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  • Takeaways: Bruins succumb to lapses and ineffective checking

    Tim Rosenthal March 22, 2024

    The Boston Bruins established a foundation in the opening 20. They had a chance to prove they can handle their own against a well-rounded New York Rangers bunch.

    Instead, Jim Montgomery’s squad self-inflicted against the top team in the Metropolitan Division.

    Amid a sea of chaos in front of Quick, assertive Jake DeBrusk pounced on a loose puck at 8:04 of the opening frame to give the Bruins the early advantage.

    The ill-timed blunders in the second promptly put the Bruins in chase mode.

    Artemi Panarin pounced on Danton Heinen’s lapse along the front of the net to beat a screened Jeremy Swayman for his first of three tallies.


    The Rangers capitalized on a Hampus Lindholm giveaway late in the middle frame. A diving DeBrusk could entirely interrupt Panarin’s along the net as the puck bounced off his arm and past Swayman.

    The Bruins found new life on Justin Brazeau‘s equalizer early in the third. But without much pushback, Adam Fox sunk Boston’s D to beat Swayman on the short side post a mere 40 seconds after Brazeau’s net-front tally.


    The Rangers entered shutdown mode in the final minutes, preventing the Bruins from generating quality looks on Jonathan Quick. They promptly capped off the 5-2 win behind empty net tallies from Mika Zibanejad and Panarin.

    Here’s what we learned as the Broadway Blueshirts complete the three-game regular season sweep of the B’s.

    Bruins “weren’t hard enough on pucks” following a solid opening 20.

    DeBrusk’s eyes lit up once he saw a loose puck in the slot amid Boston’s slew of secondary bids on Quick to close out their first power play opportunity.

    At that point, the Bruins established a blueprint along the net front. They returned to that formula early in the third when Brazeau poked a rebound along the crease past Quick.

    Those sequences were merely outliers.

    After firing 14 shots in the first, the Bruins only mustered 12 on net during the final 40. Over that span, they struggled to sustain much of a forecheck and hardly looked in sync off the rush.

    “They checked really well. I don’t think we checked really well,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think we competed hard on pucks.”

    “The puck was bouncing, but we just couldn’t get through their first layer,” DeBrusk added. Whether it was our forecheck or with numbers or any odd-man rushes, it was one of those games where we felt like we were fighting it, and when we did get it, we got the wrong reads.”

    Conversely, Boston’s core of blue-liners struggled once again to keep Swayman’s crease clean.

    According to Natural Stat Trick, the Rangers generated 13 high-danger scoring chances during 5v5 play to the Bruins’ four. Between the turnovers and the soft coverage along the net, Swayman struggled to track pucks through traffic, beginning with Panarin’s first goal.

    “It was kind of a broken play, and then it went through a couple of skates,” Swayman said. “It’s one that I can work on seeing through traffic, and again, another opportunity I can work on…make a save and we move on from that and finish off the period.”

    Instead, the Bruins entered chase mode on a night where they developed little traction in multiple areas.

    The primary power play unit has hit a wall.

    The Bruins may possess one of the league’s top-tier power play units. Their recent string of production since their four-game trip out west suggests they’ve hit a stride at an ideal point of the year.

    Well, one unit has, anyway.

    The Bruins notched seven power play shots in their three attempts. Five of those shots came from their secondary unit of Brazeau, DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Morgan Geekie and Kevin Shattenkirk. 

    Boston’s five-person rotation on PP2 ultimately set up DeBrusk’s marker. Their primary unit, comprised of Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Pavel Zacha, and Charlie Coyle, however, hardly generated clean zone entries against New York’s aggressive shorthanded unit, leading to frequent one-and-dones and very little time spent in the attacking end.

    This wasn’t just a one-off with the primary unit. They’ve only accounted for two of Boston’s 10 recent man-advantage tallies. 

    “Our second unit has probably scored eight of our last ten power-play goals,” Montgomery said. “We’ll look at the film, and we’ll get better.”

    That production won’t suffice come Round 1. But maybe some time away from Causeway Street will provide a bit of a reset.

    An opportunity to round into playoff form on the road awaits.

    An Original Six foe, coupled with Celine Dion’s pregame lineup read inside Boston’s tight-knit locker room, presented a dosage of anticipation. But Thursday’s late-season matchup proved how much further the Bruins may have to go to overcome some of their issues in recent postseason eliminations against heavier skilled squads like the Panthers and Hurricanes.

    New York’s roster makeup resembles some similarities to Carolina and Florida. As it turns out, the Bruins will face the Cats and Canes during their upcoming six-game road trip.

    Amid more growing pains, the Bruins will begin their swing Saturday matinee in Philadelphia against the desperate Flyers. They’ll face three other teams fighting for their playoff lives in Tampa, Washington and Nashville.

    Indeed, the Bruins will want to achieve some positive results during this battle-tested stretch. But the process of rounding into playoff form remains a top priority.

    “I have no doubt in this team. There’s no doubt in this locker room,” Swayman said. “When we lose, when we win, there’s opportunities to grow, experince is gained, and we’re going to do that on this road trip. We’re looking forward to it.”

    The Bruins limped into the playoffs before, specifically before their run to the Cup Final in 2013. And in the past, they’ve leaned on their depth and veteran leadership to turn on the proverbial switch.

    This year’s transitional bunch doesn’t have that luxury. They’ll need all hands on deck to gain the necessary momentum ahead of the playoff grind.

    Between some declining production from the top-six, including Brad Marchand, and Swayman’s second-half lull, the Bruins need everyone clicking regardless of what first-round matchup awaits.

    “Everywhere, baby. Everywhere,” the ever-upbeat Swayman said regarding the specific areas he wants to improve on ahead of the playoffs. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for that, and I’m excited to get better.”

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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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