With the 2021-22 regular season coming to an end, the Boston Bruins are inching closer to the Stanley Cup playoffs. They currently sit in the first Eastern Conference wild card position and since Jan. 1, the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the NHL along with the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche. Despite their strong play since the New Year, there are some concerns as the Black and Gold prepare for the first round of the playoffs beginning next week.
If there is one area that Boston needs to clean up it is their end of period and end of game situations where they give up goals in the final minute. It has cost them some points in the standings this season, but come playoff time, it could cost them their season and the run for the Stanley Cup.
Bruins Lead the League in Late Period Goals Allowed
Boston has allowed an incredible 26 goals in the final minute of a period in 81 games so far this season. To be honest, that number could easily be higher if not for goalies Jeremy Swyman and Linus Ullmark.
On a six-game West Coast road trip at the end of February and early March, the Bruins won five of the six games, collecting 10 out of a possible 12 points. Their one loss was a 4-3 setback to the Anaheim Ducks on March 1 when they allowed a game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation with the game tied 3-3. Charlie McAvoy was called for a penalty with 46 seconds left in the game and Trevor Zegras scored the deciding goal with 22 seconds left.
When the Bruins returned from that road trip, their first game at the TD Garden was a rematch with the Los Angeles Kings, a team they had beaten, 7-0, one week earlier when Jake DeBrusk recorded his first career hat trick. The Black and Gold held a 2-1 lead in the final minute when Trevor Moore tied the game with 26 seconds left. In overtime, Andreas Athanasiou won the game 1:53 into the extra session to get that valuable second point.
On April 5, the Bruins held a 2-0 lead on the Detroit Red Wings late in the first period when once again, a late period goal was allowed. Dylan Larkin’s shot deflected off of defenseman Brandon Carlo and past Swayman with 40 seconds left in the period to cut the deficit in half. That started a stretch of five Detroit goals in the final 40-plus minutes that led to a 5-3 Boston loss. Not to be left out, Zack Werenski and Gus Nyquist of the Columbus Blue Jackets have also been a number of opponents to score a back-breaking goal against Boston.
The latest final-minute goal was scored by Sam Reinhart of the Florida Panthers when he scored a power-play goal with 0.6 seconds remaining in the first period to tie the game 2-2 Tuesday night. That goal was scored after Haula and Taylor Hall each tallied goals six seconds apart earlier in the period to erase a 1-0 deficit. Incredibly, the Bruins went on to win the game over the Panthers, 4-2, and are 16-10 in games when allowing a goal in the final minute of any period.
Bruins Need to Fix Late-Period Issue Before Playoffs
One thing late period goals do is change the momentum in the game from one team to another. Against Detroit, it may not have affected the outcome, but going into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead is a lot different than taking a 2-1 lead. Momentum was clearly on the Red Wings’ side at that point and sparked them to build a 4-2 lead early in the third period. Boston played a very good opening period that night on the second of a back-to-back, outshooting Detroit in the first period, 18-12, and building a lead on goals from Erik Haula and a shorthanded tally from Carlo.
A lot of the problems late in periods and games stem from the Bruins not being able to clear pucks out of their zone, whether it’s by a defenseman or forward. Running around in the defensive end has been an issue, as has been defending in front of their goalie and clearing pucks. A lot of it could be mental or fatigue as well, but one thing is for sure, valuable points in the standings are being lost because of late-period goals that lead to frustrating losses.
The Bruins have been able to return the favor twice this season, both in home games. They beat the Washington Capitals, 4-3, on Jan. 20 when McAvoy scored a power-play goal with 45 seconds left. On March 10, David Pastrnak broke a 3-3 tie against the Chicago Blackhawks by scoring a game-winning goal with 18 seconds left in the game. It was nice when it happened for them, but it has happened against them more times this season than it should.
Late-period goals are momentum changers and could very well play a big part in playoff positioning. In the postseason, late-period goals can be the difference in winning or losing a game and even winning and losing a series. It’s an issue that needs more attention to detail by the Bruins. Closing out periods strong is a must from here on out.
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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.