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Well, that was fun

March 26, 2019, 11:51 AM ET [5 Comments]
Anthony Travalgia
Boston Bruins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
When the Bruins hosted the Lightning in February, head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t want to use the game as a measuring stick. David Pastrnak was out with a hand injury and the Lightning were starting backup goalie Louis Domingue in what was the second night of a back-to-back for Tampa Bay.

“I don’t know if I’d call it a measuring stick, because this time of the year there’s always schedule. It’s their third and fourth back-to-back, traveling in,” Cassidy said last month.

“I always thought measuring stick was equal footing, so, equal lineups. I don’t know who they’ll have in or out,” added Cassidy. “We’re missing one of our regulars [in Pastrnak]. I don’t know which goalie we’ll see.”

If you’re going by Cassidy’s logic, Monday’s highly entertaining contest in Tampa Bay is another one that won’t be used as a measuring stick as the Bruins were still without several regulars, a few that could be back as early as Wednesday.

After being a game-time decision Monday, and still unable to go, Marcus Johansson is expected to return Wednesday when the Bruins host the New York Rangers. Defenseman Torey Krug who has been sidelined with a concussion for two weeks could also return Wednesday.

Even if the Bruins want to claim that Monday’s contest wasn’t a measuring stick, the game taught the Bruins some valuable lessons.

The first being that they can hang with the Lightning.

Already without Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller, the Bruins were forced to play most of the game with five defensemen after John Moore left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury after taking a hard fall in his own end.

Despite just 12 shots through the first two periods, the Bruins carried a 4-2 lead into the final frame. But a combination of Tampa Bay’s best period of the night and a gassed Bruins squad opened the door for three unanswered Lightning goals, and a tough-to-swallow loss for the Bruins.

The second being that sometimes they need to be smarter in joining the rush.

The turning point of the game came in the third period as the Lightning cut the lead to one with Victor Hedman’s 12th goal of the season. But it was what took place just prior to the goal the left Cassidy unhappy.

With some extra confidence in his game after notching his second goal of the season earlier in the night, Brandon Carlo joined the Bruins odd-man rush searching for his second goal of the evening.

After Chris Wagner left the puck for Carlo, the 22-year old blue liner missed high and wide over the glove of Andre Vasilevskiy, leading to a Lightning rush the other way. Steven Stamkos’ breakaway attempt was pushed wide, but with Carlo caught behind the play, and both Charlie Coyle and Charlie McAvoy unable to catch Hedman, the stud defenseman was left all alone for an easy tap-in goal.

One that changed the momentum, and eventual outcome of the game.

“After I scored, I might have got a little ahead of myself and started joining the rush a little bit too much there,” said Carlo. “Things happen after that and kind of bouncing around pucks, giving up odd-man rushes. Not the kind of game that I want to exemplify out of myself. Kind of sucked there in the third to have that happen.”

Part of the problem for the Bruins in the third period was about a minute after Hedman’s tally, David Pastrnak was given a double-minor for a high stick. Between the second and third periods, the Lightning had six straight power play opportunities.

The Bruins managed to keep the league’s top power play off the board in six tries, but it was the minutes logged by key defensemen that put the Bruins at a disadvantage.

Carlo led all skaters with 27 minutes of ice time, with McAvoy, (26:47) Zdeno Chara (23:48) and Connor Clifton (20:33) all logging over 20 minutes. Carlo (7:04) and Chara (6:46) also saw heavy time on the penalty kill.

When a team scores five goals against, it’s easy to put blame on the goalie. However, in this case I feel that’s a bit unfair to do. It’s tough to make stops on guys like Hedman and Anthony Cirelli when they’re left wide open like they were Monday.

But Cassidy admitted he would have liked to see Rask come up with a save on one of those.

“Listen, he got beat by good shots, but at some point you need a save. You hope the last one, in the last minute. We didn’t get it. So we move on,” said Cassidy.

Despite what the Bruins’ shot totals, and overall play in the third period may tell you, Monday was one heck of a hockey game, and should both teams advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, an entertaining series would be on tap.

The Bruins learned that they can compete with the Lightning, but anything shy of a complete effort is going to make beating a team as talented as the Lightning are much more difficult. When the Bruins look back at this one and dissect what went wrong, the issues are an easy fix: clean up play in the defensive zone and be smarter about when to, or when not to join a rush.

“You learn every day in this league, young or old,” Cassidy said. “There was a lesson learned for a few of our guys tonight.”
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