“We have a standard here, right?” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the Bruins snapped their first three-game skid of the 2021-22 season. “So we’re not going to go out and celebrate that we made the playoffs, but it’s still an accomplishment you should be proud of.”
The Bruins went to work quickly as a returning Trent Frederic, a game removed from sitting as a healthy scratch against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, put the team ahead 1-0 a mere 49 seconds in.
On the very next shift, Erik Haula doubled the B’s lead to 2-0 on a deflected shot off a Penguins defenseman in front.
In just over two minutes, the Bruins potted a pair of goals to put the Penguins on their heels early.
Pittsburgh didn’t respond until the second stanza when former Bruin Danton Heinen notched his third goal in two games against the B’s on a shot from the slot about five minutes into the period.
The Penguins garnered some solid looks in the third, but a poised Jeremy Swayman held strong, earning 23 saves in the winning effort.
Here’s what we learned following Saturday’s playoff clincher.
Two games later, Frederic showed exactly what he can bring to this B’s forward group with a game-opening goal in-tight around the opposite crease.
“[Craig Smith] made a good play and put the puck to the net,” Frederic said. “When our line is successful, that’s what we do. We just got a good balance.”
The third line of Charlie Coyle, Smith and Frederic struggled to generate effective shifts in the offensive zone heading into Saturday. The trio looked to get some of that mojo back against the Penguins as they combined for eight shots on goal.
“I thought they practiced well yesterday and [Frederic] was rewarded right away for going to the right spot,” Cassidy said. “I liked that Smitty attacked the line. That line has been getting farther and farther away from the net and that’s what I mean. Smitty didn’t walk up and farther than he had to. He collected the puck, saw a seam and got it to the net.”
The Bruins’ third line has established itself as a difference-maker. A return to good habits from Coyle, Smith and Frederic marked an encouraging development with the postseason on the horizon.
The power play struggles didn’t come back to haunt the Bruins
The Bruins have now gone seven consecutive games without a power play goal following Saturday’s 0-for-2 outing.
However, the lack of finish didn’t come back to bite the B’s as it had in previous games as the Penguins struggled to generate any momentum with their two successful penalty kills.
“I thought our entries were much better the second time. We stuck to our structure and support. Second power play we moved the puck better,” Cassidy said of the power play. “I thought we missed a couple opportunities to hit the open guy by holding onto it for a little too long.”
Matt Grzelcyk switched in for Charlie McAvoy on the point for the first unit. Other than that, the Bruins kept the same groups intact in their sixth game without David Pastrnak in the lineup.
Swayman righted the ship
Things weren’t looking so good for Swayman during Thursday’s loss to the Senators as the rookie surrendered three goals in the middle frame in a relief appearance for Linus Ullmark. But the young netminder slowly regained his confidence with a few breakaway stops against the Sens in the third.
Swayman looked confident again two days later as he carried that momentum from Thursday’s third period against the Sens into a stout 60-minute outing against Pittsburgh.
“You want to take positives out of every game, and to have that third period go the right was definitely a good thing for me,” Swayman said.
The Penguins pressed in the third, throwing nine shots on goal, including a Rikard Rakell shot that nearly evened the score, but a sound Swayman was up to the task.
Swayman had only picked up one win in his last five appearances. Saturday’s playoff-clinching win should settle the netminder back down.
“It’s important,” Swayman said. “We know every game from here on out is going to be high-level.”
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