The one step forward and two steps back trend continues on Causeway St.
The Boston Bruins entered Monday’s tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers fresh off their biggest offensive outburst of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins two days prior.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad carried over that momentum into the first 40 minutes of play, taking a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. But the Flyers, still searching for their first win against the Black and Gold, persevered.
Boston’s offense hit a dry spell after Patrice Bergeron’s power-play marker against a Flyers D ranked 31st in goals allowed coming into Monday. An opportunistic Philly squad capitalized on the heels of Jeremy Lauzon’s second penalty of the night — leading to Sean Couturier’s power-play tally — and an uncharacteristic slip-up by Patrice Bergeron in overtime paved the way for Travis Sanheim’s game-winner.
The Bruins didn’t look all that bad. Dan Vladar provided another stellar start. Nick Ritchie displayed a heavy presence along the boards and in front of the net. Karson Kuhlman provided some timely secondary scoring with his first-period equalizer. They just couldn’t finish the job on this night.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 3-2 overtime loss in the first half of a pivotal home-and-home series with Philly.
Lauzon needs to ‘play through’ his struggles.
The Quebec-born blue-liner showcased some promise pairing with Charlie McAvoy for the first month and a half of the season. But a hand injury sustained in Lake Tahoe forced Lauzon out of action for several weeks.
Lauzon re-entered the lineup last week. He hardly showcased the same poise and confidence from his early-season run. His frequent turnovers and costly mistakes forced Cassidy’s hand, prompting Lauzon to healthy scratch status in Saturday’s win over the Penguins.
Cassidy re-inserted Lauzon on the second defensive pair with Connor Clifton on Monday. The mistakes continued. On this night, he committed a pair of holding minors, with his second infraction leading to Couturier’s tying power-play tally.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 6, 2021
“We took a lead into the third period and we took a bad penalty — same guy, similar type of penalty,” Cassidy said. “He’s going to have to do a better job at his one-on-one [battles], and we’re going to have to do a better job identifying what you can get away with.”
The Bruins expected some rough patches implementing their young D in place of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. They hoped some of the vets, like Kevan Miller, would help them along. The dreaded injury bug put a dent into those plans. As they tread water in the playoff picture, the Bruins hope Lauzon can play through the roughest stretch of his NHL career.
“He has to play through it,” Cassidy added. “If he can’t we’ll have to make a determination of putting the next guy up in.”
Vladar proving stability without Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask
For the better part of the last month, the Bruins went to battle without Rask as he nurses a lingering upper-body ailment. Halak, the other half of their dynamic tandem, recently drew a positive COVID test.
Cassidy and the coaching staff pegged Vladar for his scheduled start on Monday with former UMaine standout Jeremy Swayman serving as the backup.
In his fourth career start, the crafty Czech netminder remained calm under pressure. Though his rebound control wasn’t as crisp, Vladar showcased some Tim Thomas-like reflexes against the desperate Flyers.
Aside from Thursday’s loss the Penguins — where his teammates let him down for the most part — Vladar provided his team a chance to win with his stellar outings.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 6, 2021
“He never quits on a puck,” Cassidy said of Vladar. “That’s what everyone loves about him…”
Vladar entered a tough spot without Rask and now Halak. The constant injury battles and the patchwork pairings on the back-end provided another challenging dynamic.
Yet, Vladar’s poise hasn’t wavered one bit.
“I’m just living my dream out there. I really appreciate that the coaches are still giving me a chance. Obviously, that helps my game too because I feel more comfortable,” Vladar said after his 29-save outing. “Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough today. We got the point, but, me personally, I’m pretty sure the whole locker room wanted two.”
Bergeron climbs up franchise scoring ranks during his see-saw night.
Bergeron began his night aiming to take over sole possession of fourth place on the team’s all-time scoring list. He accomplished that feat early in the second period with his 899th career point, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead on the power play.
OK, now it's official.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 6, 2021
Boston’s captain looked like his prototypical self in certain points of Monday’s contest. His six shots on net and 74 percent success rate from the faceoff dot weren’t out of the ordinary by any means. Yet, he encountered some rough patches. One of those road bumps came at the worst possible time.
With the puck on his stick at the blue-line in his second shift of the 3-on-3 overtime session, Bergeron forced a shot from the point. Sanheim blocked the shot with ease and transitioned up ice quickly. As he skated up ice to defend, Bergeron lost an edge and fell down in the neutral zone, prompting Sanehim to deliver the game-winner with 1:52 left in the extra session.
Travis Sanheim (@sanheim17) 🤝 OT winner
— NHL (@NHL) April 6, 2021
This isn’t a cause for concern for Bergeron at all. Even the best have an off night or two during a long season, including the three all-time leading point producers ahead of Bergeron in Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito. It just so happened that his overtime blunders coincided with his ascension in the franchise’s scoring ranks.
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