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  • 4 developments to watch as the Bruins close out their 2023-24 regular season.

    Tim Rosenthal April 13, 2024

    Come next weekend, the Boston Bruins will put the finishing touches on their Round 1 preparations. But they enter the final weekend of the 2023-24 regular season without a clear indication of their potential playoff opponents.

    The Bruins enter Saturday’s tilt in Pittsburgh a mere one point in front of the Panthers in the Atlantic Division standings. Boston has a game in hand on both Florida and the New York Rangers, who sit three points ahead in the Eastern Conference standings.

    Whether they face the Lightning, Maple Leafs or the East’s second wild card team, the Bruins still have plenty of items to check off ahead of the playoffs that go beyond their final placement in the standings. With that in mind, let’s look at a few developments that face the Bruins to close out their 82-game slate.

    Pat Maroon’s Boston debut.

    Barring a last-minute development, the Bruins will have their second trade deadline addition in their lineup on Saturday.

    After spending the last month recovering and rehabbing from back surgery, Pat Maroon remains on track to finally make his Bruins debut against the desperate Penguins. 

    “We had all the right steps. We took all the right steps in to get me where I need to be,” Maroon told reporters about working with Boston’s training staff. “I’m excited that this last week was great. You know, [we put] extra work in, buy some more time here to get me in a game here.”

    The Bruins acquired three-time Cup champion Maroon from Minnesota in exchange for Luke Torpokowski and a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2026. They envision using his leadership and blue-collar traits in a bottom-six role for a potential playoff run. But whether three games — or fewer —are enough for Maroon to prepare for the playoff grind ahead is anyone’s guess.

    Maroon skated on Boston’s fourth line with Jesper Boqvist and Jakub Lauko during Friday’s practice. The veteran power forward also took reps on the secondary power play unit.

    The Bruins’ sputtering power play looks to get back on track.

    In their nine games following a 2-for-2 outing against the Senators on March 19, the Bruins have scored just twice in their 27 subsequent attempts with the man advantage.

    The Bruins encountered significant difficulties entering the zone during their power play opportunities, particularly when they lost their initial attacking zone faceoff. Their setup remained stagnant whenever they’ve gained possession, settling for many one-and-dones and very few secondary-scoring bids.

    Indeed, the Bruins need more than tweaks for their sputtering power play to revert to form from the first half of the season. But working with elite talent like David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy manning the top unit doesn’t have Jim Montgomery fretting over the recent skid.

    “We’ve got David Pastrnak. We have Charlie McAvoy. We have a guy [Marchand] who has 400 goals as a Bruin,” Montgomery said. “I’m not too concerned. I know that hasn’t looked great lately. But we’re working on things, and when you work on things, sometimes it’s not natural. But we think because we’re working on it now, it’ll be natural come playoff time.”

    The final pre-playoff looks for the goalie rotation.

    Getting away from the Swayman-Ullmark rotation marked one of Montgomery’s top blunders during last year’s first-round exit.

    The second-year bench boss will quickly have a chance to rectify that mishap next weekend. The only question here is the scheduling.

    Linus Ullmark outperformed Jeremy Swayman upon the latter’s return from his first All-Star Game appearance. Given the recent rotation, the 2023 Vezina winner will likely start two of the final three regular season games.

    Ullmark remains on track for the Game 1 start for the third consecutive year. But even with his late-season slump, the Bruins should stay the course and insert Swayman into the playoff rotation early.

    “If we commit to a rotation, it’s gonna be Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4. That’s what we ended up deciding, and then we can go from there,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, performance and winning in the playoffs dictates a lot of decision-making, but this is what we’re comfortable doing. It’s what our goalies are used to preparing. So we’ll see what ends up happening.”

    Scheduling rest for some of Boston’s vets?

    Patrice Bergeron’s exit during last year’s finale in Montreal put the Bruins in a tough spot following their record-breaking regular season. Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle filled in admirably for Bergeron and David Krejci for the first four games against Florida. Yet, the top two centermen in franchise history struggled to regain their footing upon returning in the latter half of the series.

    While Zacha and Coyle picked up where they left off, this year’s squad isn’t as deep. Given that, the coaching staff may want to schedule some rest for some of their battle-tested vets over the next few days.

    It might be tough to convince Marchand, Coyle and Pastrnak to sit one out, given they’ve played in every game to date. But the Bruins could look to giving a breather to McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm and/or Brandon Carlo after the trio of defensemen missed some time to injury earlier in the season.

    All of Boston’s vets will likely appear in Saturday’s lineup. But with their final scheduled back-to-back approaching, the Bruins would be wise to plan some rest for a core group that they’ll indeed lean on during the first playoff series of the post-Bergeron and Krejci era.

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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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