3 takeaways from the Bruins’ shootout loss to the Rangers

Here's what we learned from an entertaining goaltending duel on Broadway.

Bruins center Craig Smith (12) collides with New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) on a goal attempt in the third period AP

Tallying three of a possible six points in three games without Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is quite an accomplishment in and of itself.

Yet, the Boston Bruins had several golden opportunities to notch an extra point against a rusty New York Rangers bunch on Tuesday night.

The Bruins established good attacking zone habits from the get-go with Charlie Coyle’s greasy goal 3:39 in. They failed to get another puck past Vezina Trophy candidate Igor Shesterkin (31 saves) as the Rangers stymied the Bruins with multiple quality stops.

Jeremy Swayman was equally up to the task during Tuesday’s goaltending clinic on Broadway. A Filip Chityl rebound tally at 6:45 of the third marked Swayman’s only blemish of his 33-save performance.

The Bruins and Rangers traded numerous chances through the first sixty and the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime session. The highly entertaining tilt had a little bit of everything, from Swayman and Shesterkin’s duel to post-whistle altercations and a bizarre moment when a concussion spotter pulled Shesterkin in the final minutes of the extra session.


Shesterkin returned for the shootout. He made one more save than Swayman in nine rounds of the glorified skills competition.

Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller secured New York’s 2-1 walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

It wasn’t a perfect outing for the Bruins as they encountered some hiccups clearing the puck out of their defensive end, especially late in regulation. But they have something to build on after going toe-to-toe against the skilled and improved Blueshirts.

Here’s what we learned from an entertaining goaltending duel on Broadway.

Swayman picked up where he left off.

For all the questions surrounding the Bruins’ future, they have little to worry about between the pipes.

Swayman encountered his share of curveballs in his first 10 months performing at the NHL level. With a mere nine AHL appearances under his belt, the Bruins threw Swayman into the fire last April with injuries to Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. After Rask’s return in January, he went back to Providence only to head back up I-95 a week or two later after Boston’s all-time winningest netminder hung up the skates for good.

The former University of Maine netminder had a rough return to Boston, appearing in relief for Linus Ullmark in Dallas on Jan. 30 and struggling in his start against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Tuesday. Swayman bounced back with his second shutout of the season in Ottawa on Saturday. He carried that run on Tuesday, shutting down the Rangers for the first 26:45 before Chityl’s equalizer.


The lone lamplighter didn’t rattle Swayman, who only faced two New York shots in the first 20. He matched Shesterkin’s spectacular effort and made sure the Bruins notched at least one point out of their solid performance against a stout Rangers squad.

“I want to stay in the moment,” Swayman said to reporters. “Whether it’s two shots or 20 shots in the period, it doesn’t matter, I just want to focus on the next shot.”

Swayman may wait a little bit for his next shot after manning the Boston net in back-to-back outings. After all, Ullmark hasn’t had his bounce-back opportunity following last Thursday’s dismal 6-0 loss to the highly talented Carolina Hurricanes.

Ullmark or Swayman could use some offensive support. The Bruins only notched five goals in their four games coming out of the All-Star break.

De facto second line shines as top trio becomes passive.

David Pastrnak, Erik Haula, and Taylor Hall provided more well-rounded production on Boston’s top-six prior to Marchand’s six-game suspension and Bergeron’s injury. The Bruins hoped their solid scoring trend would continue in a de facto top-line role over the last three games.

Instead, they’ve hit a rough patch. And Tuesday marked one of their toughest outings since Cassidy formed the trio following Boston’s COVID-19 pause.


It wasn’t so much the lack of chances that haunted the top line. They combined for 12 shots on goal and held a 13-9 edge in 5v5 shot attempts. But at times, Pastrnak, Hall, and Haula each settled on looking for a perfect play. They passed up on firing a handful of quality shot attempts, including on a 3-on-1 opportunity moments before Chityl’s tying marker.

“One of the lines that was expected to score from us has dried up a little,” Cassidy told the press. “Some of that is their lack of willingness to shoot. They’re trying to make plays every time. When they work, it’s great. When they don’t, you’ve let some opportunities on the table.”

The Bruins scored a paltry three goals in three games without Marchand and Bergeron. The new-look second line of Coyle, Craig Smith, and Trent Frederic produced two of the three markers.

They’ve established a polar opposite approach from the top line, opting for a north-south style of play over a creative offensive setup. The blue-collar mindset paid off against the Sens and Rangers with Frederic and Coyle each driving to the net to pick up gritty markers.

“They’ve been our best line,” Cassidy said of the Fredic-Coyle-Smith line. “Frederic, Coyle and Smitty, are a little of the opposite [of Hall, Haula and Pastrnak], right? The first goal is a good example. [The puck is] on and off Smitty’s stick and they’re going to the net and getting a second chance. In Ottawa, they scored that way the other night. So they play a little more of a straight line in that regard, and they’ve been good for us.”


The Bruins coaching staff trotted out Frederic, Coyle and Smith for the shootout. Only Coyle, who briefly left the game in the second period to receive stitches on his hand, fired a puck past Shesterkin of the three.

The personnel decisions for the shootout left some Bruins fans in head-scratching mode.

Goalie coach Bob Essensa runs the shootout drills at the end of each practice. More often than not, the Bruins run their lineup based on Essensa’s evaluations. Cassidy, at times, chimes in on the decision-making process whenever the competition extends past the third round.

No question, the Bruins would’ve used Bergeron and Marchand in the shootout if they were available. Perhaps the potent duo would’ve slotted in as two of Boston’s first three shooters.

On this night, the Bruins trotted out Jake DeBrusk, Pastrnak and Coyle in Rounds 1-3. DeBrusk and Coyle notched the two shootout markers. Haula, Hall, Frederic, Smith, Charlie McAvoy and Nick Foligno all failed to put the Bruins in the driver’s seat, ultimately paving the way for Miller’s winner.

Every shooter had a common mindset. They all settled for a quick shot attempt rather than deking toward the net to try and get Shesterkin off his feet.

The Bruins didn’t expect Shesterkin to return after Alexandar Georgiev filled in at the end of overtime. Yet, unlike their 65-minute effort, they hardly made Shesterkin move laterally in their shootout attempts.

“You’re putting guys out that have scored a little bit in the league,” Cassidy said. “Goalie [coach] Bob [Essensa] has a lot better idea on that. He runs that at the end of practice. So it might be a guy who’s hot recently [like] Freddy; he’s been shooting the puck well at practice. [Essensa] might tilt toward a shooter over a deker depending on which [goalie] was in… to be honest with you, we were expecting [Georgiev] to stay in. So we picked our first three guys. That’s probably wasn’t going to change. a lot, but it does influence who we picked later.”


The Bruins have a long ways to go to influence some doubters in the long run. At the very least, the shootout will become moot after finishing their 82-game regular-season slate.


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