The struggling Boston Bruins (14-8-4, 32 pts) will try to rebound from Monday’s tough 4-1 loss to the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-1, 35 pts) who come into tonight’s East Division tilt winners of six straight games.
There are only two teams in the NHL, the Stars and the Sabres, that have scored fewer 5-on-5 goals than the Boston Bruins this season, and the other teams around them (Devils, Kings and Predators) are nowhere close to a playoff spot. The Bruins have dropped out of the top-10 in power play efficiency and are struggling in a category, without Krug, where they had traditionally been in the NHL’s top-5 during Bruce Cassidy’s time coaching the team.
“They generated enough to win the hockey game,” said Bruce Cassidy, of his team that’s authored two even strength goals in their last five games. “You’ve got to finish…stating the obvious here. But I’m more concerned when you don’t generate. That means you’re not doing the right things to get the opportunities.
“You continue to generate; I believe there’s enough talent in there to get enough goals. We’re not gonna sit here and tell you we’re gonna be one of the highest scoring teams until we get more finish and more confidence. But we generated enough tonight, I thought, certainly, to score more than Pittsburgh.”
The Bruins are averaging two goals per game over the last 10 games and are 23rd in the NHL in overall offense (2.65 goals per game) with only the Blue Jackets, Senators, Devils, Coyotes, Predators, Wings, Ducks and Sabres. Worse still, they’ve become a one-dimensional team where they simply aren’t winning hockey games consistently when the PP or the Perfection Line isn’t clicking on all cylinders.
Adding injury to insult, the Bruins will also need to rest Jaroslav Halak after he started four consecutive games with Tuukka Rask lost to injury. They have opted to give 23-year-old Dan Vladar his first career NHL start after he allowed three goals on 15 shots in mop-up duty against the New York Rangers in the Toronto bubble last summer.
The Penguins will turn to backup and former UNH netminder Casey DeSmith (6-2-0, 2.23 GAA, .912 save percentage) in nets. DeSmith has allowed one goal on 48 shots in a pair of wins for the Penguins during the month of March.
-On Monday’s Zoom call with the media, reporters were not shy in asking Boston Bruins Captain Patrice Bergeron how, in his first season as captain, he’s been navigating through the more frequent peaks and valleys in this COVID-shortened and unique season?
“It’s important to have a lot of conversations with the players,” Bergeron told RDS Reporter Chantal Machabee. “The solution is within the locker room. We have to find these solutions. When you talk to each other, you realize that you have to roll up your sleeves, work harder and get results. Most of the time, you have to simplify things, come back to basics and most of all, have fun, play for the love of the game, the passion, and transpose it on the ice.”
Note: Merci to Chantal for translating Bergeron’s answer and sending it to BHN via email!
-Bruce Cassidy said the Bruins made an organizational decision go with Vladar instead of red-hot rookie Jeremy Swayman, who has won each of his first seven games out of the chute for Providence.
Who was the best fit to go in? Was it Vladar or was it Swayman? And those decisions go first to Goalie Bob [Essensa] and to Mike Dunham down in Providence. It’s essentially the goaltending department and they make the recommendation. I can’t weigh in too on that because both goaltenders have not played in the NHL, other than Vladdy getting mop-up duty that we all know was a tough spot for him,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’re going to judge them on their resumes, and the resumes for both guys are very good.
“They’re comfortable with both and I think either one would have been a good call. Vladdy does have more experience and he’s been a pro longer. He’s earned the right to get in there. There’s the argument, ‘well, who gives us the best chance to win?’ It might very well be Jaro [Halak] but we don’t want to do that. They chose Vladar so he’s going in. So, we need to play well in front of the young goaltender.”
-As for the rest of the Bruins’ MASH Unit, defensemen Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) remains on injured reserve; Brandon Carlo (concussion) is “feeling better” but hasn’t skated to this point and fellow rearguard Kevan Miller is not on the trip but is skating back in Boston as he works his way back from some knee discomfort. Carlo may get on the ice soon. Forwards Zach Senyshyn and Ondrej Kase are both on injured reserve with upper body injuries. John Moore has a lower body injury and is not on the trip with the team. Tuukka Rask is skating with the Bruins and hasn’t suffered any setbacks, so the chances of him playing against the Sabres later this week are decent, though not Thursday.
–Swedish prospect Oskar Steen will be making his NHL debut at third line right wing after posting three goals and eight points in 12 games along with a plus-1 rating. Steen brings some offense, energy and a little bit of grit to the table as the Bruins are looking for players to make an impact on their forward group.
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 1-for-4 on Monday night on a Matt Grzelcyk point blast and that turned out to be their only offense. They are now 18-for-75 on the man advantage this season. They’re 12th in the NHL with a 24 percent success rate.
Matt Grzelcyk fires one home on the power play.
Bruins lead, 1-0. pic.twitter.com/nTJP6ng0TQ
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 15, 2021
-The penalty kill went 1-for-4 on Monday night as well and remains the best in the NHL with an 88.8 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 79 of 89 powerplay attempts against them this season.
-First off! Be sure to follow our colleague Dan Kingerksi and Pittsburgh Hockey Now for up-to-date Pens news during this two-game set and always!
-Speaking of Dan, he reminded us of just how good Sidney Crosby is against the Boston Bruins.
‘Sidney Crosby has 59 points (15g, 44a) in 45 career games against the Bruins, including 19 points (4G-15A) over his last 15 games. No active player in the NHL has more points against Boston than Crosby’
-Also, from Dan, the Penguins are on the back end of their third set of back-to-back games this season. They’re scheduled to have nine sets of back-to-back games in 2020-21. Thus far, the Penguins are 3-1-0 in back-to-backs (3-0-0 the first night; 1-1-0 the second night).
-The Penguins have the second most goals in March with 43 in right games.
-Jason Zucker (lower-body) and Mark Friedman are out with injuries. Defenseman John Marino (upper-body) and forward Jared McCann (upper body) are game-time decisions after skating on Tuesday morning.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Oskar Steen
Trent Frederic – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Steve Kampfer
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines