The Boston Bruins went through the motions against the Vancouver Canucks.
Arriving in Western Canada late Tuesday, a fatigued and flu-ridden Bruins bunch managed to salvage a point against a lowly Canucks squad embarking on their second game of the Bruce Boudreau era. But Boston’s effort Wednesday night wasn’t worthy of two points.
A stout outing from Jeremy Swayman and a third-period equalizer from the fishbowl wearing Patrice Bergeron — on a 5-on-3 power play — sent the Bruins into the 3-on-3 overtime session. Yet, the Bruins once again had too many passengers.
Outside of the potent top line, with Brad Marchand returning from his three-game suspension, the offensively-challenged Bruins hardly generated many quality 5v5 looks on Thatcher Demko. Without a single shot on net from the second line through the first 40 minutes of play, the B’s moved Taylor Hall into third line duty with Nick Foligno and Trent Frederic while promoting Erik Haula to the second trio with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith.
The mixing and matching hardly worked. Nor did the Bruins receive a break after a pair of hit posts and an offside review negating Haula’s middle stanza breakaway tally.
“As far as our group not scoring, certainly it’s an issue that we focus on,” coach Joe Sacco said after watching his team fire 36 shots on goal. “We just want to make sure that they stick with it and don’t get frustrated. Usually, good players will find a way to score. If they keep putting pucks on the net, their scoring will come.”
Here’s what we learned following another frustrating outing for the Bruins.
The Bruins aren’t coming to their captain’s aid
Bergeron admitted his “modeling career” came to an end after breaking his nose for the seventh time. If anything, the captain helped model the Bruins into championship contenders during his nearly two-decade tenure.
Once again, Bergeron came through in a pivotal moment Wednesday. Facing a 1-0 deficit following Brock Boeser’s second-period power-play tally, Bergeron didn’t waste any time evening things up in the third period with a two-man advantage. A mere four seconds elapsed following Miller’s interference minor before Bergeron tipped home his ninth of the season.
Yet another frustrating trend continued with Bergeron — in the same building of Alex Burrows’ infamous chomp to the four-time Selke winner — through no fault of his own. Luckily, his face shield saved him from further repairs following Kyle Burroughs’ cross-check during a third-period exchange.
Bergeron held his own against Burroughs. His teammates, however, didn’t respond.
Quite frankly, the Bruins haven’t come to the captain’s aid following any of his altercations this season. This isn’t a one-off either.
Granted, the game trended away from fighting and intense physicality into a more skilled on-ice product over the last decade. But, the now occasional donnybrooks provide significant team-building traits during a long season.
The Bruins don’t have a Shawn Thornton, Kevan Miller, or other notable enforcers from years past to take matters into their own hands under similar situations. But a player like Foligno, a battle-tested veteran, or Frederic, a bottom-six sparkplug, shouldn’t shy away from responding to anyone who attempts to get under Bergeron’s skin.
Given the late-game situation, perhaps a physical response wasn’t worth the risk. The Canucks could’ve goaded the Bruins into a penalty following the Bergeron-Burroughs encounter. The Bruins more likely wanted to respond with a coveted go-ahead goal. Of course, they failed to accomplish that feat.
The Bruins can’t afford to lose Bergeron for a significant amount of time. They’ll need a passionate response — be it an offensive barrage, a fight or other physical methods — the next time their captain encounters turmoil.
Rask’s impending return presents another conundrum. Swayman’s latest run — stopping 94 of his last 98 shots — furthered the performance gap over Linus Ullmark. Yet, Don Sweeney won’t likely find a trade partner to take on Ullmark’s $5 million cap hit over the next four years.
Swayman’s waiver exempt status makes him a prime candidate to return to Providence following a potential Rask reunion. Given his trajectory, however, the former UMaine netminder needs to remain in Boston.
Ever calm, cool and collective, Swayman remained steady amid his third straight start. He faced a variety of scoring chances, from 2-on-0 rushes to routine shots through traffic, yet kept his team afloat with a handful of spectacular stops — 31 in all.
Ullmark will likely get his second look at the Oilers on Thursday. Conventional wisdom suggests he’ll remain put once Rask signs. Yet, Swayman’s growth since arriving on the scene last season with Rask and Jaroslav Halak injured remains the better short and long option with or without Rask.
“I’m just staying in the moment,” Swayman said of his approach to his first full professional season amid a variety of developments. “I’m just making sure I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win in the current game. Obviously, I think there’s a big difference from the start [of the year] to now. And I’m happy with it and I’m going to continue that.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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