Dan Vladar didn’t encounter the idealist scenario heading into his first career start Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The struggling Boston Bruins entered their second game in as many nights against the Penguins in desperate need of confidence.
The Bruins brought the effort for the second straight night. Bruce Cassidy’s bunch generated several high-quality scoring chances, this time with Casey DeSmith manning the Pittsburgh pipes. They managed to beat DeSmith twice — on David Pastrnak’s first-period power-play marker and Trent Frederic’s game-winning 5v5 tally in the third.
Thanks to Vladar’s stellar regular-season debut, the two goals were good enough to give the Bruins a much-needed win. Here’s what we learned after Boston improved to 15-8-4 on the season.
Vladar shines in first career win
If you had flashbacks of Tim Thomas’ diving stick save on Dominic Moore in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, well, you weren’t alone.
With the Bruins leading 1-0 in the first period, Vladar went from his left to right to rob Colton Sceviour with a 1-in-100 stop worthy of a SportsCenter play of the night.
“It was pretty unreal,” Frederic said of Vladar’s save of the year candidate. “Once he did that, I knew he’s locked in and we knew we had to get the win for him.”
Frederic and the other 17 skaters developed a solid attacking zone pace aside from a sloppy five-minute power play attempt in the second period. The offensive output didn’t match with the effort, however.
Vladar kept things steady amidst another rough scoring patch. His calm and cool demeanor resonated with his teammates, giving them the confidence to finally breakthrough in the end.
The red-hot Penguins pressured Vladar with traffic and shot attempts in prime scoring areas. Vladar, realizing that his pro dreams came true, remained up to the task en route to his first career NHL victory.
“I’m just the happiest guy in the world right now,” a perspective Vladar stated following his 34-save outing. “It was always my dream to play in the NHL, and I got an opportunity, and I won. There hasn’t been a better day for me hockey-wise.”
The Bruins threw Vladar into the proverbial fire in his first career appearance during last year’s second-round series with the Stanley Cup champion Lightning. He came into a tough situation on Tuesday with the injury-riddled B’s — still without Tuukka Rask, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller (to name a few) — hitting a dry spell.
Vladar now has a commemorative puck for his first career win. He won’t be relinquishing that cherished piece of memorabilia anytime soon.
“I’m probably going to sleep with it tonight,” Vladar said. “And I think I’m going to buy a safe and lock it [in] there, so no one can steal it from me.”
Frederic continues to earn his stripes
The former Wisconsin Badger began the year agitating the likes of P.K. Subban, Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. His blue-collar work ethic and spirited fighting style made him a fan favorite with Bruins fans.
Frederic’s growing skillset began to compliment his gritty style of play. He impacted Tuesday’s game on and off the scoresheet, drawing penalties, creating scoring chances and showcasing a heavy puck pursuit along the boards and in all three zones.
With the ongoing scoring conundrum, the Bruins needed someone to come through. They would’ve taken a goal from anyone on this night, be it through their top line or their secondary scorers. In midst of their 5v5 scoring drought dating back to last Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Rangers, Frederic came through in the clutch, breaking the even-strength dry spell at 7:07 of the final stanza to give the Bruins the 2-1 lead.
“It was good to score. It just felt good to win,” Frederic said. “Right now, we’re not finding the back of the net. But I think it’s a work in progress and it’s coming.”
Surely, the Bruins can’t afford to enter another postseason carrying their secondary scoring and 5v5 production issues with them. But Frederic remains a keeper as Don Sweeney searches for outside help with the April 12 trade deadline looming.
Brandon Tanev got the raw end of a game misconduct
Wilson’s cheap shot on Carlo nearly two weeks ago didn’t look good on the league. The Player Safety Department provided some justice with Wilson’s seven-game ban a day later, but the on-ice officials failed to assess a major penalty for a clear hit to the head.
Pierre Lambert was one of the two head referees from that March 5 matchup between the Bruins and Capitals. He officiated Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh. With the Wilson hit in the background, Lambert once again found himself with a potential game-altering call in the second period.
This time, Lambert and his staff over-officiated after assessing Brandon Tanev — Pittsburgh’s lone goal scorer — a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Jared Tinordi. Tinordi needed assistance following Tanev’s hit as he exited the game with an upper-body injury.
Tanev took a few extra strides on his way toward Tinordi. On his way down, Tinordi’s head collided into the boards outside of Boston’s bench area following Tanev’s hit to the chest.
An unfortunate circumstance led to Tanev’s ejection. Unlike Wilson with Carlo, Tanev didn’t intend to hit Tinordi in the head.
The punishment didn’t fit the crime. There’s certainly an argument to call a two-minute minor for either boarding or charging, but not a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
The league continues to struggle to find consistent policies with headshots. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby sounded off Tanev’s hit afterward. Brad Marchand echoed similar sentiments after Wilson’s hit on Carlo.
Player safety remains a primary concern with the concussion epidemic throughout contact sports. The NHL implemented several safety protocols addressing the issue over the last decade. But their inconsistent approach to implementing and improving the rulebook — specifically addressing headshots — proves they have a long way to go.
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