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  • Takeaways: Bruins encounter emotional drop off in Tampa

    Tim Rosenthal March 28, 2024

    TAMPA — Replicating an emotional effort from the night before against the Florida Panthers would’ve been a difficult ask for the Boston Bruins.

    But Jim Montgomery expected better, even on a second game of a back-to-back.

    Wednesday’s tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second half of the Florida trip presented its share of tense moments. After all, both teams had some stakes to claim.

    The Bruins needed a point to secure their eighth straight playoff appearance. The red-hot Lightning, returning from their latest west coast trip, could move within two points of the Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.

    But neither team could generate anything to resemble a playoff-like environment. And in Boston’s case, they entered chase mode early.

    Danton Heinen provided Boston’s lone equalizer late in the first, notching his 15th of the season 7:05 after Mitchel Chaffee’s opening marker 10:06 in.

    Boston’s stagnant power play failed to convert on its two second-period attempts after Brayden Point’s wraparound at the 6:50 mark put Tampa ahead for good.

    The Lightning had numerous chances in the final 20 to extend their 2-1 lead even after a successful offside challenge from the Boston bench overturned Steven Stamkos’ would-be insurance marker. By then, however, the Bruins felt the effects and heavy legs of the second half of a back-to-back.

    After keeping his team afloat during a 27-save performance, Linus Ullmark couldn’t leave his crease for the extra attacker until the final minute in regulation. Despite a few breaks, the Bruins generated little to no attacking zone pressure in the third.

    Nikita Kucherov finally added that elusive insurance marker in the closing seconds, beating out an icing to put the finishing touches on Tampa’s 3-1 victory.

    “I didn’t think either team was on top of their game, to be honest,” Montgomery assessed.

    Here’s what we learned from Boston’s slip-up in the “Cigar City.”

    New look D pairings weren’t up to point.

    The Bruins’ lineup heading into Round 1 is far from settled. The defensive pairings, in particular, remain a work in progress.

    On Wednesday, Montgomery and the coaching staff broke up a struggling second pairing of Brandon Carlo and Hampus Lindholm. The thought process wasn’t so much about that but rather about observing how the potential pairings might fare if injuries or unforeseen developments forced the coaching staff’s hand.

    Carlo moved into a role alongside Parker Wotherspoon, thus leaving Lindholm with the recently acquired Andrew Peeke. The latter pair factored into Boston’s worst lapse.

    A bad angle from Lindholm along the goal line prevented the veteran from meeting Point along the walls following a fortunate bounce. The talented Tampa centerman promptly circled around the net uncontested, with Peeke well out of position, leading directly to the go-ahead marker.


    “I just have to check off and meet him at that far post,” Peeke said of the breakdown during Point’s marker. “Obviously, it’s a nice wraparound by him, but I just got to check off and meet him at that post earlier if I can.”

    A night after confronting the moment head-on, the Bruins failed to build on a potential momentum-shifting win. But they would’ve faced more discussions around their playoff lineup conundrum regardless.

    Boston’s third line needs a new presence.

    Over the last few weeks, James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Lauko settled into a rotation on Boston’s third line. Neither provided any desired results to warrant a potential left-wing playoff role next to Morgan Geekie and Trent Frederic.

    Lauko served as a healthy scratch after logging 8:57 time on ice and a minus-two rating the night before. van Riemsdyk didn’t fare much better against the Bolts.

    Amid declining offensive production, van Riemsdyk struggled to withstand Tampa’s speed and forecheck. The veteran power forward failed to account for Chaffee on the opening goal and followed up by committing an ill-timed holding infraction in Boston’s attacking end on the Bolts’ third-line right winger.


    Justin Brazeau encountered middle-six minutes during his inspiring emergence into a regular role. The versatile Johnny Beecher would provide another enticing option if he can sustain a healthy late-season rhythm.

    Even Pat Maroon could become an option depending on how he fares upon his Boston debut. 

    Unless van Riemsdyk or Lauko can somehow overcome their funk, the Bruins will endure another round of questions surrounding the top half of their bottom six.

    An “impatient” top power play unit needs answers.

    Fresh off two straight losses and a sluggish practice, the Bruins turned to their leadership core to deliver a needed win in South Florida. David Pastrnak notched a timely goal and assist and factored into Boston’s first goal after delivering a reverse hit on Matthew Tkachuk to maintain puck possession along the walls.

    Pastrnak’s recent improvements in his checking game continued into Wednesday after Matt Dumba forced a turnover behind the net, leading to Heinen’s tally. But like the rest of his teammates, he felt he could’ve done more, especially on a sputtering top power-play unit.

    Pastrnak drew two trips, leading to Boston’s pair of chances with the man advantage. But they wasted the potential momentum-shifting developments, struggling to gain clean entries into the attacking end and misfiring on several passes, keeping their 2-1 deficit intact after 40 minutes.

    “A little bit impatient, obviously,” Pastrnak said. “We need to communicate more on the ice, especially. Teams are being aggressive against us, so we need more communication. It’s hard when you’re PP doesn’t go your way. You start losing confidence, and we need to get it back to you pretty quickly. Eight games left, so we need to get the PP where it used to be. We’re a good power play unit. Time is running out. We have to be better.”

    The Bruins may possess the league’s eighth-best power play unit. But lately, they’ve received most of their production from the secondary unit, including Tuesday when Trent Frederic one-timed a feed from Brad Marchand on one knee for Boston’s third equalizer.

    Getting the top unit to return to form remains one of Boston’s top areas for improvement during their challenging year-end stretch. Whether that’s through personnel changes, like Frederic in a net-front role, establishing another go-to option outside of Pastrnak’s one-timer from the circle, or simply remaining patient within their setup, the Bruins need answers quickly.

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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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