The Boston Bruins officially clinched their playoff berth Saturday after going through something they have not endured all season long. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, the Black and Gold become the last NHL team to reach endure a long losing streak, prospects are chipping in both in Boston and the minors, another Bruin reaches a milestone and more.
Bruins Lose Three Games in a Row For First Time This Season
It took 73 games into the 2021-22 season, but the Bruins became the last team to lose three consecutive games this season. After losing to the Washington Capitals 4-2 on April 10 and then to the St. Louis Blues by the same score two nights later, the third straight loss came at the hands of a team that will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin next month.
On April 14, the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on the Ottawa Senators at the TD Garden, but three straight second period goals, two on the power play gave the Senators a 3-2 lead and that would end up being the final score. It was a rough night all around for the Black and Gold as Linus Ullmark was lifted after the first period when he took a shot off of his mask. Jeremy Swayman entered for the second period and was greeted with 15 shots, with three finding the back of the net.
The Bruins made sure that the losing streak would stay at three games as they bounced back Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins that officially clinched their playoff berth. Tuesday night, the Boston got revenge on the Blues when Charlie McAvoy scored 48 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory, with Swayman making 20 saves.
Froden Joins Fellow Prospects With NHL First
This season, some of the Bruins’ prospects have scored their first NHL goals. On Jan. 4, Oskar Steen scored his first career goal in the Black and Gold’s 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. In a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on March 10, defenseman Jack Ahcan scored his career goal, then on March 31 against the Devils, Marc McLaughlin scored his first career goal in a six-goal second period of an 8-1 victory. Jesper Froden joined fellow prospects in lightning the lamp for the first time in his career.
After McLaughlin gave Boston a 1-0 lead against the Senators on April 14, Froden doubled the lead with 59 seconds left in the period when he tipped Matt Grzelcyk’s shot from the point for his first career goal. The goal almost did not happen as he lost one of his gloves and thought about going to the bench for a change, but thought better of it and was rewarded.
“I guess I had better feeling to tip the puck there. It was fun to get the first one,” said Froden. “I try to stay in front of the net, battle for the puck and then I just lost my glove. I was thinking, ‘Should I change or should I stay?’ Then I saw that the D got the puck and I was trying to be in the lane and tip the puck there and see it went in. It’s an amazing feeling.”
In seven games this season, Froden has played well, most recently on the second line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. He will miss the upcoming two-game road trip against St. Louis and Pittsburgh after suffering a lower-body injury against the Penguins.
Bruins End Season With Tough Schedule
After Tuesday night’s overtime win over the Blues, the Bruins begin a stretch of six games in eight days to close out the regular season ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the remaining schedule, Boston will face four Eastern Conference playoff teams and three could be a first-round opponent, depending on where they finish in the standings.
Saturday afternoon, the New York Rangers make their second trip to the TD Garden and they are in a battle with the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Whoever finishes in first place will most likely get the first wild card team, which at the moment is the Bruins. The Rangers are Stanley Cup contenders and are led by 50-goal scorer Chris Kreider.
Tuesday night, the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers make their second trip to Boston, the team’s first meeting since a Bruins’ 3-2 shootout win on Oct. 30. The other meeting in Florida was won by the Panthers, 4-1 on Oct. 27. At the trade deadline, Florida added the top center on the trade market in Claude Giroux to give them depth up the middle and they are closing in on the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will get the second wild card team when the postseason begins. The Black and Gold will wrap up the season on April 29 on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in what could be another first-round matchup should the Bruins finish in third place in the Atlantic Division.
Prospects Making Good Impressions
Speaking of McLaughlin, the Massachusetts native who signed a two-year entry-level contract after his senior season at Boston College on March 15, has scored three goals, all at the TD Garden in four games. Not only has he put the puck in the net three times, but he has also been able to adjust to moving around the lineup. He started on the wing and recently moved to center, his natural position, on the fourth line and has impressed Cassidy.
“I’ll have to look at the structure part, but they were in [Ottawa’s] end a lot,” said Cassidy. “To me, he doesn’t have to worry about his position when you have the puck in their end and you’re playing down low. Marc’s played well. We haven’t built him in a lot into special teams because our special teams seemed, up to recently, solid…when he’s out there 5-on-5, he’s done a good job.”
Another prospect was recently rewarded for a very impressive first weekend in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins. Goaltender Brandon Bussi was named the AHL Player of the Week after an impressive performance in two games in Pennsylvania.
In a 3-2 shootout win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday night, Bussi stopped 28 shots and then turned back all three Phantoms shootout attempts. Sunday night in a 1-0 shutout of the Hershey Bears, he stopped all 26 shots he faced. Tuesday night in a 5-4 overtime win over the Phantoms, Bussi made 36 more saves.
Boston signed Bussi on March 30 to a one-year entry-level contract for the 2022-23 season after his career at Western Michigan ended in the NCAA Tournament, but with Troy Grosenick getting called up to Boston with Ullmark’s injury and Kyle Keyser missing the trip with an illness, Bussi took full advantage of his opportunity to impress the P-Bruins coaching staff. He certainly is making a name for himself ahead of the 2022-23 AHL season.
Forbort Reaches Milestone
Another week brings another milestone for a member of the Black and Gold. This time, first-year defenseman Derek Forbort reaches the milestone when he played in his 400th career game in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Pittsburgh in which he played 15:02 in time-on-ice.
It has been an up-and-down first season with the Bruins for Forbort. Despite already scoring a career-high four goals to go along with his nine assists, he has a plus/minus of minus-3. He has struggled this season at even strength, as well as on the penalty kill. Forbort signed a three-year, $9 million contract last summer, but one has to wonder if he could be a pieced move this offseason with the left side of the defense getting some depth following the acquisition of Hampus Lindholm at the trade deadline.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. New York Rangers, 3 p.m.
- Sunday: at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday: vs. Florida Panthers, 7 p.m.
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.