Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday night.
1) It sure looks to me like the Bruins have hit coast mode headed into the playoffs. The priority appears to be maintaining where they are in the standings, which quite honestly is pretty much taken care of right now, and staying out of the fray enough to stay healthy. Some might remember they did pretty close to the same exact thing last season when they dropped four out of five games to close out the regular season, including a 4-0 shutout loss in Tampa Bay that essentially cost them a shot at the division title. Once again this time the Bruins top line didn’t look nearly as effective as they’ve been in their last few games and Zdeno Chara, in particular, looked like he was on autopilot in the defensive zone when he was going up against Detroit’s top line of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, and Tyler Bertuzzi. An optimist would say that it’s okay because the Bruins went into the same mini-tailspin at the end of last season, but then were ready to rock and roll once the postseason started against Toronto. The pessimist would say that no NHL team can truly flip the switch once it goes from the regular season to the postseason, and some of these games might allow for bad habits to creep in for a Bruins team that needs to hit the ground running. Put this humble hockey writer somewhere in the middle: I wouldn’t say that I’m really worried about anything we’re seeing right now, but it never looks good staggering to the finish line while losing badly to non-playoff fodder like Florida and Detroit.
2) It really isn’t sportswriting hyperbole to call Brad Marchand the most dangerous penalty killer of his generation in the NHL. That’s certainly been the case for a while, but it’s really hammered home on an evening when Marchand scores a big shorthanded goal in the second period for the then-go-ahead goal. The lead eventually evaporated in another third period meltdown for the Black and Gold, but Marchand took over sole possession of the all-time Bruins franchise record with his 26th career shorthanded goal. That puts him one ahead of the nifty, equally dangerous Rick Middleton, and it also gives Marchand more shorthanded goals than anybody else in the NHL since he broke into the league back in 2010-11. It really is a number of things with Marchand. He’s fast, he’s obviously lethal with the shot and he’s so smart at reading plays on when to take off for the shorthanded chance. Of course it also doesn’t hurt that Patrice Bergeron has been his penalty-killing partner from the time he was a rookie all the way back eight seasons ago. Put it all together and Marchand has been dominant on the penalty kill like nobody else when it comes to striking for shorthanded goals.
3) Some of the defensive issues over the weekend certainly should be chalked up to inserting Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk back into the lineup as a couple of players rusty after missing time due to injuries. Both players actually finished with a plus-1 rating on Sunday night and weren’t the issue at the heart of most of the defensive mistakes, but simply changing the personnel and the flow they’d been in can most definitely disrupt the team's defensive rhythm. As far as the way that both Miller and Grzelcyk played, well they looked healthy and ready to knock all that rust off with a handful of games to go until the end of the regular season, and of course the start of the playoffs. That’s good news for the Bruins, who will need the underrated pair of defenders for all they bring to the table when they ready for both Toronto and Tampa Bay in the postseason.
*Brad Marchand had a goal and eight shot attempts in 19:57 of ice time, won each of his two face-offs and set the Bruins all-time franchise record with his 26th shorthanded score of his NHL career. He was the best of what Boston had to offer on Sunday.
*Anthony Mantha finished his best NHL game with a hat trick, five points and plus-3 in 19:06 of ice time as he continuously hammered the Bruins defense when they left him wide open in and around the face-off circle in the D-zone.
*Tyler Bertuzzi continued to put the wraps on a real breakout season with three assists for the dominant Mantha, Larkin and Bertuzzi line, and has been very underrated as a player for Detroit this season.
*Zdeno Chara was on ice for three goals against even though he wound up even on the plus/minus board, and really seemed to have some issues shutting off seams and shooting lanes around the Boston net. Chara was very un-Chara like for a lot of the game.
*David Pastrnak was a minus-3 with two shots on net and was off-target with three of his shot attempts, so it wasn’t a very good night for him either. It’s a good thing he had a handful of good games coming back from injury first, or we might be wondering if the thumb was bothering him.
*Jaroslav Halak gave up five goals after Tuukka Rask looked shaky on Saturday, so it’s no coincidence the Bruins really struggled while getting subpar goaltending this weekend.
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