Following a lackluster 4-1 round-robin loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was hoping for a better effort and a different result in their second game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena. The Bruins didn’t get the result they wanted in a 3-2 loss, but there were still some promising signs for the Black and Gold.
The round-robin games are not life or death but used for seeding when next week’s Eastern Conference playoffs begin. It also gives the Bruins an opportunity to work out kinks and get ready for the postseason. Here are three takeaways from a better Boston effort than they put forward in their first game.
1. Showing Some Fight
After being flat in their opening game against the Flyers, the Bruins showed signs of life and more fight against the Lightning. Late in the first period, Lightning forward Blake Coleman took a run at Boston defenseman Brendon Carlo with a hit at the Bruins’ blue line. Free-agent to be, Torey Krug took exception to the hit on his partner and dropped the gloves with the bigger and stronger Coleman.
Midway through the third period, Tampa Bay’s Barclay Goodrow hit Bruins third-line left-winger Anders Bjork with a check to the head area after he released a shot. Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk went after Goodrow, who was assessed a penalty on the play, to stick up for Bjork.
2. No Production From Top Line
For the second straight game, the Bruins failed to get any goals from their top line. In fact, their first goal scored against the Lightning was a slap shot from the point by defenseman Charlie McAvoy. Their second goal in the third period was stuffed home by fourth-line right-winger Chris Wagner on a rebound. It was Wagner’s second goal of the round-robin as he had the only Boston goal in their 4-1 loss to the Flyers.
If the Bruins are to get out of their offensive funk before the playoffs, it’s crucial that they start getting production from their top line. David Pastrnak (tied with a league-high 48 regular-season goals) missed most of training camp and has shown a lot of rust. Brad Marchand has been struggling in the first two as well.
As the game went along, the trio seemed to click a bit better than they had against the Flyers after a nearly five-month break. If the Bruins are going to rely on goals from their defensemen and fourth line, their stay in Toronto might not be that long.
3. Rask’s Return
After missing the first game of the tournament because of an illness, Venezia Trophy candidate Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Bruins. He gave up two first-period goals three minutes apart. The first one deflected in off McAvoy’s skate after he failed to control the rebound of an Ondrej Palat shot. The second goal was a double deflection that he had no chance on.
For the next 48 minutes, Rask stopped everything thrown at him by the Lightning. With 1:27 left in the game, he failed to control the rebound of a Yanni Gourde shot and Tyler Johnson jumped on the rebound for the game-winning goal.
Rask made 32 saves on 35 shots in his first full-game action in almost five months. He needs to control rebounds better, but having him back in net is a good sign for the Bruins.
Signs of Life?
It wasn’t the 60-minute effort that Cassidy was looking for, but it was a step in the right direction following their disappointing showing against the Flyers three days earlier. The passing was better, more stick-to-stick than the previous game. They are working their way towards that full effort their coach is looking for.
After winning the Presidents’ Trophy following the shortened regular season, the loss to Tampa Bay assures that the Bruins can’t finish higher than the No. 3 seed when the playoffs begin next week. With one more round-robin game remaining against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Boston has one more chance to figure things out before the real games begin.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.