Hold onto the puck. Be a good puck possession team. It starts with faceoffs. We’ve been pretty good on that.”

Pastrnak noted his lines goal will be to continue and play their style.

“We try to play our game as a line,” said Pastrnak. “Try to bring the game to them. Try to spend as much time in the offensive zone. Obviously we usually play against offensive lines so… try to bring it to them and give them a tough night.”

Pasta Pressing

In his fourth season, Pastrnak is leading the Bruins in points (34), assists (19) and is tied with Marchand for the team-lead in goals (15). However, the 6-foot winger has been unable to capitalize recently, going scoreless in his previous nine contests.

Cassidy believes Pastrnak may need to simplify his game to get back on track.

“Sometimes simpler is better when you’re in a slump,” said Cassidy. “Getting around the front of the net, getting some second chances. Those type of goals usually get you going. We’ll see what happens from there.”

Despite the the goal-scoring draught for Pastrnak, the Bruins recent surge has alleviated much of the concern.

“Right now I haven’t taken notice of it much because the team is going well and we are getting secondary scoring…” said Cassidy. “I don’t believe it’s going to be prolonged to be honest with you. He’ll get his looks and score. He’s just too good a player.”

Pastrnak noted that the team’s good play is more important than his individual production.

“We’re playing good. It’s all that matters,” said Pastrnak. “All the lines are playing really good hockey, and that’s what we are about.”

Opposing Views

Tonight’s game marks the second of three meetings between the B’s and the Islanders. The Bruins claimed the first matchup, with Jake DeBrusk notching a highlight-reel game winning goal in the third period.

The Islander’s have gone 4-6 in 10 games since their defeat to the Bruins, including losses in their past two contests. They fell to the Winnipeg Jets 4-2, and then dropped their most recent game on December 31 versus the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 6-1.

In addition to their high-powered first line, the Islanders are fueled by rookie Mathew Barzal. Barzal is second among all first year players with 36 points, and leads all rookies with 23 assists. The Islanders’ 136 goals for rank 2nd in the league behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We know they’ve got some firepower up front, some skill and some speed,” said Bruins forward Sean Kuraly. “Especially up the middle. We are trying to get the puck behind their D and stick to our systems.”

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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.”