The Boston Bruins put themselves in the proverbial driver’s seat after a pair of David Pastrnak goalies in the opening stanza. Then they unraveled.
Even worse, they find themselves at a crossroads at a pivotal point of their 2021-22 campaign.
A pair of tallies from former Bruin Danton Heinen a mere 28 seconds apart in the middle stanza began the Pittsburgh Penguins’ comeback bid Tuesday night. Sidney Crosby put his team ahead for good with his 499th career goal on a broken play following his power-play marker.
The Bruins kept the pressure on Tristan Jarry but encountered several unlucky breaks following Crosby’s go-ahead tally. The opportunistic Pens pounced against Jeremy Swayman — in his first NHL start since Jan. 6 — and an out of sync Boston D, with Bryan Rust’s empty-netter securing a 4-2 victory to kick off the post-All-Star break slate.
Tuesday’s collapse in and of itself would’ve provided plenty of water-cooler discussions afterward. The Bruins would’ve preferred a morning after full of film study and preparations for Thursday’s tilt against another marquee team in the Carolina Hurricanes. Instead, they may encounter life without two of their battle-tested stars in Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s latest frustrating outing at TD Garden.
Marchand subject to further supplemental discipline
More often than not, Marchand kept his nose clean after the league ended his rather grotesque licking habit in the first and second rounds of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even a three-game ban for his slew foot of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson paled to his other moments of supplemental discipline.
But Marchand couldn’t escape the dark side on Tuesday in a couple of instances with Jarry. The first moment came when he stole the puck off Jarry’s stick when the Pens netminder attempted to give a fan a souvenir during a TV timeout in the second period.
One could attribute that first encounter with Jarry to Marchand’s cleverness. But there’s no argument to support Marchand punching Jarry in the helmet in the waning seconds.
Perhaps Marchand took exception to Jarry slashing Charlie Coyle seconds beforehand. And maybe Jarry’s comments at Marchand right before the punch irked the 12-year winger enough to retaliate. But cooler heads needed to prevail.
Now Marchand, with already one ban under his belt this season, potentially faces his eighth career suspension.
“It looks like some words were exchanged. I don’t know if there was an incident at the end of the second period that precipitated that. I was in the room, so I don’t know, [but] someone said that,” Cassidy said of the events surrounding the Marchand-Jarry incident. “Still, you gotta have better discipline at the end of the day. Brad’s a leader on our team. He needs to control his emotions in that situation.”
Marchand’s temper may cost him games. It could prove even more costly, with the Bruins potentially losing two-thirds of their top line for a significant amount of time.
The looming ramifications of losing Bergeron
The Bruins likely would’ve faced a shorthanded situation even if Marchand didn’t retaliate against Jarry.
Cassidy’s bunch needed all hands on deck — beyond Pastrnak and an improving second line — after relinquishing a two-goal lead for the third time in five games. The uphill climb became steeper after an awkward collision between Bergeron and Crosby in the third period.
Bergeron didn’t return. Cassidy didn’t have a definitive report on Bergeron’s status during his postgame press conference.
They tried to make the most of it with Coyle replacing Bergeron on the top power-play unit in Boston’s final chance with the man advantage shortly after. Any in-game replacement for Bergeron would’ve had their hands full.
Now Cassidy and the coaching staff have to wonder if they’ll encounter an extended timeframe without their captain. They have few — if any — internal options to serve as stopgaps to fill Bergeron’s two-way duties. The Bruins could bump the red-hot second trio of Pastrnak, Taylor Hall and Erik Haula to top-line minutes, especially if both Bergeron and Marchand miss time. Then they’d ask Coyle, Tomas Nosek and perhaps Jack Studnicka to fulfill their duties in the next-man-up scenario.
Missing Bergeron might significantly alter Don Sweeney’s trade deadline plans. Even with a healthy lineup, the Bruins need a top-six center and a top-four defenseman if they have any hope of making another playoff run.
While not as busy as Jarry, Swayman started off fine with 10 first-period stops, including a timely save on Jake Guentzel toward the end of the first period to keep Boston’s 2-0 lead intact.
But Swayman couldn’t escape the second-period blues. His D left him out to dry on the first Heinen tally, with the ex-Bruin easily finding time and space for a mini-breakaway tally.
Swayman’s biggest blunder came just 28 seconds later on a stop he usually makes 99 times out of a 100. But he encountered difficulties corraling Heinen’s relatively routine shot with the puck bouncing off his chest and over Swayman’s head past the goal-line for the demoralizing equalizer.
A broken play resulted in Crosby’s go-ahead marker at 12:53 of the middle stanza.
On the other end, the Bruins had very few answers against Jarry. Coming off a disappointing postseason, the Pens netminder continued his bounce-back season with a season-high 43 saves.
Jarry faced double-digit shot totals in each of the three periods, including 35 in the opening 40 minutes. He had little chance stopping Pastrnak’s two tallies but remained square to the puck with each shot attempt in one of his better outings of the season.
“They got saves and we didn’t,” Cassidy said. “Did we make some mistakes in front of our goaltender? Yes. But I don’t think we made a mistake on the second goal. It was a bad one…”
Even with a few road bumps, the Ullmark-Swayman tandem rarely became an issue for the Bruins. And indeed, Cassidy and company could’ve used a few timely saves from Swayman to keep them afloat.
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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