In this week’s edition of Boston Bruins Weekly, the winning steak comes to an end at six games, coach Bruce Cassidy calls out the bottom-six forwards following a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the power play struggles continue, and more.
Winning Streak Snapped By Sabres
Following two trades on April 11 by general manager Don Sweeney to acquire defenseman Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators and forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabers, the Bruins won six consecutive games to open an eight-point lead over the New York Rangers for the fourth and final MassMutual East Division playoff spot. Their six-game winning streak came to an end Friday night in a 6-4 loss to the Sabres, then they dropped a 1-0 decision to the Penguins Sunday, which has allowed the Rangers to close within four points.
During the winning streak, the Bruins played some of their best hockey of the season. Their top-six forwards carried them with 18 goals and 21 assists in the six victories, but the separation in the division has closed following the two losses. Boston did bounce back Tuesday night for a 3-1 win over the Penguins to keep the Rangers four points back, following their win over the Sabres.
The sprint to the finish for the fourth and final playoff spot will come down to the final eight games. The Bruins play two games each with Sabres and New Jersey Devils, the bottom two teams in the division, before a key two-game set at home against the Rangers on May 6 and 8. Boston does have two games in hand on the Rangers, but they have struggled against the Devils this season, going 2-3-1, while winning five of six games against Buffalo.
Following Sunday’s loss to the Penguins, Cassidy called out the bottom six forwards for their effort. The third line of Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie, and Jake DeBrusk, along with the fourth line of Sean Kuraly, Lazar, and Chris Wagner drew the criticism of their coach.
For the second time this season, DeBrusk was made a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against the Penguins and Trent Frederic was inserted into the lineup. During the game, Cassidy adjusted his bottom-six by moving Ritchie to the fourth line and Frederic up to the third line. Coyle has now gone 28 consecutive games without a goal. Could he be the next healthy scratch or will Cassidy ride it out with him? Time will tell.
It will be interesting to see how DeBrusk responds to his second time being a healthy scratch. He was scratched on March 9 against the New York Islanders, then he returned two nights later and scored a goal against the Rangers. With the top two lines producing as of late, getting the third line going would make the Bruins an even more dangerous team down the stretch.
Power Play Struggles Continue
One of the Bruins’ strengths over the last couple of seasons has been the success of their power play. Last season, they finished second in the shortened regular season to the Edmonton Oilers. This season, Boston started the season, 10-1-2, and the power play was what carried them to their hot start. Since then, it has struggled.
The Bruins have gone scoreless in their last 13 chances and have slipped to 15th in the league. Their last power play goal was scored by Craig Smith on April 15 against the Islanders. During their recent six-game winning streak, Boston scored 17 5-on-5 goals, which is a promising sight considering how much they struggled in that department before the streak. If the Bruins are going to hang on to the final playoff spot, then fixing their power play woes is a must.
Coyle Reaches Milestone
This season has been a struggle for Coyle, but the nine-year veteran reached a milestone in the Bruins 5-1 win over the Sabres Thursday night. The Boston native picked up his 300th career point when he set up Ritchie for a third-period goal. This season, Coyle has five goals and 10 assists and he is in the second year of a six-year, $30 million contract he signed in November of 2019.
The Bruins acquired Coyle at the trade deadline in February of 2019 from the Minnesota Wild and he has 23 goals and 35 assists in 138 games in Boston. In his seven seasons with the Wild, he scored 91 goals and dished out 151 assists in 479 games.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday: vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Buffalo Sabres, 1 p.m.
- Monday: at New Jersey Devils, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday: at New Jersey Devils, 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.