Here’s What We Learned from the Bruins 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night that snapped Boston’s epic 19-game point streak.
1. The Bruins loss was a long time coming based on the signs from the last week or so. Sure, the Bruins were still winning games and had enough to take out inferior, probable non-playoff teams like Florida, Ottawa and Carolina. They were getting off to slow starts and falling down by a couple of goals early in the game, and it was sloppy puck management leading to a lot of the problems. The problems come in when you do that kind of thing against a better team capable of putting the game away, and that’s exactly what happened with a Pittsburgh team that’s still battling just to get into the playoffs. Credit the Bruins for closing it again to a goal in the final minute of the third period and continuing to show that penchant for comebacks, but this time around it wasn’t meant to be. Instead the Penguins were able to regain their composure and seal the game with a Jared McCann empty netter in those final seconds of the game. The Bruins deserve credit for putting together the second-best point streak in franchise history with the 19-game mark, but they also have some bad habits they’re going to need to bust out of with a month to go until the playoffs. The big worry is that the Bruins get a little too loose and comfortable at this point with home ice looking like a good bet in the first round, and really no chance whatsoever of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. So the B’s need to get right back on the horse and start playing at the consistently high level they were at during the beginning of the streak, and that’s going to be a challenge given the injuries they’re going through at this point.
PENGUINS 4, BRUINS 2
2. It definitely looks like there’s some rust on Lee Stempniak’s game. It was the 36-year-old veteran that had his pocket picked at the defensive blue line for Pittsburgh’s first goal in the first period. Both Stempniak and David Krejci were a little too casual with their puck management in their own zone during the Pens scoring play, and those turnovers turned into a puck bouncing in off big Nick Bjugstad right in front of the net. Stempniak had no shots on net in 7:52 of ice time on 12 shifts during the game, and really looked like he was having a bit of a tough time playing in the second night of back-to-back games. A lot of this was to be expected given that he hadn’t played an NHL game in just about a year and only had seven AHL games under his belt, so there’s no reason to overreact about the rust level shown. It’s good to get it out of the way now rather than during the playoffs if injuries hit and Stempniak is thrust into the B’s lineup as he is right now with Marcus Johansson, Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak still carrying a lot of offense with them on the injured list.
3. The Bruins fourth line wasn’t great on Sunday night, and didn’t really bring too much energy, puck possession and only had a couple of shots on net from Sean Kuraly that amounted to all of the offensive pressure from their line. They have been excellent for a long time and Chris Wagner was one of the heroes in Saturday night’s win over the Ottawa Senators, but it does raise questions as to whether they’re going to be the same kind of factor in the playoffs as they are in the regular season. One would expect they’re going to be okay once the intensity factor goes up a level in the postseason, but Sunday night was a playoff-style game in Pittsburgh and the fourth line was just okay. So we shall see.
*Danton Heinen picked up a couple of assists in a really strong game from the young winger. He took a high stick to the face to make a play setting up David Krejci’s power play goal for the first B’s score and finished with a solid five shots on net in an assertive, strong all-around game.
*Charlie Coyle saw some of his ice time lessen on Saturday because Bruce Cassidy didn’t like what he was seeing around the net, but that was better on Sunday as Coyle finished with an assist, five shot attempts and three blocked shots in a solid effort.
*Pittsburgh youngster Jared McCann had a pair of goals including a shorthanded strike in the second period that hurt the B’s, and then an empty net goal that iced things for the Penguins in the final minute of the third period.
*David Krejci had turnovers leading to each of the B’s first two goals allowed, finished a minus-3 and really struggled with his puck management for the first half of the game. He also scored a PP goal as well, but that didn’t erase all of the stuff that needs to be cleaned up.
*Lee Stempniak was limited to seven-plus minutes of ice time and had a turnover at the B’s blue line on the first goal allowed to Pittsburgh in the first period. No shots, no real impact on the game and a lot of rust showing. It’s not surprising, but it is what it is.
*Torey Krug was the other B’s player on the ice for three of the four goals allowed and didn’t have a great weekend in his own zone.
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