Entering Thursday night’s action, the Boston Bruins needed any combination of a win to go along with any type of an Islanders loss of one point to clinch a playoff spot for a sixth consecutive season. Well, the Bruins got some help from their next opponent in the Pittsburgh Penguins as they doubled up the Islanders 6-3 which meant all the Bruins needed was a single point against the lowly Ottawa Senators to clinch that playoff spot, and they couldn’t get the job done. The Islanders play again today against the hated Montreal Canadiens and anything short of an Islanders win – well the Bruins will clinch that playoff birth.
The Bruins also failed to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning who needed overtime to dispatch the Anaheim Ducks and opened up a 3-point lead over the Bruins for third spot in the Atlantic Division. And let’s not forget the Washington Capitols who had closed to within 3 points of the Bruins and the first Wild Card spot. The Bruins got some help from another hated rival in the Toronto Maple Leafs who handed the Caps a 7-3 beating. The Bruins failed to put some breathing room between Wild Card 1 and Wild Card 2.
This was a must-win scenario for the Bruins, not for all that is mentioned above, but because it was Ottawa. As fans, you can blame injuries all you like but I’d be willing to bet no one inside the organization is blaming injuries. It is, for lack of a better term, a cop out. Instead, you can look towards poor puck management, poor specialty teams, and an absolutely terrible goal against to let the Sens back in the game.
The first period was good for the Bruins who led 2-0 after 20 minutes. Linus Ullmark had made some big stops but took a shot to the face mask and had to go to the bench. But he finished out the period with yet more big stops and he looked unbeatable. But he failed to come out for the second period and was replaced by Jeremy Swayman.
It was that first goal by the Sens that should never happen. Just 47 seconds into the frame, Brady Tkatchuk fired a shot from below the goal line, purposely banking it off of Swayman to get the Sens on the board. Swayman failed to cover his post and left more than enough room for Tkatchuk to make that shot. And Swayman needed to stop that as much for himself to get back on track as for the Bruins.
Then some “questionable” penalty calls put the Bruins down two men and goals 57 seconds apart was all the Sens needed. The first penalty was against Mike Reilly for high sticking Tkatchuk. I don’t think that call was being questioned by fans but the next call that came against Patrice Bergeron just 7 seconds later for hooking Tim Stutzle drew the ire of fans and broadcasters alike.
Bergeron reached around Stutzle’s right side to try and lift his stick and he did touch hands – which referee’s will call every single time, before Bergeron switched to Stutzle’s left to actually lift his stick. After Josh Norris tied the game with the two-man advantage, it was Stutzle who scored the game winner 57 seconds later while Bergeron was still in the box in ironic fashion.
Swayman redeemed himself in the third period making several key saves especially after some poor puck management and decisions by the Bruins left the young goaltender to fend for himself. But his teammates could not return the favor by netting the equalizer.
The powerplay was once again a no-show for the Bruins going 0-for-5 on the night. I will admit the Bruins are missing David Pastrnak in his usual spot on the powerplay because the threat of his shot opens up other areas for his teammates. Here’s a thought: How about Craig Smith who trails only Pastrnak in shots among right shot right wings on the team? He may not have Pastrnak’s shot, but he is a threat to shoot. But it’s not just the absence of Pastrnak. The whole powerplay seems off. They don’t move the puck as quickly and with the precision we are accustomed to seeing. Cassidy even tried switching Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy around in the third period, but the results were the same. Lackluster effort, poor execution and almost non-existent puck management.
Getting Pastrnak, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo back and healthy will be a big boost for this team. But we shouldn’t use it as a cop out. Heading into last night, the Bruins held a 35-point lead on the Sens. Anything less then a W is a disappointment and I don’t care who was not in the lineup.