“I’m thankful for my teammates this year,” forward Zac Rinaldo said following a half hour tune-up on Thursday at TD Garden. A group of 11 Bruins hit the ice for a brief practice before enjoying the rest of their day.
The Black & Gold will host the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee (1:00 p.m. ET, NBC, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Rinaldo may be Canadian, but he’s sharing in the thankfulness with his American teammates.
“I’m happy for my teammates and the position that our goalies put us in,” Rinaldo smiled. “They did a great job this week, and I’m thankful for my goalies."
Through the Bruins’ four-game win streak, Tuukka Rask and Jonas Gustavsson have posted two victories apiece and have allowed a combined seven goals.
Rask and Gustavsson each notched a win on the recent road trip. The Bruins needed their strong goaltending as they found ways to win in Toronto (4-3 in the shootout) and Detroit (3-2 in overtime).
“Gus and Tuukks played really good in both games and sometimes your goalie has to steal you a win and that’s what they did,” said forward Frank Vatrano. “So it’s great that we can rely on him at all times. They’re both great goaltenders, so to rely on them is huge, especially when we’re not bringing our game.”
Though the steady netminding has been there, the Bruins are focused on upping their play to not have to rely on that to steal two points.
“You know, at the end of the day, we’ve got to give them credit for finding ways to win,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “It’s pretty obvious when we look at the games, we played some teams that were hungry and came out hard and yet at the end, we still find a way to win, so give them credit for that.”
“But having said that, we still have some work to do, and in order to have success in this League, you need your whole bench and we need to balance that out a little bit better.”
The Bruins will be looking to get their skating game going on Friday, and to be more aggressive — like the Wings were against them on Wednesday night. The Rangers’ speed will prove to be another tough test.
“They’re a really good team and I think we need to bring a full 60 minutes,” said Vatrano. “[Wednesday] night, I don’t think that’s something that we did, but we ended up getting the two points and kind of brought it together towards the end of the game, so I think that we just need to play a full 60 minutes and hopefully get a win.”
Vatrano factored into the Bruins’ win over Detroit in a significant way in his return to the lineup after an upper-body injury, scoring the game’s first goal and then deflecting in the winner at 3:32 into the overtime.
Fellow rookie Colin Miller set him up on the OT-winner and blasting in the game-tying goal with just 1:44 left in regulation to force the extra time. The points were Miller’s second NHL goal and seventh assist.
“Well, I think that’s what he’s been known to be — is a good offensive defenseman that has a great shot, that can move the puck, and that’s what he showed,” Julien said of Miller. “We’re working on other parts of his game to try and round him out to a real good defenseman, but [on Wednesday], when you look at the game, you’ve got to give credit to the young guys.”
“Vatrano with two goals, Colin with a goal and an assist on that wining goal and this is what Colin brings. He’s got the ability to skate with the puck and move it quick and we keep talking about having some of those defenseman — not only do we want them to defend, but we also want them to be part of the offense and he’s one of those guys that fits in well.”
“We talk about doing our jobs all the time and you’ve got to bring your best every game,” said Vatrano, who now has three goals in seven NHL games. “And sometimes it doesn’t work that way, so you’ve got to find your ‘B’ game if your A-game’s not there, so I think it’s nice to see contributions — not just from the same guys, but some different guys.”
As the Bruins head into Friday’s matchup, they sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. With Detroit picking up a point on Wednesday night, the Bruins were unable to jump them in points (both teams have 25), but they still have a game in hand.
That all-important Thanksgiving marker has come, though, and Boston is in a playoff spot.
There is work to be done if the Black & Gold would like to keep it that way.
“Some progress [has been made], but still a lot of of work to be done,” said Julien. “I think it’s pretty obvious when you look at our game. There’s some good things, and some games where you see the potential of this team.”
“But, at the same time, you see some of the games that we’re definitely not always the better team, but we have to go with the growing pains. We’ve got some young players. We’ve got some players we’re utilizing a little more than we’d like to, and so we’re going to try and balance that out moving forward, as long as everybody progresses at the rate that we hope.”
Practice Lineup 11/26
Forwards: David Krejci, Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano, Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Randell, Landon Ferraro
Defensemen: Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller
Goalie: Tuukka Rask