Behind another productive offensive night throughout the lineup and a stellar goaltending performance from Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins seemingly regained their edge to cap off a perfect 2-0 mark on their two-game siblings’ trip.
Just shy of three minutes into the opening frame, a fortunate and emphatic bounce off the end boards in Boston’s zone sprang Brad Marchand up the ice. A patented give-and-go between Marchand and Patrice Bergeron gave the left-winger enough room to rifle a shot past Predators goaltender Juuse Saros for Boston’s first goal of the night.
Boston extended its lead to 2-0 a mere 1:11 into the second period when Saros initially denied Craig Smith’s backhand bid before former Bruin Jeremy Lauzon redirected the puck on Smith’s rebound bid.
A stretch pass from Hampus Lindholm found the streaking Bergeron, whose glove side snapshot cruised past Saros to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead and snap their 0-for-21 skid on the power play.
The offensive surge continued as Derek Forbort found the back of the net after Lauzon tipped Forbort’s attempted pass for Charlie Coyle to give Boston the commanding 4-0 lead.
Some slick skating from Lindholm and a skillful spinning pass from Nick Foligno to Trent Frederic extended Boston’s lead to 5-0 with 6:13 remaining in the third.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 41-8-5 on the season.
Swayman shines again
Vezina-favorite Linus Ullmark may be getting the bulk of the starts and spotlight, but that doesn’t mean that Boston’s “backup” has been anything less than stellar.
Swayman stood tall against Nashville, turning away 29 shots, including several high-danger chances through the third period for his second shutout of the season and the seventh of his young career.
Even with the lopsided result, the Bruins needed Swayman’s timely saves, according to head coach Jim Montgomery.
“Our defense-to-offense was really good,” Montgomery told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “Our offense-to-defense was not. Thank god Swayman was terrific tonight.”
In addition to his two shutouts, Swayman now holds a 2.21 GAA and a .918 SV% and remains an essential cog in Boston’s success.
On Thursday, Swayman provided a steady last line of defense to preserve the shutout against a desperate Predators squad.
“It’s just one shot at a time. I don’t get nervous; I get excited,” Swayman said to reporters as he was flanked by his sister, Elizabeth, during his postgame media session. “It’s the best game in the world, and those big moments are when it’s most special.”
Boston’s power play got back on track.
Following an uncharacteristic stretch where they dropped four of five, the Bruins appear to be returning to form. Among the list of notable concerns during that stretch was the ineffective setup within their power play.
The Bruins’ power play finally broke through in the second period of Thursday’s win. Bergeron’s breakaway goal marked Boston’s first man-advantage tally in 21 opportunities across seven games.
Frequent over-passing and undershooting, and unforced turnovers kept both of Boston’s power play units off the scoreboard. And while Bergeron’s breakaway tally wasn’t a typical power-play goal, the Bruins may finally have something to build on with the man advantage.
“Of course, you want some results, but I think that first and foremost, you want to create some momentum out of it,” Bergeron told NESN’s Adam Pellerin. “I thought that tonight we had some good looks even early on, and that’s what you want to build from….and tonight was a good example of how we want to play on the power play.”
Back in the saddle again
To say that Boston has been fantastic this season is an understatement. And with the pace they had sustained for the majority of the season, it was only a matter of time before their mortality reared its head.
Including their first game back from the All-Star break, the Bruins entered their road trip having lost four of their last five. A fanbase that had been accustomed to the team’s seemingly inevitable success grew somewhat dismayed with the drop-off in effort and production.
Thursday marked the Bruins’ first set of consecutive wins since Jan. 24. More importantly, their quality of play has improved since their loss to Washington last Saturday. They kicked the overpassing habit to the curb while decreasing their turnover totals and showcasing more purpose and potency on both special team’s units.
Yes, the power play isn’t out of the woods quite yet. And yes, the lineup is surely missing the likes of Jake DeBrusk and a top-notch penalty killer in Tomas Nosek. But if the Bruins didn’t find success without them, it’s unlikely their returns alone would move the needle.
It’s better for any injured player to return to a team mid-stride than to one struggling to get in motion. With Montgomery “very hopeful” for DeBrusk to return to play this upcoming Saturday, the Bruins may get exactly that.
And how fitting would it be if Boston’s worst slump of the season lasted no more than five games?
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