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  • What We Learned: Bruins get caught sleepwalking

    Matthew Castle March 30, 2019
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    In their second to last home game of the regular season, the Boston Bruins welcomed the Florida Panthers for a Saturday matinee at TD Garden.

    It certainly felt like a matinee as the sluggish Bruins never found their groove. Riley Sheahan and Evgenii Dadonov took advantage of a few defensive lapses and put the Panthers ahead by two after 20 minutes.

    Noel Acciari cut the deficit to one after hammering home a rebound in the second period. But the Bruins couldn’t build on that momentum. Instead, on a power play late in the middle frame, they conceded a shorthanded tally from Troy Brouwer to give the Panthers the 3-1 lead.

    “We battled back from 2-0 [to make it] 2-1. [But] you could tell we didn’t have our A-game,” Bruce Cassidy said following Boston’s 4-1 loss. “Our execution was off…but this was a team loss, a total team loss today, in my estimation. We just were not crisp with the puck. Another day, if we had a little more puck luck, we might squeeze a point or two or get a win, but we certainly wouldn’t walk away and say ‘boy, this was one of our better ones’, no matter how this turned out today.”

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins had their 12-game home winning streak snapped at the hands of their Atlantic Division foes.

    Johansson’s first line experiment didn’t work

    In typical Cassidy fashion, the third-year Bruins coach shook things up during Friday’s practice giving Marcus Johansson a shot on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. David Pastrnak, fresh off his five-point outing against the Rangers, skated alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line.

    It was an effort to balance all four lines, especially with Pastrnak tallying four of his five points with DeBrusk and Krejci on Wednesday. It should’ve worked in theory. But Johansson is still trying to find his footing after his second game back from a lung contusion.

    Cassidy’s plan didn’t work at all. The Bruins looked a bit lost at times. Johansson just didn’t seem to mesh as well with Bergeron and Marchand as he did with Krejci and DeBrusk before his latest injury. The former Caps and Devils forward finished with a minus-one rating and failed to record a single shot on net in his 13:38 of ice time.

    “Listen, I have to find a place for him, but by the same token we’re here to win games and until we get locked in,” Cassidy said about his lineup. “I think I’ve coached that way since I got here. But no matter what, Marcus missed time. He’s not going to have a ton of time to find a line. So one or two games, yes, could help him, but I have to do what’s right by our group as well.”

    No one wants to overreact to a singular outing, but the Bruins should consider other options like Pastrnak and Danton Heinen on the top line. Both players have thrived in their minutes with the potent Marchand-Bergeron duo in the past. This isn’t an indictment of Johansson at all. He just doesn’t fit that top line role.

    The Bruins had all four lines clicking during their 19-game point streak and when Johansson was 100 percent healthy. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.

    Close but no cigar

    The Bruins didn’t play all that poorly, but they were a step or two off all game. Yet, they’re still kicking themselves after relinquishing several chances against Roberto Luongo and company.

    They outshot Florida 31-22, but it felt as if the Bruins were sleepwalking through the motions. Brad Marchand for instance — Boston’s leading scorer with 97 points — failed to convert on two point-blank opportunities that could’ve changed the tide.

    It was just one of those days.

    “At the end of the day I don’t think we did enough to overcome our poor puck luck to win the game by getting inside and making sure that we finished some plays around the net,” Cassidy said about Boston’s puck luck on Saturday.

    Luongo also had a hand in Florida’s victory in what could very well be his final appearance at TD Garden. The Bruins only put one puck past him and that simply won’t get the job done, especially with a bevy of defensive miscues.

    Chris Wagner wins 7th Player Award

    There were a plethora of deserving candidates to chose as this year’s 7th Player Award. Jaroslav Halak is one player that came to mind in his first season with the Bruins.

    But this year’s recipient Chris Wagner brought a local flavor to the award given out by NESN to the Bruin who performs beyond expectations. And he fit every distinction of the 7th Player Award.

    The honor, of course, meant the world to Wagner, who grew up in Walpole watching the Black and Gold as a kid. He went back to the time machine too when discussing what the 7th Player Award meant to him.

    “I watched Blaine Lacher get it back in [1994-95] so to get the fan support like that in my first year home really means a lot,” Wagner said.

    Very few expected the quality of production from Wagner after he inked his two-year deal with his hometown team this past off-season. The 27-year-old solidified Boston’s bottom-six with the best season of his career (12 goals, 6 assists in 74 games).

    Wagner, barely eclipsing six-feet tall, brings a contagious and physical energy to the B’s lineup. Don’t let his stature fool you, either. He leads the Bruins in hits with 245, which is also good for ninth in the NHL.

    He is the type of veteran player that you need to have during the playoffs to make gritty plays when it matters most. One play can make all of the difference in the postseason and Wagner will give his all for every loose puck and defensive battle.

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    Matthew Castle

    Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com

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