Bruins Weekly: Cassidy’s Message Received, Prospects & More

Another Wednesday brings us another Boston Bruins Weekly for The Hockey Writers. In this edition, we’ll look at a bounce-back performance from a young goaltender after coach Bruce Cassidy sent a clear message, the power play struggles, Boston gets some much-needed secondary scoring, and much more.

Swayman Has Bounce-Back Performances

When the Bruins lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 8, they built a 2-0 lead before allowing the game’s final four goals in a 4-2 loss. Following the game, Cassidy was critical of goaltender Jeremy Swayman and his lack of making some big saves when his team needed them, as Tristan Jarry did for the Penguins.

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Goaltending picks you up some nights, and it can deflate you, and I think we saw both in the second period,” said Cassidy. “So, it gets away from us a little bit. Turnover, we have a D joining, we didn’t have possession of the puck, so not a great decision, didn’t defend it very well. You’re not going to play a perfect game. Their guy made more stops than our guy did, and I think that ends up being, to me, the bigger story in the game.

“They got saves, we didn’t. That’s it. That’s my take,” said Cassidy. “We probably had more chances than them in that [second] period. Did we make some mistakes in front of our goaltender? Yes. I don’t think we made a mistake on the second goal. It was kind of a bad one. The first one, like I said, we didn’t have clear possession coming through the neutral zone, our D activated, which we don’t mind, but you have to have possession.

“And then we didn’t defend the 2-on-1. I’m not sure what we were thinking on that. Heinen came off the bench, maybe our D didn’t see him coming, but you’ve got to defend it better. Power-play goal, we lose a battle in the corner. It’s a good battle, Crosby, and [Brandon] Carlo got beat back to the front of the net.”

Cassidy has never been one to hold back in his comments about a player, just ask Jake DeBrusk and Taylor Hall earlier this season, but it seemed that Swayman got the message loud and clear ahead of his next start four days later on Feb. 12 against the Ottawa Senators.

Related: Bruins Need Hall to Get Cassidy’s Message

Swayman stopped all 30 shots he faced in a 2-0 Boston win. He played with the same confidence he played with in the 2020-21 season, controlling rebounds, and he did a nice job of cutting down angles. It was the second shutout of the short career for the University of Maine standout and an important rebound performance since he will remain in the NHL for the rest of the season with Tuukka Rask announcing his retirement on Feb. 9. The win also snapped the Black and Gold’s two-game losing streak and keeps them as the only team in the league this season that has not lost three consecutive games.

Cassidy gave Swayman a second consecutive start on Tuesday night in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, where he stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced. In overtime, he stopped Artemi Panarin on a breakaway, then stopped six of the nine shootout attempts. In his last two starts, the 23-year-old is certainly playing with more confidence in his last two starts.

Power Less Power Play

Over the previous month, the Bruins power play was clicking on all cylinders and was a big reason for their strong month of January. Over the last three games, minus two of their top playmakers on the man advantage, the power play has struggled, but it should not come as a surprise.

Brad Marchand has missed the last three games serving his six-game suspension for punching and swinging his stick in the face of Jarry on Feb. 8. That same night, captain Patrice Bergeron was lost with a head injury after hitting his head on the boards following a collision with Sidney Crosby. Marchand leads Boston in power play points with 22 on six goals and 16 assists. Bergeron is tied for second with David Pastrnak with 17 points on five goals and 12 assists on the first unit.

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-0 loss on Feb. 10, Cassidy’s team went 0-for-4 on the man advantage, then went scoreless in two opportunities against the Senators. Boston only had one attempt against the Rangers in the third period and it was another tough power play to watch as they again failed to have a strong zone entry and puck possession in the offensive end. They are 0-for-7 since Bergeron and Marchand left the lineup.

It’s not surprising to see the Bruins struggle on the power play without Marchand and Bergeron, but they need to find production from somewhere besides Pastrnak in the absence of their two veterans. More than most teams in the NHL, the Black and Gold rely on their power play to supply offense and without Marchand and Bergeron, someone, anyone, has to step up and provide some clutch goals.

Bruins Get Second Helping’s

Following their loss to the Hurricanes in one of the worst 60-minute efforts of the season by the Bruins, they faced the struggling Senators on the road and got a much-needed 2-0 win. How they got the win is something that had to make Cassidy happy.

Two goals from primarily two bottom-six forwards supplied the offense for the Black and Gold. Trent Frederic opened the scoring 45 seconds into the game, before later in the period, Curtis Lazar gave his teammates see breathing room with a goal off an Anton Blidh rebound. The Bruins’ fourth line of Lazar, Blidh, and Tomas Nosek scored what appeared to be a game-clinching goal midway through the third period, but it was called back for goaltender interference.

Against the Rangers, Charlie Coyle scored the Bruins’ only goal in the first period when he scored off a Craig Smith rebound. Regardless, any offensive production behind the top-line is welcomed and was a big reason why the Black and Gold have collected three points on the road in the last two games.

Bruins Prospects Making Impact for Injured Veterans

With Bergeron sidelined, prospect Jack Studnicka was recalled from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and has played well. Against the Hurricanes, Studnicka cleared a sure goal off the goal line while Boston was shorthanded and he went 9-for-17 on face-offs. Against the Senators, the 53rd pick in the second round of the 2017 Entry Draft had three shots on the net and won five of his nine face-offs centering the third line with DeBrusk and Nick Foligno. Numbers aside, Studnicka has proven that he is much more valuable when he’s at his natural position at center than on the wing.

Jack Ahcan, Boston Bruins
Jack Ahcan, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Against Carolina, Matt Grzelcyk was injured in the second period. He practiced the following day before the team departed for Ottawa, but prospect Jack Ahcan was called up from Providence and was inserted into the lineup against the Senators. In 15:12 of time-on-ice, Ahcan was effective and was even on the wrong end of a hit to the head by the Senators’ Austin Watson, who was suspended the next day by the NHL for two games. Watson received an interference penalty on the play. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Ahcan is undersized, but that did not stop him from turning in a solid performance along the blue line with partner Brandon Carlo. Grzelcyk returned to the lineup against the Rangers, which put Ahcan in the press box for the game.

Bruins Win Another Atlantic Division Game

In one of the tougher divisions in the NHL, the Bruins have done well within the Atlantic Division, posting a 10-3-1 record following their win over the Senators. Boston owns wins against each team in the division except the Toronto Maple Leafs, which beat the Black and Gold in the team’s only meeting so far this season, 5-2 on Nov. 6 in Canada.

Related: Bruins’ Remaining 2021-22 Schedule Poses Depth Challenges

The Bruins own three wins over the Buffalo Sabres and two each over the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and Senators. The Bruins have one win over the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning each. Why is this big? With 35 games remaining in the regular season, there are still a number of divisional games remaining, which will go a long way into how the division plays out in terms of playoff seedings.

Gallagher, Boston University Win Beanpot Title

After a one-year hiatus because of the coronavirus, the Beanpot returned to the TD Garden and the championship game Monday night was a classic that went down to the end. Ty Gallagher, a Bruins seventh-round draft pick in 2021, and his Boston University Terriers edged Northeastern University, 1-0, on a Dylan Peterson goal with just 2:46 remaining in the game. Peterson, drafted 86th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2020 draft, scored his eighth goal of the season to give the Terriers their first title since 2015 and their 31st overall.

Gallagher landed three shots on the net in the game and blocked four shots. The 6-foot-0, 190-pound right-shot is continuing his strong rookie season for coach Albie O’Connell as BU improved to 17-10-3 overall and 13-1-1 in their last 15 games.

In the consolation game, Boston College and Harvard skated to a 3-3 tie. Trevor Kuntar, a sophomore at BC and the Bruins 89th overall selection in the 2020 draft, had two shots on the net for the Eagles, who dropped to 10-15-3.

The Week Ahead

  • Thursday: at New York Islanders, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday: at Ottawa Senators, 7 p.m.
  • Monday: vs. Colorado Avalanche, 1 p.m.

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