By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
With a revamped and freshly-bungled lineup following the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, the Bruins handed the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 defeat on Tuesday in a shootout. Boston’s newly-acquired deadline pickups made their debuts with the black and gold, and tonight they’ll look to win another against a team they have yet to beat this season. The puck drop for tonight’s game against the New York Islanders is scheduled for 7 pm EST.
Following an extended absence due to injury, the Bruins welcome back goaltender Tuukka Rask in net tonight, who’s gearing up for his first start since March 7th against the New Jersey Devils. The Bruins goaltending duties have been handled well by Jaroslav Halak, who’s currently on the COVID Protocol list, and young stand-outs Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman during Rask’s time off the ice. Of the Bruins’ strengths during Rask’s absence, the goaltending performances have been one of them.
On the season, Rask has an 8-4-0 record with a 2.40 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Rask’s return surely gives the Bruins the best chance to beat the Islanders for the first time this season, even though the other goalies in the carousel exceeded expectations during his absence. Rask returns following plenty of rest with the hopes of leading the Bruins to a deep playoff run starting next month.
The Bruins have been finding new ways to win hockey games, and star-forward David Pastrnak has barely been included. Pastrnak spent just over a week playing on the second line with David Krejci but moved back up to the first line in their win against the Sabres on Tuesday. Even with all the line juggling, you would think Pastrnak would still perform to the level we’re used to seeing him at, but he hasn’t.
‘Pasta’ has been held off the scoresheet entirely for the last four Bruins games and has just two goals since March 25th. Both of those goals came in the same game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 3rd. Pastrnak finds himself in one of the most noticeable slumps of his career. If it weren’t for the extraordinary play of this year’s team MVP, Brad Marchand, the Bruins would be in trouble, especially right now without Pastrnak’s magic.
Pastrnak’s struggles seem to co-exist with the struggles from the Bruins’ overall power play. The Bruins power play is ranked 9th in the league still, yet it’s gone three-for-fifteen through its last five games. That isn’t necessarily bad, but the Bruins star-power should ignite their power play more to keep them out of the close games they’ve had often been part of for the past month.
Something to keep an eye on in this game is Taylor Hall’s contributions. He’s earned a spot on the second power-play unit, and he has now made it more dangerous for opposing teams to handle that unit, with Krejci and McAvoy acting as the “quarterbacks.” Hall has yet to secure his first point as a Bruin, but he had three shots and looked comfortable in his debut on Tuesday.
Bruins Projected Lineup
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Hall – Krejci – Smith
Ritchie – Coyle – DeBrusk
Kuraly – Lazar – Wagner
Lauzon – McAvoy
Reilly – Kampfer
Zboril – Clifton