Bruins

Bruins-Lightning takeaways: Plenty of positives for B's despite OT loss

Bruins

BOSTON -- The Bruins played well enough to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night but one sequence in overtime proved to be the difference.

Bruins forward David Pastrnak, one of the NHL's most skilled offensive players, couldn't beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy on a breakaway in the extra period. It was exactly what the Bruins would have wanted with the game on the line. He might have been hooked on the play, but no penalty was called.

On the next rush up ice, the Lightning had a 2-on-1 scoring chance that ended with Steven Stamkos blasting a shot past B's netminder Jeremy Swayman to seal a 3-2 Tampa Bay victory.

Once again, the Bruins out-shot and created many more scoring chances than their opponent, only to come away with less than two points.

Next up for the B's is a three-game road trip through Western Canada to play the Vancouver Canucks and two very good teams in the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Here are three takeaways from Bruins-Lightning.

1) Battling through adversity

The Bruins went 1-1-1 during Brad Marchand's three-game suspension.

Tuesday's loss against the Detroit Red Wings was a frustrating result, especially since the Bruins could only score on a 5-on-3 power play. But Thursday's 2-0 road win against the Nashville Predators was fantastic. Rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman made 42 saves in one of the best performances of his young career, and the Bruins got much-needed depth scoring from Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo.

 

Saturday night's effort against the Lightning also was impressive.

The Bruins gave up very little in their own zone. They held a 73-42 edge in shot attempts, a 36-17 lead in shots on net, a 42-23 advantage in shot attempts at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick. It took Tampa Bay nearly 13 minutes to register its first shot on net of the third period.

All the Lightning generated in regulation was a shorthanded goal and another tally that went in off a deflection in front of the net. That's pretty dang good against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, especially when you consider the Bruins' top defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, didn't play because of a non-Covid illness.

The Bruins got more secondary scoring against the Lightning. Charlie Coyle scored another goal (more on that below) and Curtis Lazar tallied his first goal of the season. Erik Haula, who's been a massive disappointment offensively since signing in free agency, set up Coyle with a slick pass in front of the net. Craig Smith, who's had his struggles offensively this season, also picked up an assist.

The Bruins weathered the storm during Marchand's three-game suspension and were able to take a point from the Lightning without arguably their two most valuable players. More importantly, they're driving puck possession at a high rate, role players are producing more offense and the goaltending has been solid.

These are all positive signs as the Bruins continue a brutal December schedule with lots of games against quality opponents.

2) Charlie Coyle's bounce-back continues

The Bruins desperately needed a better season from Charlie Coyle after his injury-plagued 2020-21, and they are getting it so far. 

The veteran center scored his seventh goal of the year Saturday night, surpassing his total of six goals all of last season in 30 fewer games.

Coyle is on pace to score 27 goals, which would shatter his previous career high of 21 set in the 2015-16 campaign. He's also on track to tally 51 points, which would be the second-highest of his career for a single season.

David Krejci's departure in the offseason created a large hole at second-line center. Coyle, for the most part, has filled in pretty well in that spot. 

The Bruins used a second line of Erik Haula at left wing, Craig Smith at right wing and Coyle at center against the Lightning, and the results were pretty strong. This trio earned a 21-7 edge in shot attempts, a 12-3 lead in shots on net, a 13-4 advantage in scoring chances and outscored Tampa Bay 1-0 during 12:42 of 5-on-5 ice time together, per Natural Stat Trick.

It's a small sample size, but this group's impressive showing against an elite Lightning team is certainly an encouraging sign for the Bruins. It's a line worth keeping intact for a bit to see if it can build even better chemistry and continue to drive puck possession at a high rate.

 

3) Andrei Vasilevskiy on top of his game

The Lightning can thank Andrei Vasilevskiy for the two points Saturday night. 

He was brilliant in net, stopping 37 of the 39 shots (.949 save percentage) the Bruins sent his way.  

The Russian netminder made 11 saves on the 13 high-danger chances he faced at 5-on-5. His goals saved above expected was a staggering 3.35 in 53:27 of 5-on-5 ice time, per Natural Stat Trick.

Vasilevskiy is now 14-2 with a 2.09 goals against average in his last 16 games against the Bruins.

"Their goalie played pretty good tonight," Bruins acting head coach Joe Sacco said after the game. "We had some good looks. He's a good goaltender."

With the Lightning missing their top two forwards in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, they needed an A-plus performance from Vasilevskiy and he delivered. That’s why he’s the best goalie in the world and a former Vezina Trophy winner.