By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter: @zcarlone21
A disappointing defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres ended the Bruins’ five-game win streak as they lost by a score of 6-4 on Friday night. Patrice Bergeron was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury, and the team really couldn’t stay out of the box or get any juice going offensively until the later portions of the game. Currently sitting six points ahead of the New York Rangers for the fourth and final playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division, today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins is a true test for this team. The puck drop is scheduled for 3 pm EST.
Containing Crosby and the Powerplay
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has never failed to impress throughout his 16-year NHL career thus far. The 33-year-old center has 55 points in 47 games this season and has spent most of it playing without his famed No. 2 center Evgeni Malkin. Even without Malkin, the Penguins’ offense and powerplay have been equally dangerous, and they’ve crept up to the second-place spot in the MassMutual East Division, just one point behind the Washington Capitals in first.
The Penguins power play ranks 8th in the league with a 23.3% success rate. The Bruins took three penalties in their loss to the Sabres on Friday, and as a result, surrendered two power-play goals. Granted, they were without one of their better killers in Patrice Bergeron. However, any undisciplined penalties today against a much better Penguins squad could be costly, especially with the Bruins still holding on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division.
Barring Without ‘Bergy’
In their win against the Buffalo Sabres on April 22nd, Patrice Bergeron blocked a shot from the point and was laboring afterward. Before Friday’s game, he didn’t take the ice for warmups and was a late scratch by head coach Bruce Cassidy due to a lower-body injury. He’s still considered day-to-day, but the Bruins top gunners got a different look on Friday in a losing effort and will get that same look again today.
In Bergeron’s absence, Brad Marchand was missing his go-to partner on the Bruins first penalty-kill unit. Charlie Coyle, who hasn’t scored a goal since February 28th, earned the promotion to play with Marchand and David Pastrnak at even strength with Bergeron out. In 45 games this season, Bergeron has 41 points with a +/- of 24. The four-time Selke Trophy winner is a staple in all situations for the Bruins. Coyle and company will need to fill his shoes better than they did on Friday to get the win today.
Swayman in Net
In Friday’s loss to the Sabres, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask got the start and was eventually pulled after surrendering four goals on 28 shots. Jaroslav Halak came in for relief and gave up a goal as well. A bumpy night in net for the Bruins goaltenders means the third man of the carousel gets a chance to start a new win streak today. 22-year-old Jeremy Swayman is expected to get his seventh career start today against the Penguins.
Swayman has looked like an NHL regular in his first batch of games with the Bruins. His 1.65 GAA and a .943 save percentage support his miraculous 5-1-0 record. Both numbers are well over the league’s average, and Swayman has already impressed the Bruins coaching staff enough to earn the start today over Halak, and with statistics like that, he will most likely get a few more starts before the playoffs. Today’s game will be one of his best challenges to date.
Bruins Projected Lineup
Marchand – Coyle – Pastrnak
Hall – Krejci – Smith
Ritchie – Lazar – DeBrusk
Blidh – Kuraly – Wagner
Grzelcyk – McAvoy
Reilly – Clifton
Lauzon – Kampfer