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  • Takeaways: Bruins’ power-play struggles in Brad Marchand’s 1000th game

    Tim Rosenthal February 14, 2024

    The Bruins’ effort against the Lightning Tuesday night wasn’t a carbon copy of their 4-0 win over the Western Conference-leading Canucks last week. It was, however, a significant improvement from their underwhelming outings against a pair of potential Draft lottery squads in the Flames and Capitals coming out of the All-Star break.

    The final result was a tad better from their two stinkers. But Jim Montgomery’s squad still fell a point short of securing another bounce-back win.

    The Bruins came back from a 2-0 deficit behind Charlie McAvoy’s point shot and a rebound marker from James van Riemsdyk. Brad Marchand, playing in his 1,000th career game, notched primary assists on second-effort sequences in the attacking end.

    At 5v5, the Bruins looked like the better team. Their only blemish at even strength came on the game’s first shot when Erik Cernak’s shot snuck past Linus Ullmark 3:21 in.

    Boston’s special teams, however, hardly clicked.

    A fast-paced Lightning power play overwhelmed a usually reliable Bruins’ penalty kill. Nikita Kucherov, the most dangerous weapon of Tampa’s potent man advantage, pounced to extend the Bolts’ lead to 2-0 on the heels of solid net-front work around Ullmark’s crease.

    The Bruins couldn’t counter Tampa’s 1-for-3 outing on the power play. They squandered a chance to take the lead with a trio of opportunities in the third and a chance in the final 2.6 ticks of overtime during a de-facto 5-on-3 situation, only to fall short during an 0-for-6 night on the man advantage.

    That left the door open for the Lightning in the shootout.

    Andrei Vasilievskiy followed up his 35-save performance with timely stops on Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak and watched Jake DeBrusk’s attempt go wide during the proverbial skills competition.

    Brayden Point received a friendly bounce off Ullmark’s stick and glove to net the lone shootout tally, ultimately securing Tampa’s 3-2 win.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins fall to 1-2-1 during their season-long seven-game homestand.

    Marchand takes in his 1,000th game

    Boston’s captain began his career in a fourth-line rotation alongside Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. Through will and skill, the 2006 third-round selection moved into a top-six role next to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi during his 2010-11 rookie campaign.

    Marchand never looked back, overcoming more hurdles after hoisting his first, and to date, only Stanley Cup. Along the way, he transformed his persona from an offensively skilled agitator during his “Little Ball of Hate” days into a well-rounded leader and potential Hockey Hall of Famer.

    As he fielded questions ahead of his latest milestone, Marchand displayed his trademark appreciative yet hardly satisfied mindset. But even he couldn’t completely block out the emotions from such an illustrious accolade.

    After all, Marchand witnessed Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci all take in the surroundings of a 1,000th game. In Marchand’s case, the tears began during Todd Angilli’s latest rendition of the national anthem.

    “I tried to block a lot of it out of my mind before the game; I just tried to stay focused and in the moment,” Marchand told reporters. “It’s something that going through a lot of these moments with like Bergy and Krech and Zee, that’s one of the things that I remember they did is they tried to take it in and remember the moment, and that was the opportunity to do that.”


    The Bruins announced they’ll honor Marchand’s 1,000th game in a pregame ceremony ahead of their Feb. 19 against Dallas. But they didn’t save every Marchand tribute for that Presidents’ Day matinee.

    During the first TV timeout, Boston’s production team revealed a montage highlighting Marchand’s notable highlights. And once again, Marchand got caught in the moment as he received stick taps from both benches and a standing ovation from the TD Garden faithful.

    “To look back on it and watch those memories is very special,” Marchand added. “You don’t get to remember every day, but this one I’ll remember forever.”

    The only thing really missing from Marchand’s latest achievement was a fitting result on the scoreboard.

    The power play disparity trumped Boston’s 5v5 performance.

    Even in a short five-game series during their two second-round matchups in 2018 and 2020, Boston’s power play remained effective enough to keep them within striking distance. But against a talented core of Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos and the other numerous weapons throughout their lineup, they couldn’t account for Tampa’s speed and physicality during their 5v5 play.

    The script flipped on Tuesday. The Bruins performed well enough through regulation, outshooting Tampa 22-15 while collecting 12 high-danger scoring chances at even strength. 

    “We thought for the majority of the game we were the better team,” Montgomery told NESN’s Andy Brickley. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we weren’t able to go ahead.”

    The Bruins won a majority of puck possession battles along the walls and in open ice, providing them with more opportunities to cash in on the power play.

    But as Tampa used its potent man advantage to generate early momentum, Boston’s power play encountered untimely lulls on three separate chances during the final 20 minutes.

    At times, the power play inched closer to cashing in, particularly when they worked the puck low. On the flip side, they struggled to connect on passes within their setup along the point and the half-wall areas.

    “What I liked is that we did get some opportunities down low in the slot,” Montgomery added. “What I didn’t like is how crisp our passes were and how quick they were. We have to move pucks quicker than we are.”

    The lack of physical pushback is becoming alarming.

    Amid a more balanced effort, another troubling development popped up after Mikey Eyssimont collided with Ullmark during a third-period sequence.

    Ullmark took exception, slashing the Tampa fourth-liner in the immediate aftermath. Kevin Shattenkirk also provided a helping hand after the whistle.

    That was the extent of the Bruins’ physical pushback during that sequence. Frankly, it wasn’t enough.

    Tuesday provided the latest example of the Bruins failing to appropriately aid one of their teammates. Even with fighting curtailed league wide, the B’s remain hesitant to engage in heated tensions.

    Over the last few years, the Bruins struggled against heavier teams around playoff time. Currently, they don’t have any scrappy personas within their bottom six willing to drop the gloves or land a heavy hit whenever things escalate.

    With limited cap space and draft capital at his disposal, GM Don Sweeney may need to get creative to even add a rugged presence on a checking line or bottom defensive pairing. Notable rumored names who fit the bill include veteran winger Pat Maroon and defenseman Jacob Middleton from Minnesota. Middleton provides more offensive upside of the pair, but any team would benefit from acquiring Maroon and his extensive postseason resume that includes three Cup rings — two with Tampa and one with St. Louis.

    Regardless, the Bruins can’t allow the lack of a pushback to fester during the home stretch. Otherwise, they’ll encounter a significant disadvantage amid the heightened tensions of playoff hockey.

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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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