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  • Takeaways: Bruins’ struggles against current non-playoff teams continue

    Tim Rosenthal March 11, 2024

    Just one week ago, the Boston Bruins embarked on an emotional roller coaster.

    Jim Montgomery’s squad entered that four-day-in-six-day stretch as a battered bunch. They came into Toronto last Monday fresh off a lifeless showing on Long Island two nights prior. The trade deadline loomed for a team still lingering from a February swoon.

    Linus Ullmark and Jake DeBrusk faced a final round of rumors. Both remained in Boston following Friday’s deadline.

    The Bruins appeared to turn a corner, earning three of four victories against the likes of Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisitl and Sidney Crosby. Another collapse in the final minute of the third period against the Oilers prevented them from a clean sweep.

    Nonetheless, the Bruins entered a new week with their roster intact for the stretch run. Yet, they encountered a case of the Blues against a St. Louis bunch that entered Monday eight points out of the final wild card spot out west.

    Their effort against the Blues wasn’t poor per se, but their execution and attention to detail lacked.

    St. Louis capitalized on a friendly bounce on Kasperi Kapanen’s tally and a 5-on-3 marer from Robert Thomas in the first. 

    The Bruins didn’t get a break as an offside review overturned Justin Brazeau’s net-front tally. But that questionable decision didn’t prevent them from self-inflicting in the second.

    Kevin Hayes’ marker on an odd-man rush and Brandon Saad’s doorstep tally in the second put a flat Bruins squad in an insurmountable hole.


    David Pastrnak produced Boston’s only offense with a blast from the point early in the third. The Blues put the finishing touches on their 5-1 victory on Alexy Toropchenko’s long-distance empty-netter midway through the final frame.


    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins remain a point behind the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers.

    Boston’s struggles against current non-playoff teams continue.

    The third-period collapses became a common theme — again — coming out of the All-Star break. But one troubling trend may have surpassed the numerous meltdowns and subsequent overtime setbacks.

    Boston’s 5-1 triumph over the golf-course-bound Penguins marked its only victory against the current non-playoff teams since the beginning of February. After an emotional and executional dropoff on Monday, the Bruins dropped to 1-5-2 in their eight games against teams outside the current postseason-16.

    “Tonight, we just didn’t have the same emotion that we played with the last four games,” captain Brad Marchand said. “We’re at our best when we do play emotional. When we play like that, we play physical, move as a unit and play above teams. We didn’t do that. We gave them way too many odd-man rushes and dangerous looks.

    This development usually presents significant concerns during the home stretch. Conversely, the Bruins would have a favorable first-round matchup against the Maple Leafs if the season ended today — a team they beat down twice last week to complete the regular season sweep.

    Neither team looks like they’ll lose much ground. The Bruins sit nine points ahead of Toronto for second in the Atlantic. The third-place Leafs have an eight-point edge over the Lightning and are ten points clear of the Red Wings.

    In the interim, the Bruins don’t want to turn a troubling trend into an ugly habit as Thursday’s tilt with the lowly Canadiens loom.

    Offside review was the least of Boston’s concerns.

    The Bruins faced a 3-0 deficit until the fourth line of Brazeau, Jesper Boqvist, and Jakub Lauko provided a little life. Or so they thought.

    While Boston’s offense generated quality looks in spurts, they could hardly sustain enough of a rhythm to rattle Joel Hofer. In the rare instance they did, the Bruins were either turned away by Hofer or encountered a tough break on a rather head-scratching decision from an offside review.

    The play in question came seconds before Brazeau’s aggressive drive to the net. The first-year Boston winger gained possession on an indirect feed from Lauko for re-entry along the blue line after the puck deflected off Torey Krug’s stick. That’s not what the Situation Room in Toronto or the men in stripes saw.

    “I thought initially because their defenseman hit the puck back that it was going to be a good goal,” Montgomery said. “They explained it was not a possession play — it was a battle play and our guy was in before the puck, clearly.”

    The Bruins remained three goals down. Perhaps they would’ve rode that momentum from Brazeau’s should be tally. Or, at the very least, it would’ve stopped the bleeding.

    Make no mistake, though. The Bruins were in chase mode from the get-go.

    The fourth line is beginning to gel.

    Jeremy Swayman’s exchange with Nathan Walker en route to the bench on a delayed penalty call caught the attention of the Causeway Street faithful. The fourth line generated some oohs and ahhs from the 17,850 in attendance on their quality looks around the net.

    The Bruins provided quantity (36 shots on net) but lacked the quality looks necessary to establish a dent against the St. Louis D. Their best chances came from that fourth trio of Lauko, Boqvist and Brazeau.

    In their 9:48 of 5v5 time on ice, the Bruins generated 11 shot attempts to St. Louis’ one and held a 6-0 edge in shots on net. The latter half of Boston’s bottom six also earned three high-danger scoring chances and would’ve had something to show for their effort if it weren’t for the offside challenge.

    “I thought we played pretty good,” Brazeau said. “I think we kept it simple, put pucks to good spots, and we were able to get it back and make some good chances out of it.”

    The Bruins will give Patrick Maroon a look once he recovers from back surgery. 

    They may also provide another opportunity or two to Johnny Beecher if his recent promotion extends a bit longer. The Bruins recalled Beecher after Charlie Coyle missed the morning skate while recovering from being “under the weather,” according to Montgomery.

    Boston will lean on Maroon’s playoff experience and leadership during the stretch run. They could turn to Beecher if they encounter faceoff or penalty kill trouble over a seven-game series.

    For now, Lauko, Brazeau and Boqvist remain keepers. Indeed, it won’t hurt if the trio forced the coaching staff’s hand to make the decision process a little more difficult over the next five weeks.

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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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