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  • Takeaways: Brad Marchand finally nets another milestone.

    Tim Rosenthal April 4, 2024

    Brad Marchand pounced on a breakaway to lift the proverbial monkey off his back a mere 2:12 into Thursday’s contest in Raleigh.

    The Boston Bruins then sewed further doubt into a rusty Carolina Hurricanes bunch and never looked back.

    By the midway point of the opening frame, the Bruins extended their lead to three after David Pastrnak and Danton Heinen netted their 47th and 16th goals of the season, respectively, along the net front. But they still needed to limit some damage during a second-period hiccup.

    Boston’s struggling power play failed to convert on a four-minute opportunity during the middle frame. The Bruins then took a trio of subsequent penalties, leading to Jake Guentzel converting on a bank shot during a 5-on-3 advantage to cut Carolina’s deficit to 3-1 late in the second.

    Despite that blip, the Bruins remained structured within their defensive layers, limiting a potent Carolina attack to mostly permitted-oriented chances in the final 20. Between their tight coverage and a solid outing by Jeremy Swayman, the B’s shut kept a talented Canes squad in check, eventually securing the 4-1 victory on Hampus Lindholm’s long-distance empty netter.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins maintain their four-point lead over the Florida Panthers ahead of Saturday’s matinee.

    Marchand finally netted his latest milestone.

    Marchand etched out a decade-plus career behind a hard-nosed, blue-collar work ethic. Over time, he’s racked up some notable accolades while rising up the franchise’s all-time scoring list.

    Whether he compiled 1,000 career games or 400 goals, the first-year Boston captain isn’t one to bask in any milestone. Nor is he a player who wallows whenever he’s in the middle of a scoring drought.

    But Marchand was well aware that for 10 games, he had sat on 399 goals. On Thursday, he quickly ended his slump with his breakaway marker to net his first goal since March 9 in a 5-1 win over the Penguins.

    “I try not to think about it, but obviously, it was kind of an elephant in the room. It was nice to get it, and I don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Marchand told reporters. “I’ve said this before, but I try not to think about things while I’m still playing. There’s much larger goals, and hopefully there’s still plenty more. So, I’ll reminisce in the end.”

    The lone holdover from Boston’s 2011 championship squad has encountered similar double-digit droughts before. Marchand endured a 16-game skid last season and 11 in 2021-22. In both instances, he broke his drought in his second-to-last appearance of the regular season.

    In his first season without Patrice Bergeron beside him, Marchand is two goals away from his sixth career 30-goal campaign. Marchand and the rest of the forward core aim to fine-tune their performances during the next two weeks, but the Bruins may not need to alter anything with the other half of their top six.

    The Heinen-Zacha-Pastrnak trio showcased their puck-possession prowess.

    Another round of lineup decisions await for Jim Montgomery and the coaching staff ahead of the April 20 playoff start date. But one trio, in particular, looks like a keeper for at least the start of Boston’s Round 1 matchup.

    After adding a pair of insurance tallies in Nashville two nights ago, Heinen, Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha picked up where they left off in Raleigh. All three factored into Boston’s second and third tallies coming off an alert drive to the front of the net.

    Upon taking Zacha’s feed from along the goal line, Pastrnak walked in behind Carolina’s defense and promptly went top shelf on Frederik Andersen to the Bruins’ lead to 2-0.

    A mere 3:04 later, Pastrnak needled his feed through traffic to Heinen to pad Boston’s advantage once more.

    Over the last two games in 5v5 play with the Heinen-Zacha-Pastrnak trio, the Bruins held a combined 21-15 edge in shot attempts, a 13-4 advantage in shots on goal and outscored their opponents 3-0. Heinen, Zacha, and Pastrnak accounted for four goals, including Pastrnak’s empty netter in Nashville, after Coyle and Marchand secured Boston’s first tally in the final two stops of their six-game road trip.

    The Bruins showcase growth in their closeout efforts.

    Boston’s well-documented blunders in securing victories in the final 20 minutes may have prevented them from entering division-clinching scenarios this week. The fact that they salvaged a point in most of their third-period collapses allowed them to stay atop the Atlantic and avoid potential wild card territory.

    The Bruins addressed some of their net-front issues that magnified their third-period meltdowns during the trade deadline. But while they managed to secure some wins in the final minute, they also encountered similar issues involving defensive lapses, ill-timed turnovers and a failure to add to their lead in the closing moments that became so prominent over multi-game stretches throughout the year.

    Over the latter half of their road trip, however, the Bruins appear like they’re reversing course during crunch time.

    Aside from another round of blown coverages in Philly, the Bruins established healthier habits over the final 20 minutes during their six-game road trip. The last two games, in particular, showcased growth in that department.

    Against the Predators, the Bruins turned a 0-0 affair into a multi-goal win after building on Coyle’s shorthanded breakaway tally. In Carolina, they prevented a heavy-checking and speedy Hurricanes bunch from generating secondary scoring bids, allowing Swayman to track pucks cleanly en route to his 27-save performance.

    “I think the biggest growth we’ve seen is how confident we are in third periods now,” Montgomery told NESN’s Andy Brickley. 

    “It’s nice to see in a 0-0 game, then go out and win a game 3-0, and did it looking like a confident team. And now we’re up 3-1 on another elite team, and we pushed the lead to 4-1. I don’t think we gave up that much. I thought our D core was excellent. I thought they played a great game tonight, and I thought our forwards did their job.”

    Boston’s power play failed to convert on their three opportunities over the final 40 minutes. The shorthanded unit limited the damage after allowing a 5-on-3 marker before the B’s entered shutdown mode.

    Indeed, their closeout and game management traits remain a work in progress. But their stretch of third-period efforts during their two-week trip provided a needed encouraging development ahead of their final five games.

    “Any special teams, whether it’s a power play or penalty kill, you want to get momentum for your team,” Swayman told NESN’s Adam Pellerin. “Our guys did a great job in that…blocking shots and making sure we’re finishing it out…with our four outworking their five. It’s really special to see, and I’m excited to get back home to Boston.”

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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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