The Boston Bruins lost their second straight round-robin game Wednesday as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson scored the game-winner with 1:27 left in regulation for a 3-2 Lightning win. That was the Bruins’ second straight loss in the round-robin and eliminated them from any chance at retaining the top overall seeding and the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. As Bruce Cassidy put it to the media after the game, ‘Well, that part sucks’ but as he and the Bruins players pointed out this game was a step in the right direction as the Bruins try to find their stride for the playoffs.
Bruins Get Impeached But Gain Momentum
There’s no doubt that going 0-2-0 in the first two games of the round-robin and watching their President’s Trophy kind of go for naught definitely sucked for the Bruins but there was definitely a silver lining in this loss.
“That’s the situation this year with the stoppage of play,” Cassidy said. “We knew the rules going into it. That we would lose a bit of the advantage we’d gained. We are where we are now. We’re just trying to win a hockey game right now, get our game together for 60 minutes so that we can be at our best so that whoever we meet – this is one year I do believe the seeding is less relevant than others. I think everyone has discussed that. Would. I have rather been number one seed? Absolutely, keep it. That’s not going to happen so like I said, we’ll get ready for Washington and play the best game we can and like I said, prepare for the postseason. That’s our ultimate goal, we have to win 16 games. We knew that going in. That will still be our goal.”
Overall Cassidy saw progress and hope that the Bruins are rounding into form.
“We got behind, we didn’t get away from our game,” Cassidy said. “We didn’t lose our composure either or discipline. I thought we kept playing, tried to ramp up the physicality, win a few more pucks. Create energy in that fashion.”
Krug Ignited Bruins Comeback
Torey Krug once again showed his ability to lead by example and despite his diminutive stature, set a physical tone. Just as he did in Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, Krug served as the sparkplug the collective engine of the Bruins so desperately needed. With the Bruins down 2-0 late in the first period, Lightning pest Blake Coleman hit Brandon Carlo with what at best was a borderline, late open-ice hit, and Krug immediately after Coleman. Coleman and Krug mutually obliged to dance and while Krug lost the fight, he basically said ‘Enough is enough boys!’ and likely the hashtag Tom Brady made famous during his days as a New England Patriot.
Krug and Coleman go at it after Coleman lays out Kuhlman.
— BOSHockeyNow (@BOSHockeyNow) August 5, 2020
The Bruins woke up after that and by the last five minutes of the second period, they were buzzing. They finally connected on McAvoy’s first goal of the round-robin at 16:43 of the middle frame and then at 1:47 of the third period, ‘The Mayor Of Walpole’ Chris Wagner, notched his second of the round-robin to tie the game at two. From that point on the two rivals essentially traded punches and while the Lightning eventually got the knockout punch for the second straight time, Krug and the Bruins once again showed that they won; ’t go quietly into the night.
“Well, he’ll do it. He’s not afraid to drop the mitts with anybody,” Cassidy said when asked what Krug’s leadership does to set the tone. “And you saw Griz went right after again. Two of our smaller defensemen, it just came natural to them. That’s what I love about our team. These guys have each other’s backs. They’re going to stick up for one another. And I’m sure Tampa was thinking the same thing.
So, at the end of the day, that’s our group. They’ve always been that way. Any new player that comes in usually learns that. Torey obviously learned it from the Zee’s and the [Dennis] Seidenberg’s when he came here or the [Johnny] Boychuck’s and he’s going to pass it on to the Griz’s and the Lauzon’s type of thing. So, it’s great to see. Torey is a leader on our team. We have some obviously more grizzled veteran leaders, but he’s very good with the middle of the road group. And we appreciate when he does bring that to the table.”
Rask Looking More Like Rask
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask would be the first to admit he wants that Johnson game-winner back. However, after looking so-so in the Bruins’ 4-1 exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday and being unfit to play for the Bruins’ 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their first round-robin game, Rask seemingly worked out the kinks Wednesday. The 2020 Vezina Trophy Finalist made 34 saves in the loss to the Lightning but if not for some – as Rob Simpson termed them in the BHN Postgame Show ‘Highway robbery’ saves – the Bruins aren’t able to tie the game at two on Wagner’s goal. Rask said that besides a hip flexor that nagged him in the second period, he’s feeling more like the goalie that went 26-8-6 with a 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage this season.
“I mean I felt good. I felt normal out there,” Rask said. “I got to improve my hip flexors out there, they were cramping up at the start of the second period, so I guess that’s probably what it is. I was seeing the puck well, I was moving well, I had legs, I was tracking the puck, so I’ve got to be happy with that. That was my first real game in a couple months so I’m pretty happy how I felt.”
Perfection Line Not So Perfect
Patrice Bergeron assisted on the McAvoy tally late in the second period but other than that, the Bruins’ top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak has been far from being a line of perfection. Bergeron also had two shots, one blocked shot and three hits in 18:46. As always, he was dominant at the dot going 18-7 in faceoffs. Pastrnak had a solid game with five shots and two hits in 20:54 but Marchand struggled as he finished at a minus 1 with one shot and two giveaways in 19:53. Not surprisingly, the 2020 Selke Trophy finalist believes better defense will lead to the better offense for the trio the Bruins need to click.
“I think it’s overall to us it’s always the way we defend and the way we take care of the puck in our own zone,” Bergeron said. “When we start doing that better we seem to get out clean and spend less time and less energy in your zone and you’re back out on the offense. I think too many times we’re not managing the puck we usually do and we spend the rest of that shift in our zone. We need to rectify that and simplify tat game and those plays. Same goes in the offensive zone. When we do that in the offensive zone we’re forcing some results because we’re putting the puck on net and getting second and third chances.”
Cassidy Shuffles The Lines
Cassidy shuffled the lines heading into this second round-robin game, pulling Jack Studnicka out and inserting Nick Ritchie in. The second line of Ritchie, David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman didn’t exactly click but thankfully the third line of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk, as well as the grinding line of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Wagner had it going. Here’s what the roster looked like Wednesday:
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Jake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon