The Boston Bruins wrapped up their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon with a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. It was a split of the four games for the Bruins, who come home in the first Eastern Conference wild card spot with 10 regular-season games remaining.
It was a trip that turned out to be one where three key members of the Black and Gold were injured. David Pastrnak, Hampus Lindholm, and Matt Grzelcyk were all knocked out of action at some point in the last seven days, something that the Bruins don’t need at this point in the season, with injuries piling up. Here are three takeaways from Boston’s 22nd loss of the season, dropping them to 44-22-5 in a game that was frustrating as they let the Capitals grab two valuable points.
Power Play Continues Struggles Without Pastrnak
When your top power play goal scorer is out of the lineup, teams will struggle. The Bruins are finding that out now with Pastrnak missing his third consecutive game against the Capitals on Sunday. They went 0-for-4 in Washington and while there was a lot of movement of the puck in the zone, there were not many high-dancer scoring chances. They seemed to be pressing and two of the opportunities did not register a shot on the net. Overall, they are scoreless in their last 16 chances.
Pastrnak has 14 power play goals and it’s clear that Boston is missing him setting up near the top of the power play for his one-timer that has become a trademark of his. In Pastrnak’s absence, Charlie Coyle has been on the first unit, and nothing against him, but maybe it’s time that coach Bruce Cassidy makes an adjustment or two. Considering how hot Jake DeBrusk has been, it might not be a bad move to give him looks with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the man advantage. The trio has been very good 5-on-5, so why not give it a go with Taylor Hall and Charlie McAvoy on the power play?
Bruins Defense Takes Another Hit Losing Grzelcyk
Like Pastrnak, Lindholm missed his second consecutive game with an injury, then there was more bad news for Cassidy in the first period. Grzelcyk lasted just four shifts into Sunday’s game before exiting with an upper-body injury, leaving the Bruins with just five defensemen for a majority of the game. Replays showed him grabbing his right shoulder prior to exiting the game when he pinched in from the point in the offensive zone.
Early in the third period, the Bruins survived a big scare when McAvoy delivered a hit just inside the defensive zone and came away looking like he was in pain. McAvoy, who stayed in the game, logged 28:18 in time-on-ice for the game, followed by Mike Reilly (22:20), Derek Forbort (21:03), Brandon Carlo (19:47), and newly acquired Josh Brown (15:43). It was a rough game for Forbort, who was on the ice for the first three Capitals’ goals. Going forward, Grzelcyk’s health will be important with Lindholm already sidelined on the left side.
Ullmark Kept Bruins in the Game
This loss can’t be put on Linus Ullmark in goal. The first-year Bruin did everything he could to keep his team in the game and give them a chance, in the end, to try and tie the game. Ullmark turned back 27 Washington shots, including some big timely ones in his first lost in his last seven games.
In the first period, Ullmark made a glove save to rob Evgeny Kuznetsov and keep the game scoreless. In the third period, he made a glove save on Garnet Hathaway in the first minute of the period, before Kuznetsov was stopped again by Ullmark, this time on a breakaway, then a minute later, Conor Sheary was stopped on another breakaway. With the Capitals on the power play late in the game, Ullmark made a glove save when he went from his left to right to rob Alex Ovechkin of his 285th career power play goal.
The game-winning goal was one that Ullmark could not be faulted for. Lars Eller threw the puck toward the net from the boards and the puck deflected off of Erik Haula, going over the shoulder of the Bruins netminder and just under the crossbar to break a 2-2 tie.
Over the final 10 games, the battle for who will be the starting playoff goalie will continue between Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. Between the two, there is just one period of postseason action for Swayman, who came into Game 5 of last season’s second-round series against the New York Islanders. There are other decisions to be made, but Ullmark made the case in the last two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Capitals to earn the nod for Game 1, whoever Boston ends up playing.
After splitting the four games, with Sunday’s loss falling into the frustrating category with the power play struggles and Grzelcyk injury, the Black and Gold return home for a three-game homestand against the St. Louis Blues beginning Tuesday night. With the Bruins having Monday off, there will most likely be no injury updates on Pastrnak, Lindholm, or Grzelcyk until Tuesday morning.
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.