The Boston Bruins have successfully punched their 6th consecutive ticket to the NHL playoffs in an arduous 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. After suffering a 3 game losing streak for the first time all season, the Bruins have rattled off 4 wins in their last 5 games, primarily against fellow playoff teams, such as the Penguins, the St. Louis Blues, and the New York Rangers. However, when a small losing streak has ended doesn’t mean the Bruins are free from struggle.
In this final stretch of games, the Bruins have had an unprecedented tough streak on Power Play opportunities. Their current 0-33 stretch on the man advantage has severely hurt the team. Additionally, star forward Brad Marchand has hit a goal slump as well, not scoring a single goal over this 11-game stretch. For a team that thrives on offensive star power, this futility is very concerning, especially entering the playoffs. Some have attributed the struggles to the loss of key contributors at all 3 positions. For much of this stretch, the Bruins have been without goal leader David Pastrnak, versatile defenseman Hampus Lindholm, and goaltender Linus Ullmark. Although all three played in Saturday’s win against the Rangers, they will most likely be scratched as they rest prior to playoffs.
This has led to head coach Bruce Cassidy rearranging the lineup in various ways. He’s put regular members of the 4th line such as Tomas Nosek and Curtis Lazar up the 2nd line to play in Pastrnak’s usual spot. Rookie Marc McLaughlin has filled in on the 4th line in the shuffle. On defense, Lindholm’s absence has led to Matt Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort filling in on the top pair to play with Charlie McAvoy. Finally, for the goalies, Linus Ullmark’s injury has caused rookie Jeremy Swayman to start 5 consecutive games. Although Swayman has fallen from his post-Rask era since January, he’s still been a quality goalie for the black and gold.
The Bruins currently have 3 games left on the schedule. A Tuesday matchup against the top-seeded Florida Panthers will precede a back-to-back against the Buffalo Sabres and the season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A final gauntlet such as this is the best way to toughen up this team for the playoffs.