The Boston Bruins‘ recent stretch has been a minor cause for alarm as the injuries and losses mount. It’s not that they are losing so much as it is how they are losing. Boston has given up three straight second-period leads during this current three-game losing streak, their longest season.
The Bruins have eight regular-season games remaining and have all but clinched a playoff spot. They have also lost a key member of their 25-man roster in the last three games while dealing with an injury to leading scorer David Pastrnak. Pastrnak has missed the previous five games with a core injury.
It’s been a combination of injuries, lack of scoring, and penalties that have sunk the Bruins over the recent string of games. A compacted 2021-22 schedule might be starting to catch up to the team.
The most recent injury occurred during the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, April 14, when starting netminder Linus Ullmark stopped a slapshot with his mask. Ullmark had won six of his last seven starts before departing after the first period of Thursday’s loss.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Ullmark was at Warrior Arena on Friday but is out for Saturday. He is considered day-to-day at this point. Troy Grosenick has been called up from the Providence Bruins to back up Jeremy Swayman. Boston hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at 12:30 pm EST.
On Tuesday, the Bruins lost defenseman Brandon Carlo after just 4:44 of ice time in Boston’s 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Carlo did practice on Friday morning, and Cassidy said that the team “will see how he is in the morning.”
Boston lost Matt Grzelcyk on Sunday during a 4-2 loss to the Capitals in Washington DC. The 5′-9″ defenseman missed Tuesday’s game vs. the Blues but returned Thursday. Grzelcyk assisted Jesper Froden‘s first NHL goal in Thursday’s loss to the Senators.
That has been the brightest spot for the Bruins over the last few games, the production from call-ups like Froden and Marc McLaughlin. McLaughlin has three goals in six games since signing as a free agent out of Boston College.
Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm skated before the Bruins’ practice on Friday. Lindholm suffered an injury during the Bruins’ 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings the day after Pastrnak left the Blue Jackets game.
The most obvious takeaway from the Pastrnak absence is the lack of power-play scoring. The Bruins have gone 0/16 on the man advantage during the last five games.
“It’s tough when you lose a weapon like him,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand of not having Pastrnak. “He opens up a lot because he’s such a threat, even when he’s not handling the puck or shooting it.”
On the flip side, the Bruins’ penalty kill has struggled. The Bruins have given up three power-play goals in the last two games. Two have tied each game, and one proved to be the game-winner. The Bruins are usually one of the better short-handed squads in the NHL and are currently 8th on the penalty kill.
“I don’t know if it’s fatigue or lack of urgency. It’s tough to see,” said Bruins defenseman Grzelcyk of the second-period struggles. “The two penalties, they capitalize on both. We have to put out the fire there, but it’s something we have to address.”
“Losing Pasta and his shot, teams know how good he is over there,” Grzelcyk said of the power-plays lack of success. “Often, they take him away, and we play four-on-three from there, so we lose a little bit of that.”
“I think we were a little bit frustrated (Thursday) with how we ended up losing,” said Marchand. “There were a few calls that went against us. Our power play hasn’t come through the way it has in the past. In that game, their goalie made some big saves at the right time. We hit a post earlier in the game, which probably would have put it away. Just little things like that that normally would go our way. But they didn’t.”
“We’re sitting in a good spot at this point in the season,” added Marchand. “We have to worry about the next game. You can’t control what’s happened. You can only control what we can, which is how we prepare for (Saturday). That’s all we can focus on.”
A win on Saturday will clinch the Bruins’ playoff spot. That’s the focus, but the struggle is real until Pastrnak returns.