After going 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip, the Boston Bruins returned to the TD Garden on Monday afternoon for a game against the Colorado Avalanche in what is their only home game in a stretch of 10 of 11 games on the road. It was also the sixth and final game of Brad Marchand’s suspension.
The Bruins have struggled against some of the iron in the NHL this season, but Monday, they put together a solid 60-minute effort in a 5-1 win over the Avalanche. Boston’s win snapped a seven-game Colorado road winning streak and handed goalie Darcy Kuemper his first regulation loss in 19 games. Here are three takeaways from the Black and Gold’s 28th win of the season as they head back out on the road to begin a six-game road trip Thursday night against the Seattle Kraken.
Swayman Sharp in Net
After playing three out of the four games on the road trip, coach Bruce Cassidy gave Jeremy Swayman the start Monday and the 23-year-old responded with an impressive performance. Swayman stopped 28 of the 29 Colorado shots, allowing only a second-period power play goal to Nathan MacKinnon.
Swayman was aggressive in net, cutting down angles, moving side-to-side with confidence, and closing openings to keep the explosive Avalanche in check. He made 10 saves in the second period, including a pad save off a Gabriel Landeskog shot right after MacKinnon’s goal, and right now is playing some of his best hockey in his early career. In his last four starts in the last nine days, the 111th pick in the fourth round of the 2017 Entry Draft, has made 120 saves and gone 3-0-1. He has a 0.98 goals-against average (GAA) with a .968 save percentage (SV%).
Swayman is certainly taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him after spending time in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins when Tuukka Rask signed as a free agent in January. When Rask announced his retirement on Feb. 9, Swayman has stepped in and is going to make it difficult for Cassidy not to give him another start on Thursday in Seattle.
Pastrank Stays Hot at Home
David Pastrnak loves some home cooking. Entering Monday’s game, he had 12 goals and four assists in his last 10 games at the TD Garden. He continued his torrid pace with a pair of goals and an assist against the Avalanche.
He opened the scoring late in the first period when he took a pass from Charlie McAvoy and beat Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper inside the left post. After Colorado scored a power play in the second period to cut the Bruins lead in half at 2-1, he scored his second goal of the game 1:37 later when he one-timed a Taylor Hall pass past Kuemper to regain a two-goal lead. Pastrnak finished with eight shots on the net in just under 17 minutes in time on ice.
With Marchand sidelined with his suspension, Pastrnak picked up some of the goal-scoring, including the game-winning overtime goal against the Ottawa Senators Saturday night, and helped the Bruins secure seven out of a possible 12 points without their leader in points.
Bruins Second Line Was Solid Again
With Marchand out of the lineup, Cassidy has been mixing and matching his lines in the last six games. The second line of Charlie Coyle between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith is a line that has been playing well and that continued Monday. The trio combined for seven shots on the net, but had the best shift of the game that ended up leading to Pastrnak’s first goal. Relentless on the forecheck, they had a zone time of 1:12, pinning the Avalanche, which allowed Pastrnak to get lost in the shuffle coming off the bench and being left alone to bury the opening goal.
Not only were they effective 5-on-5, but Frederic and Coyle also provided some key penalty-killing shifts to hold Colorado to one goal in four chances. When Marchand comes back against the Kraken, there are going to be some decisions that Cassidy and his staff have to make in regards to the forward lines and combinations.
Power Play Showing Signs of Life
The Bruins’ power play has been dismal as of late, going scoreless in their last 11 opportunities going into Monday’s game. Against Colorado, the power play showed some life in their three chances. In their first opportunity in the opening period, the first unit of Pastrnak, Hall, Coyle, Patrice Bergeron, and McAvoy played the first 1:30 and had six shots on the net, but had nothing to show for it. In the second period, they had two shots with a lot of zone time, but again had nothing to show for it. That changed in the third period.
Leading 4-1, the Bruins took advantage of a Nicolas Aube-Kubel high-sticking penalty to put the game away when Coyle banked in a rebound from behind the net off Kuemper’s back. In total, Boston finished the game with 11 of their 45 shots on the power play and they get Marchand back on the first unit Thursday night.
Bruins Finish Off Avalanche
On Jan. 26, the Bruins held a 3-1 lead on the Avalanche with just under 10 minutes left in the game before two goals from Colorado, including the game-tying goal from Landeskog with 27 seconds left, forced overtime. Cale Makar scored a power play goal in overtime for a 4-3 Avalanche win, but despite getting one point, the game felt like a loss.
Monday, the Bruins held a 4-1 lead entering the third period and this time, they held Colorado off the scoreboard to secure the victory. Boston opened the door for the Avalanche by giving them three power plays in the final period, but killed each one off for a confidence-building win. The Bruins, which allowed nine third-period shots, banked three out of a possible four points this season against Colorado and was very close to sweeping the season series.
Overall, it was by far the best 60-minute effort by the Bruins this season. It was a much-needed win before they embark on a six-game road trip, as it allowed them to go 10 points clear of the Detroit Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth, all while knowing that Marchand returns to the lineup Thursday night.
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.