Bruins

Bruins vs. Canucks takeaways: Road trip off to troublesome start

Bruins

Not all points are created equal.

When the Boston Bruins fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime Saturday, 3-2, the team could hold their heads high for grabbing a point against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, especially with two of their best players out of the lineup.

On Wednesday night, however?

True, one point is better than none for the Bruins, who desperately need them as they try to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But a 2-1 shootout loss to the last-place Vancouver Canucks, with both Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy back in the lineup, is not a great way to set the tone on a three-game road swing through Western Canada.

Bergeron still the straw that stirs the B's, but is this his swan song?

Here are some takeaways from the less-than-inspiring performance from the B's, which dropped their record to 12-8-2:

Missed opportunity to begin road trip

Vancouver entered play on Wednesday tied for last place in the Pacific Division with the expansion Seattle Kraken at 20 points (9-15-2).

What's more, the Canucks cleaned house over the weekend, firing general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green following a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday. Green, who took over behind the bench in 2017, had guided Vancouver to a 137-147-34 record and just one playoff appearance. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the Canucks were only 32-44-6 under Green.

In other words, not a good team -- unlike the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the next two opponents on Boston's schedule. Calgary is atop the Pacific at 15-6-5 while Edmonton -- which has lost three in a row -- is 16-8-0 and in third place in the division.

 

Leaving Alberta with a pair of losses isn't out of the question for the Bruins, who've already lost 5-3 to the Oilers and 4-0 to the Flames on the season at the TD Garden. Boston is in a perilous spot.

Don't blame Jeremy Swayman

It grows more clear by the day that Swayman is the team's best option in goal at the moment, the possible return of Tuukka Rask another story for another time.

Swayman started his third straight game for the Bruins, and though the team is 1-0-2 in his starts, he's playing some of the best hockey of his young career. In addition to the 31 saves he made on 32 shots at the Rogers Centre, Swayman has posted a .960 save percentage (95 for 99) over his last three contests, which includes his 42-save masterpiece of a shutout against the Nashville Predators and the overtime loss to the Lightning.

Bean: Bruins shouldn't sign Rask if it means Swayman demotion

Swayman bailed the Bruins out several times on a particularly lackluster power play for the team in the middle of the third period, in which the Canucks mustered three shorthanded scoring chances and another just after the penalty against Tyler Myers had expired but were turned away by Swayman every time.

The lone goal Swayman allowed in regulation came on the power play, courtesy of Brock Boeser, at 15:01 of the second period.

Bruins again make an average goaltender look elite

Thatcher Demko is, by all measures, an average goaltender. The 26-year-old entered play Wednesday with a 9-11-1 mark on the season with a .912 save percentage and 2.82 goals against average, right in line with his career totals of .911 and 2.91.

Naturally, the Boston College alum turned aside 35 shots, his lone blemish a Patrice Bergeron deflection on a 5-on-3 power play 4:51 into the third.

Bergeron, who along with David Pastrnak was reunited with Brad Marchand on Boston's top line, took a game-high nine shots, with Pastrnak and Marchand getting four shots off apiece.

It wasn't the return the Bruins needed from Marchand, who had missed Boston's last three games due to a suspension for slew footing Vancouver's Oliver Ekman-Larsson when the teams met on Causeway Street on Nov. 28, a 3-2 Bruins win.

Charlie McAvoy returns at full speed

One undeniable bright spot from the game is that Charlie McAvoy appears to be fully recovered from the non-COVID illness which had held him out of the Bruins' loss to the Lightning on Saturday.

McAvoy led all Boston skaters with 28:02 of ice time, including 4:05 on the power play and another 1:02 shorthanded. Mike Reilly, who was second among Bruins defensemen in ice time, played only 21:24.

McAvoy leading the Bruins in ice time should be expected whenever he's in the lineup, so in the grand scheme of things it's no surprise he did against the Canucks, but it's still a positive development to see it happen after being sick.

 

The Bruins play in Edmonton Thursday night, with puck drop scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.