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  • What we learned: Bruins overcome Blues with McAvoy OT winner

    Tim Rosenthal April 20, 2022

    The Boston Bruins stopped the proverbial bleeding in a needed win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon. They encountered a pair of self-inflicted Blues before earning their second straight win Tuesday night in St. Louis.

    Some of Boston’s troubling trends continued with the slumping power play extending its skid to 28 straight attempts without a goal. Then came another tally in the final minute of a period on Robert Thomas’ tip-in equalizer with 2.4 ticks left in the middle stanza.

    The Bruins also had to overcome an early 1-0 deficit on Pavel Buchnevich’s power-play marker at 11:48 of the opening frame. But even without David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm — again — the B’s sustained a healthy rhythm during 5v5 play.

    Both of Boston’s second-period tallies came in the net-front area, with Jake DeBrusk tying things up on a rebound of his initial wraparound and Taylor Hall tipping Derek Forbort’s shot past Ville Husso.

    A heavy-checking stretch in the final 20 minutes resulted in limited quality scoring chances, thus forcing overtime.

    The Bruins encountered a hiccup in the 3-on-3 extra session after struggling to transition the puck into the attacking end following Charlie Coyle’s faceoff win. But they recovered and earned the 3-2 win over the white-hot Blues after DeBrusk found Charlie McAvoy alone in the slot for the clinching tally.


    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins pull within a point of the Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division.

    Despite late goal, the second period was one of Boston’s best of the season

    The Blues entered their locker room with newfound life following Thomas’ tip-in in the closing moments of the middle stanza.

    The Bruins went into the tight confines of the visiting locker room at Enterprise Center with a bit of a bitter taste in their mouth. Yet, they remained a confident bunch after their four forward lines and three defensive pairs kept the Blues in check.

    “They score that goal in the end there, so that’s obviously a little frustrating. But our mindset was, ‘hey we’re playing a really good game right now.'” McAvoy said of the middle 20.

    “I thought we were controlling play. I thought we were making really good decisions with the puck. We kind of made a change after the first to be more on top of them coming out of our own zone because they come with a lot of speed. They’re a really good line rush team. With all those little adjustments, I thought we played a really good hockey game.”

    Even with an 11-8 edge in shots on goal, Bruce Cassidy’s bunch struggled countering St. Louis’ speed and skillset during the opening stanza. They came out to the ice with a more aggressive forecheck in the second period.

    The adjustments allowed the Bruins to dictate transition and establish momentum following DeBrusk’s 23rd goal of the season and Hall’s 17th tally of 2021-22.

    “We were able to get on top of them, and that can put a team on its heels. They scored a big goal at the end of the period to sort of make it even. But for us, the second period was one of our best periods all year in terms of how we played the game and in terms of how we used everybody,” Cassidy said. “[We] minimized the damage in our end and had all four lines creating some opportunities at the other end.”

    With all the lineup juggling without Lindholm and Pastrnak, the Bruins managed to right the ship following their first three-game skid of the season. And one line, in particular, became a tone-setter in St. Louis.

    The Hall-Haula-Lazar trio dominated 5v5 play

    Without Pastrnak, the Bruins encountered a rotating door of right-wingers to skate with Hall and Erik Haula on the second line. With recent stopgap Jesper Froden (lower-body) joining Pastrnak and Lindholm on the injured list, the coaching staff turned to fourth-liner Curtis Lazar to provide a top-six spark.

    Lazar didn’t factor into Hall’s second-period tip on Forbort’s initial shot as Haula notched the secondary assist. But his energy and stingy checking traits complemented Hall and Haula well. The Bruins held a 9-0 shots on goal advantage in the first 9:27 of the Hall-Haula-Lazar trio.

    “He did his job. He’s going to play to his strength,” Cassidy said of Lazar. “[The second line] scored a goal; I don’t know how directly involved he was with it, but they contributed offensively and had a couple of other looks.”

    Lazar will return to fourth-line duty once the doctors clear Pastrnak. The Bruins hope Pastrnak’s return comes in the closing weeks of the regular season.

    The Bruins are getting used to playoff-like hockey

    No matter what, a formidable opponent awaits the Bruins in Round 1. The seedings and matchups are the only developments to solve before the beginning of May.

    But these tight-checking tilts like Tuesday in St. Louis only benefit the Bruins during the closing stretch. If an

    “Those are the games that are going to be like in the playoffs,” McAvoy said after notching his ninth goal of the season. “It’s certainly not bad to be playing those games as we build up.”

    On paper, the Bruins don’t stack up well against the likes of the Panthers, Hurricanes and Rangers. Yet a few fortunate bounces can turn any underdog into a potential Stanley Cup contender.

    The Bruins didn’t need puck luck so much against the Blues. But their defensive adjustments for the second period provide a potential blueprint against some of the more-skilled squads like the Leafs.

    The tune-up continues as they face a quartet of playoff-bound teams in their final six games, beginning with Thursday’s matchup against a struggling Penguins bunch in Pittsburgh.

    “That’s what it’s going to be the rest of the way. And we know that every game is an opportunity to prepare us for the playoffs from here on out,” goalie Jeremy Swayman said following Tuesday’s 20-save outing. “We love having teams that are going to give us that all-out effort every night, and we’re only going to get better from it.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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