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  • Takeaways: More ill-timed penalties and little support for Jeremy Swayman

    Tim Rosenthal January 12, 2024

    LAS VEGAS — Jim Montgomery provided the most promising news possible with the injury updates to Matthew Poitras, Brandon Carlo and Linus Ullmark.

    The aforementioned trio remain on the Bruins’ road trip. All three are day-to-day, with Ullmark nursing a lower-body injury as Carlo (placed on injured reserve Thursday), and Poitras continue to heal from their respective upper-body ailments.

    None suited up for Thursday’s tilt against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, who arrived in the early morning hours fresh off a 3-0 loss in Colorado. Yet, Boston’s injury situation hardly resembled that of Bruce Cassidy’s bunch as he entered the third matchup against his former team with seven players on injured reserve.

    On a night where neither team could generate many scoring chances in the first 40 minutes, the Golden Knights persevered. They even overcame a pair of injury scares when Jack Eichel and captain Mark Stone exited during the second period.

    Eichel and Stone both returned by the third. The former drew first blood on the power play after tipping home a Jonathan Marchessault feed early in the final frame.


    Amid an evening of penalty trouble and an offensive shortage, the Bruins found their skating legs following the Eichel marker. Eventually, they found the back of the net when Matt Grzelcyk’s shot navigated through traffic and past Logan Thompson for the equalizer at 12:18.

    Even though they allowed 25 shots on net, the Bruins still relied heavily on Jeremy Swayman time and again. The fourth-year Bruin remained up to the task, helping his team get to OT with multiple timely stops that included a highlight-reel robbery of Ivan Barbashev.

    Swayman’s teammates, however, failed to provide support. In the end, the Golden Knights took advantage in another neutral zone coverage, with Alex Pietrangelo walking off Vegas’ 2-1 win a mere 45 ticks into overtime.

    Here’s what we learned as the slumping Bruins sit only one point ahead of the white-hot Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division.

    Swaywman had an animated postgame interview.

    The Bruins entered their centennial season with transitional roster matching their reliable core members with bargain bin signings, younger players getting their feet wet at the NHL level. Because of that, they knew they had to lean on Ullmark and Swayman to carry them through some difficult stretches.

    Through the last three games, in particular, the Bruins made life a little too difficult for their dynamic tandem. At this rate, they’ll encounter similar issues if they throw the recently recalled Brandon Bussi into action during Ullmark’s absence.

    “Unfortunately,” Montgomery said, “our goaltender has to make several great saves for us just to get a point right now.”

    Ullmark and Swayman salvaged three of a possible six points out of this road trip. Without them, the Bruins would likely sit in wild-card territory.

    Perhaps that’s why Swayman became quite animated when addressing Barbashev’s save in his postgame interview. 

    “I have to make saves like that in timely manners. I’m happy to have that, but we’ve got to finish these kind of games,” Swayman said. “It’s just not acceptable at this point.”

    Swayman didn’t get the goal support he needed. Nor did he have much help defensively even as the scoresheet credited Boston with 22 blocked shots on Thursday.

    Within that 60-plus minute framework, the Bruins allowed 10 high-danger scoring chances. Eventually, they generated their share of quality scoring bids but failed to deliver that timely marker.

    As difficult a time they encountered within this three-game stretch, Swayman feels the Bruins will eventually come on the other side of the recent bitter overtime endings.

    “I’m excited to get to work and do what we need to do to finish games because we will soon finish those games, and it will feel [expletive] good.”

    The penalty trouble is becoming an alarming trend.


    James van Riemsdyk committed the first penalty of the night on a tripping infraction against Ivan Barbashev. The veteran didn’t receive the benefit of the doubt when it appeared that Barbashev had simply lost an edge before van Riemsdyk’s stick entered the vicinity of his skate.

    Charlie McAvoy’s delay of game penalty didn’t warrant a call as the puck tipped off a Vegas stick into the stands in the second period. A Danton Heinen hooking call early in the third provided Montgomery to deliver an expletive-laden tirade toward the men in stripes.

    The Bruins benefitted from a makeup call on Barbashev during Heinen’s first infraction. The winger’s second penalty of the third, however, exemplified Boston’s penalty issues, which led directly to Eichel’s tally.

    The latest issues with puck management resulted in the Bruins reaching for puck possession. At times where playing the body would’ve been better off, the Bruins instead decided to try and gain the upper-hand in one-on-one battles through stick work.

    Indeed, they’ve succumbed to egregious officiating like every team does. But the Bruins, who sit second in the league with 169 minor penalties through 41 games, also committed their share of warranted infractions.

    “Players are unwilling to check with their legs to get above pucks, and then using their sticks and arms to go through bodies,” Montgomery explained. “We reach a lot, and we don’t get above, so we’re playing from behind, and it leads to hooking and tripping penalties.”

    The ill-timed penalties taxed Boston’s penalty kill in Vegas. Behind Swayman and Ullmark, the Bruins delivered timely kills and remain among the league’s top shorthanded units.

    Boston’s 85.3 percent success rate on the penalty kill sits third, trailing only the Flyers and Kings. Even with their reliable shorthanded unit, committing fewer penalties will help provide some needed relief for their reliable netminders and the current patchwork of blue-liners.

    Missed opportunities prevented the Bruins from turning one point into two.

    Boston’s penalty kill persevered in the third to force overtime in Denver. The Bruins encountered a 4-on-3 power play for the final 1:58 of the extra session but failed to steal an improbable second point against the Avalanche after Valeri Nichushkin scored the lone tally in the shootout.

    David Pastrnak had a couple of breakaway chances to secure a Boston win in overtime. The Coyotes walked off with their 4-3 victory after Nick Schmaltz fired a top-shelf marker on the only shot against a rusty Swayman.

    That trend continued in Vegas. The Bruins fired 15 shots in the final 20 against Thompson and got one on Grzelcyk’s tally. They could’ve had an earlier equalizer if it weren’t for Thompson’s flashy pad stop on Morgan Geekie following a nearly disastrous turnover in front of the net.

    In all three games, the Bruins netted a tying marker in the third. Yet, the missed opportunities trump the silver linings of coming away with one point in Colorado, Arizona and Vegas.

    “When you look back on it, it’s good to get a point,” Geekie said. “But it still hurts nonetheless.”

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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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