On paper, the Boston Bruins had two points up for grabs in their game against the lowly Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden. Still, it wasn’t going to be that easy with the Coyotes riding a four-game winning streak heading into Saturday.
The Bruins felt they would go into cruise control after a pair of first-period scorers from Craig Smith. But the fiery Coyotes have proven to be a formidable opponent.
Bruce Cassidy’s team couldn’t escape self-inflicted injuries. The Coyotes gained momentum on a Clayton Keller strike with 0.05 on the clock in the second period. They rode that wave early in the third period with former Bruin Nick Ritchie tying the game at 2-2, 2:15 in.
Although their struggles to clear the puck from their defensive zone continued, the Bruins slowly tipped the ice in their favor after Ritchie equalized. They found their rhythm late, with the third row going into the clutch on Charlie Coyle’s go-ahead count with 3:21 left in regulation.
The Bruins continued to buck their recent late-game trend in the dying moments, holding the desperate Coyotes in check to secure their 3-2 win. Here’s what we learned after Boston earned its 18th straight win over Arizona.
The Bruins’ third line continued their strong streak
Over the past few weeks, the trio of Smith, Coyle and Trent Frederic have provided Boston with the secondary scoring they need. Lately, they’ve provided the bulk of the B’s offensive output.
Smith was arguably the catalyst, bouncing back from his one-season rut en route to his best streak of the 2021 campaign. His shoot-first approach complements Coyle’s two-way skills and Frederic’s blue-collar traits to a T .
“Charlie and Trent are so good at protecting the puck,” Smith said after scoring his seventh goal in five games on Saturday. “If we can create things out of that and get their feet moving, I think we can get to places where we can put the puck in the net. »
Smith headed for the net on his two goals, earning a pair of rebound scorers past Coyotes goaltender Karael Vejmelka. The Wisconsin native then served as a decoy with Coyle’s stick play.
Fredric’s exit feed after a puck battle down the walls in the defensive end allowed Coyle to transition onto the ice in an odd-man rush situation. A dive attempt to disrupt Coyle’s passing lane to Smith by Vladislav Kolyachnok prompted the Weymouth-born product to fire a backhand shot at Vejmelka. Coyle quickly covered his 14th goal of the season to put the Bruins ahead for good.
“It’s not all the time I think he’s down, but I should,” Coyle said. “It’s a draw, isn’t it? So you want to make the appropriate game that is given. On the other hand, Smitty has two purposes, doesn’t he? So you have to play hockey. There were no passing lanes [open], so I wanted to get him to the net and create a rebound if anything, maybe Smitty puts it home. But I had a bit of luck with the placement.
Maybe Coyle got lucky, but the Bruins once again brought to life a team below them in the standings.
Are the Bruins downplaying their competition?
The Bruins have improved to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games. Their last stink came back on February 17 in their second loss of the season to the New York Islanders.
They have performed well against teams tied or better than them in the standings during this run, highlighted by a 5-1 win over the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 21. .
They’ve faced other teams who will likely book their tee times come playoff time. Those tilts weren’t easy for the Bruins.
Indeed, the Bruins didn’t take the Coyotes for granted as they extended their four-game winning streak at TD Garden. But they had their chances to extend their cushion by two goals, only to give Arizona some life, highlighted by a third-period streak with Brad Marchand missing an open net on a late backcheck and Ritchie scoring the equalization a few moments later.
No matter the situation, whether it’s against the Coyotes, krakenor Blackhawks, the Bruins persevered. And now they find themselves within two points of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.
“Yes, tonight I think there were pockets of it. But I don’t think it was some kind of 60 minutes…one of those [stinkers] where you have a few times a year where you play that way,” Cassidy said of Saturday’s events against the Coyotes. “I thought our guys really pushed after scoring [the tying goal]. They acknowledged there was chatter on the bench about “hey, let’s do this thing.” It took a while, but I thought they kind of dug in and played the way we needed to play to give us the best chance.
Could a potential trade timeframe target be off the charts?
The 17,850 people on Causeway Street got a taste of the goal rumors just nine days before the end of the NHL’s trading period. But an exit to one of the hottest names in the trading market might have thrown the trade limit period into a loop.
Coyotes defenseman Jacob Chycrun left Saturday’s game after a second-period collision with Derek Forbort. And now his potential suitors are holding their collective breath, hoping he will remain available for the stretch race.
The Bruins are one of many teams rumored to be linked to Chycrun. The 23-year-old left-handed defenseman would instantly bolster Boston’s top two defensive pairings in a potential partnership with fellow 2016 first-round recruit Charlie McAvoy.
The Coyotes confirmed that Chycrun (21 points in 47 games) left with a lower-body injury. The Boca Raton, Florida native had one of the best offensive streaks of his season after scoring two goals in consecutive games. He also scored in five of his last six tilts before Saturday.
As one option remains in limbo, another potential target remains in play for a potential reunion. The Bruins have also been linked to Phil Kessel in recent weeks. The 2006 first-round selection fired five shots on net in 15:22 of ice time and nearly lit the lamp before Jeremy Swayman (27 saves) robbed the former Bruin on the doorstep during the one of his best saves of the evening.
Unlike Chycrun, which has a friendly game A cap of $4.6 million reached in the 2024-25 season, general manager Don Sweeney probably wouldn’t have to give up significant assets to acquire Kessel. The 34-year-old winger has an amended no-move clause in the last year of his contract.
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