The Boston Bruins (27-14-6, 60 points) will try to bounce back from a 1-0 shutout loss on Sunday afternoon to the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-14-3, 67 points) when they play the rematch tilt at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.
This is the second of a two-game set in Pittsburgh for the Bruins who are still trying to catch and surpass two of the Penguins, Washington Capitals, or New York Islanders for one of the top playoff slots in the East Division. This is the final head-to-head matchup of the regular season between Boston Bruins and Penguins with Pittsburgh holding a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory combined with a New York Rangers loss.
The biggest question for the Boston Bruins is whether or not they can find their legs after looking tired in back-to-back losses to the Sabres (giving up six goals in a distracted effort) and Penguins (little offensive push in the shutout loss) following a six-game winning streak coming out of the NHL trade deadline. Cassidy admitted over the weekend that he was seeing some signs of fatigue with his hockey club while amidst a whopping 17 games on the schedule during the month of April.
Cassidy is anticipating that the Stanley Cup playoffs, once they clinch a spot, will be a little easier to handle than a compacted 2021 regular season where way too many games have been jammed in the final few months of the regular season.
We’ve got to get in [the playoffs] first and then see what they give us. In the playoffs you are staying in the same city kind of like in this regular season, so you get accustomed to that. It might for players be less taxing than some of the stretches here,” said Cassidy, who gave the Bruins an off day on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s matinee in Pittsburgh. “But who knows? They might schedule back-to-backs in the playoffs. They weren’t shy about doing that in the bubble last summer. I guess it depends on the timeline. How far are we pushed back when we do get going? Are we pushed back at all?
“Have we made up the ground [with makeup games] to just get going [once playoffs begin], play every other night, no back-to-backs and you just get your typical day for travel etc. I don’t know. We’re going into the unknown this year, but I could see where you could say [the playoff schedule might be] a little easier than some of those days where you were playing five games in a week. That’s probably never going to happen again in the NHL.”
Tuukka Rask (11-4-2, 2.36 goals against average and .913 save percentage) is getting the start for the Boston Bruins after building up to a 3-0-0 record with a .931 save percentage and 2.17 goals against average since coming back from a back injury. Tristan Jarry (21-8-3, 2.70 goals against average and .911 save percentage) gets the starting nod for the Penguins in a possible playoff-clinching game.
-In addition to Bergeron, defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Ondrej Kase remain home recovering from upper-body injuries and are still listed as week-to-week.
-Nick Ritchie has goals in two of his last three games after going ten games without lighting the lamp, but the rest of the Bruins third line is in disarray. Jake DeBrusk has one goal in 13 games during the month of April and will be a healthy scratch on Tuesday night. Charlie Coyle hasn’t scored a goal in his last 27 games and is mired in one of the worst slumps of his NHL career, and is being moved to right wing by Bruce Cassidy.
“[It’s] a lack of production from a number of guys down there for an extended period of time,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy of mid-game changes made to the bottom two forward lines in Sunday’s shutout. “You expect more from some [of them]. Quite frankly, I think they’re all capable of a little bit more offensively. Some of their roles aren’t necessarily [offensive], but they could certainly create a little bit more.”
Trent Frederic will enter the lineup on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly bumped up to third line center, and Cassidy voiced the message to a rookie power forward that’s missed the last 11 games after dealing with an illness earlier this month.
“Just play your game and do your part,” said Cassidy. “There may be an adjustment to [Frederic] getting his timing back, but just get your feet moving and get the motor going early. Just make there is some pace to the game and everything else will fall into place.”
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 0-for-1 on Friday and then didn’t get on the ice even one time during Sunday’s shutout loss. They are now 29-for-139 on the man advantage this season. They’re 11th in the NHL with a 20.9 % success rate.
-The PK had a rare bad night on Friday, allowing the Sabres to score on two of their three powerplays, but they killed the only Penguins power play they saw on Sunday afternoon. They’re no longer the best penalty kill in the NHL as they sit second behind the Vegas Golden Knights with an 85.7% success rate. They’ve killed off 138 of 162 powerplay attempts against them this season.
-The Penguins have been a wagon as of late, winning five of their last six games and with back-to-back wins, they leapfrogged the New York Islanders for second place in the East Division.
“We’re right there. I don’t think we want to look too far ahead, though. I think we’re just taking that game at a time,” said Sidney Crosby. “The important thing is to win games, to get points. And if that’s the case, then that’s the case. But I think we’re just we’re trying to make sure that we play well here and see where that puts us.”
-Evgeni Malkin (lower body) and Freddy Gaudreau (lower body) are both practicing with the Penguins, but neither of them will play on Tuesday night. It sounds like Malkin is actually closing in on a return based on Mike Sullivan’s words after Tuesday’s morning skate.
“None of those guys will play tonight. They are all making progress,” said Sullivan. “Geno and Freddy are looking stronger and stronger… They are adding limited contact. Geno is getting stronger with each practice he has with us.”
Malkin has missed the last 20 games while Gaudreau has missed the last six games for the Penguins.
-The Penguins powerplay is ranked eighth in the NHL with a 23.3 % success rate.
-The Penguins penalty kill might be their only weak spot right now as they ranked 23rd in the NHL with a 77.6 % success rate, but they never had to get on the ice on Sunday afternoon with zero penalties called against Pittsburgh.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle
Trent Frederic – Curtis Lazar – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Kevan Miller
Jeremy Lauzon – Connor Clifton
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines