The Boston Bruins were not going to let history repeat itself Saturday afternoon and they were not going to be denied a playoff berth.
When the Bruins played the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden on Feb. 8, it was the first game all season long where the Black and Gold built a two-goal lead and lost the game. Two first-period goals from David Pastrnak gave the Bruins to the lead, but four straight goals from Pittsburgh dealt Boston a frustrating loss that ended with Brad Marchand punching Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry in the head and waving his stick in his face, resulting in a six-game suspension.
Saturday, the Bruins once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, this time just 2:01 into the game against the Penguins, but they were able to pick up one of their most important wins of the 2021-22 season by allowing just one goal in a 2-1 victory. The win clinches the Bruins’ sixth consecutive Eastern Conference playoff spot. Here are three takeaways from a victory that snapped the Black and Gold’s first three-game losing streak of the season and their 46th win of the season.
Swayman Has Bounce-Back Performance
In Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, goalie Linus Ullmark left after the first period after taking a shot in the mask, which forced Jeremy Swayman into the game cold beginning the second period. The former University of Maine standout allowed all three Ottawa goals in the middle period, but with Ullmark still sidelined, Swayman had a bounce-back performance that was needed not only by the 23-year-old, but also by his teammates.
Swayman stopped 23 of the 24 Pittsburgh shots, including nine in the third period for his 21st win of the season. His best save came in the second period when Kris Letang lofted the puck behind the Bruins’ defense to Jake Guentzel who was stopped by Swayman when he tried to beat him between the legs. In the third period, he made a save on a shot from the point that was tipped by Danton Heinen and then stoned Sidney Crosby late in the game when he stopped his point-blank shot from in tight. The only goal he allowed was scored when Heinen’s second-period shot deflected off of a Bruins stick and under the crossbar.
“I thought he looked composed, he was confident playing the puck,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I think he needed this as much as we did to be honest with you. He’s a young guy … sometimes older guys can play through things not going their way. Young guys, you’re never too sure, especially in that position.”
Swayman has struggled in recent weeks after playing very well for a stretch in February and March, but his best performance in the last two weeks came at the right time and was a big reason the Bruins finally clinched their playoff berth.
Frederic & Carlo Make Big Impacts in Their Returns
Trent Frederic and Brandon Carlo missed Thursday’s loss to the Senators for different reasons. Frederic was a healthy scratch after his recent performances and Carlo missed it with an injury. Both returned to the lineup and made their presence felt early and often.
Frederic’s impact was felt just 49 seconds into the game. The third-line left wing won a battle along the boards, went to the front of the net, and when Craig Smith’s wrist shot was stopped by Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith, Frederic knocked home the rebound for a quick 1-0 Boston lead. His goal was his only shot in the game, but he did all the little things that he had been doing before his recent stretch. He was strong on the puck, playing with physically and making all the simple plays. It did not get lost on Cassidy after the game.
“Good for (Frederic). Sometimes guys don’t respond well and then they come back and they’re bitter or whatever word you want to use Freddy wasn’t that way. It was explained to him why. And I thought he went out and practiced well (Friday) and got rewarded right away by going to the right spot. I like that Smith attacked the net. That line, as a I said the other day, was getting farther and farther away from the net. That’s what I mean. Smitty didn’t walk up any farther than he had to. He got good possession, collected the puck, saw a seam and got it to the net for a second chance. And that’s how they’re effective, that line, and we need more of that from them.”Bruce Cassidy (from ‘Bruins notebook: Trent Frederic answers,’ Boston Hearld, 4/16/22)
Carlo left Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the first period with an injury. He also missed Thursday’s game against Ottawa, but returned in a big way against the Penguins. The 6-foot-5 Carlo logged 21:13 in time-on-ice, led the defenseman in time-on-ice shorthanded at 2:46, and had two big blocks, including one in the third period when Pittsburgh pulled DeSmith for a 6-on-5. After not playing for three days, there were a lot of unknowns in terms of what the Bruins would get from Carlo, but he had 29 shifts and was key in shutting down the Penguins’ forwards.
Bruins Finish Game With Strong Third Period
When a team loses three games in a row and looks like it was searching for confidence, you never know what is going to happen when they take a one-goal lead into the third period. Struggles on the power play and injuries to key players have hampered the Bruins, but in what could have been classified as a must-win game, Boston responded with a solid final 20 minutes.
Unlike they have been doing in four of their last five games, the Bruins made good decisions in the final period, managed the puck as well as they could, were aggressive on the forecheck, aggressive with getting pucks on the net with 13 shots for their highest amount in any period of the game, and killed off the Pittsburgh’s third power-play opportunity to seal the win. Swayman came up with key saves, but his teammates also supplied help by blocking shots and clearing the puck away with any rebounds that were left. For a team that was searching for some confidence, they showed a lot in the third period and it was needed to hold off playoff-bound Penguins.
With the playoff berth officially clinched, the Bruins can now turn their attention to getting healthy in the final seven games of the regular season as they being a tough two-game road trip against the Blues on Tuesday and a rematch with the Penguins on Thursday.
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.