Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 09: Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on November 09, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had plenty of things to complain about following his team’s 4-2 loss to the Penguins.

I mean, from about 7:50 p.m. on, it was a straight-up dreadful night for the Bruins. Nothing went right. From a failure to capitalize on Tristan Jarry’s first-period rebound bonanza coming back to bite the B’s by the end of Jarry’s 43-save night to another blown multi-goal lead (that’s three in their last five games) to Brad Marchand’s explosion in a decided game potentially costing him some additional time, Cassidy could’ve thrown just about anybody under the bus.

But Cassidy boiled this loss down to a simple difference between the sides.

“Goaltending picks you up some nights and it can deflate you [others],” Cassidy said after the loss. “I think we saw both in the second period. Their guy made more stops than our guy did and I think that’s end up being the bigger story in the game.

“They got saves, we didn’t. That’s my take.”

Consider that a direct hit on Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman.

Hit with a loss behind a 21-of-24 performance in the Boston net, the second period may have been one of Swayman’s worst of the entire season. Tagged for two goals in 28 seconds by ex-Bruins winger Danton Heinen (the second of which was just a plain awful goal to give up), Swayman’s struggles continued when Sidney Crosby’s power-play goal put the Penguins back on top, and gave Pittsburgh a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the evening. Overall, that stretch featured three goals on Swayman in just 8:35, and Swayman made just two saves in between Heinen’s first goal and Crosby’s go-ahead marker.

It simply wasn’t good enough. Regardless of what was happening in front of Swayman.

“You’re not going to play a perfect game,” Cassidy acknowledged. “We had probably more chances than them in that period. Did we make some mistakes in front of our goaltender? Yes. But I don’t think we made a mistake on the second goal. It was kind of a bad one. The first one, we didn’t have clear possession coming through the neutral zone [when] our D activated, which we don’t mind, but you have to have possession and we didn’t defend the two-on-one. I’m not sure what we were thinking on that.”

Cassidy added that the Crosby goal was a good but ultimately lost battle between Crosby and B’s defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Now, it’s no secret that Cassidy’s sometimes sharp and public tongue can on occasion do more harm than good.

But there’s little about Tuesday’s postgame comments that extend outside of the reality of the situation with Swayman. With Tuukka Rask effectively out of the Bruins’ plans according to the latest report (Cassidy opted not to speak on Rask’s behalf after the loss), the Bruins are going to need Swayman down the stretch. And they’re going to need him to prove that he’s capable of hanging in there against some of the league’s upper echelon teams. That’s been an issue for him in 2021-22.

With Tuesday’s loss, the 23-year-old Swayman is now 1-6-1 in starts against teams in the playoff picture this season, and has posted a .900 save percentage over that eight-start sample. He’s also allowed three goals or more in all but two of those starts.

I can hear you from here. He’s a rookie. He’s not supposed to be a world beater after 28 NHL games. That’s true, of course. But he’s still a goalie that the Bruins are going to need to rely on down the stretch. And it can’t always be Buffalo and Ottawa. The Bruins are going to need Swayman to prove capable of handling top competition consistently if they’re to avoid running Linus Ullmark (career-high 37 games, back in 2018-19) into the ground when the schedule gets downright nasty in March and April. This concern is arguably the biggest reason why the Bruins ventured into the Rask comeback experiment in the first place.

And this is a challenge that Swayman wanted.

When he was informed of his initial move down to Providence upon Rask’s return, he had one question for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. It was, “If those guys struggle, will I get the net again?”

That opportunity came on Monday night.

But the results didn’t, and it proved costly.

Here are some other thoughts and notes from an all-around awful night against the Penguins

  • Feb 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; With blood coming from his ear, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is helped off the ice by a trainer after being injured during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguin. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

    Patrice Bergeron injured in collision with Pens’ Crosby

    To make matters worse for the Bruins, Tuesday’s loss also came with an apparent injury to B’s captain Patrice Bergeron.

    Knocked down to the ice in a collision with the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, Bergeron appeared to knock the back of his head off the boards on the way down, and was down on the ice struggling to get back to his feet when the officials blew the whistle. Ultimately able to skate off on his own, No. 37 did not return to action, and Cassidy didn’t have an update on his captain.

    “Upper body,” Cassidy said. “I don’t know if the concussion [spotter] took him out with the way he went into the boards. I wouldn’t be surprised. When you’re down like that, that’s typically what happens. I did not speak to him. He didn’t come back to the bench and I went into the training room and he wasn’t there, so that’s about all I got. Hopefully he’s OK.”

    Always wince when you hear concussion and Patrice Bergeron mentioned in the same breath.

    If Bergeron is unable to go Thursday night, it seems likely that Charlie Coyle would move up to Bergeron’s spot in the lineup, while the Taylor Hall-Erik Haula-David Pastrnak line would essentially become the team’s de facto first line.

  • Feb 8, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) is held back by linesman Andrew Smith (51) after he got a penalty for attempting to injure during the third period against the Penguins. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

    Brad Marchand is probably getting suspended, huh? 

    Had your fill of bad news? But wait, there’s more! That’s because with about 24 seconds left in the third period of a two-goal game, Brad Marchand went absolutely cuckoo bananas on the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry.

    For Marchand, the melee on the Pittsburgh netminder began with a punch to the head, and continued with Marchand trying to jab Jarry in the face with his stick while linesman Andrew Smith hopelessly tried to keep Marchand away from the crease. This isn’t to excuse Marchand by any stretch, but it’s absolutely clear that something happened between Marchand and Jarry to lead to that exchanging of meltdowns, as Jarry emphatically said something to the Boston superstar before Marchand decided to take a swing and came through with a heavy-looking slash and/or spear to Charlie Coyle moments before the Marchand run-in.

    The on-ice officials didn’t give No. 63 the benefit of the doubt or chalk it up to the heat of the moment at all, though, as they tagged Marchand with a roughing and an attempt to injure match penalty.

    That match penalty comes with an automatic review from the NHL, too, meaning that Marchand could very well be looking at his second suspension in just over two months.

    The NHL Department of Player Safety has hit Marchand with seven suspensions and five fines for various incidents since 2010, while Marchand has forfeited nearly $1 million in salary as a result of his infractions.

  • BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 08: Danton Heinen #43 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period of a game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 8, 2022. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Danton Heinen has an old fashioned revenge game vs. Bruins

    It’s been almost two full years since the Bruins shipped Danton Heinen to Anaheim in exchange for winger Nick Ritchie. But Tuesday featured Heinen’s first career head-to-head with his former club, and the 26-year-old certainly made the most of it, with two goals and three shots in 14:55 of time on ice.

    That night bumped Heinen’s 2021-22 totals up to 11 goals and 20 points in 41 games, pacing him for what would be a career-best 20 goals with the Penguins. Not bad for a $1.1 million signing, and with restricted free agent rights still in the Pens’ possession when Heinen’s contract expires at the end of the season.

    It did bring up an interesting discussion, too, as NESN.com’s Logan Mullen wondered if the Heinen-for-Ritchie swap is the worst of the Don Sweeney era. Ritchie lasted just a season and a half with the Bruins before they opted not to qualify him and let him walk to Toronto (the Leafs have since waived him down to the minors), and he really fell flat in both of his postseason showings. Probably not a great return on investment when you consider that Heinen was a capable, versatile winger who actually fit solidly with Marchand and Bergeron (Heinen was a point-per-game player with the duo when Pastrnak missed time with a broken thumb in 2019) and still had years of team control.

    Even if his eventual fall out of frame was predictable given the way he was utilized and scratched at various points during the 2019-20 season, that trade tree dying with Ritchie not offered a qualifying offer kiiiiinda stings.

    But worst trade of the Sweeney run? I don’t know. For my money, it’s still tough to beat Zac Rinaldo for a third-round pick in 2015, and Lee Stempniak for a second and fourth in 2016.