Boston Bruins

Apr 5, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes the save on Detroit Red Wings center Pius Suter (24) in the second period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins may be at the 85 percent mark of their regular season, but the competition for ice time isn’t over and the team’s ideal playoff lineup is far from set in stone, as Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed following a loss in Detroit.

“Defensively, we had some breakdowns in front of our net, we didn’t defend hard enough, [and] we didn’t manage pucks,” Cassidy said. “Our third pairing, they had a tough time. They got beat and didn’t manage a puck. In and out of the lineup, that doesn’t help their cause, to be honest with you. We expect better.”

On Tuesday, the Bruins went back to that third pairing with Derek Forbort to the left of Mike Reilly.

Together for just under five minutes of five-on-five play in the losing effort, the Red Wings scored two of their three five-on-five goals with the Forbort-Reilly pair on the ice. Those goals, which featured some ugly turnovers and poor recoveries, made a big difference by the night’s end. The Forbort-Reilly pairing, which does feature two lefties, has unfortunately yet to look anything close to playable for the Bruins. Now, the secondary problem within that, and seemingly alluded to by Cassidy, is that Reilly made it somewhat known that he wasn’t happy about being scratched after the deadline, and even said that he believes he’s an everyday player for this team. If he’s going to say that, the Bruins are going to expect nights better than his Tuesday in Detroit.

This competition is really on the backend, too, with the Bruins still trying to figure out what makes up their perfect six.

You get the sense that the Bruins want to ride with a Hampus Lindholm-Charlie McAvoy top pairing, and their on-ice results together give them a good reason to stick with that. The Bruins have, at times throughout Lindholm’s brief Boston tenure, thrown No. 27 with Brandon Carlo, but the ideal fit there is clearly with him to the left of McAvoy. Carlo is also a lock on the right side of the second pairing. Everything else? Well, close your eyes and throw a dart at the board.

But the Bruins also have something brewing in net between Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark.

In net for four goals on 28 shots, Swayman struggled en route to his second loss in three games, and his third loss in his last six games. Over that six-game sample, the 23-year-old has posted an .883 save percentage. That .883 is the fourth-worst mark among a group of 35 NHL goaltenders with at least six appearances since Mar. 15. Ullmark, meanwhile, has gone 5-0-0 over that same spell, and his .931 save percentage is the fourth-best among that group of 35.

Swayman wasn’t the only reason the Bruins lost on Tuesday night, obviously, but the Jakub Vrana goal in the third period simply can’t happen at that point in the game, and it ultimately made the difference by the end of the night.

“We didn’t get any saves when we needed them,” Cassidy remarked. “We expect our goalie to bail us out at times when you break down. Because when you look at it, there wasn’t a lot of breakdowns. We got into a little penalty trouble, but I thought our penalty kill was excellent. We scored a shortie and we might have out-chanced them.

“We’re not going to judge everyone on one game, but we are moving along here, right? There is opportunity that presents itself and you want to take advantage of it.”

The good (or bad depending on your point of view as a person) news? The Bruins will have another 12 games to get everything sorted out before they start to truly mean something.

Here’s some other thoughts and notes from a 5-3 loss in Detroit

  • Apr 5, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) makes the save in front of Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) in the first period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 5, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) makes the save in front of Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) in the first period at Little Caesars Arena. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

    Bruins throw kitchen sink at Red Wings’ Nedeljkovic

    A season-high 50 shots from the Bruins on the Red Wings’ Alex Nedeljkovic couldn’t break the Detroit netminder. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Nedeljkovic stoned the Bruins into a 2-1 loss with a 39-of-40 performance back in November. That’s an 86-of-90 line over two games against the Bruins, good for a .956 save percentage.

    But with Tuesday’s defeat, the Bruins became just the fourth team in the NHL to put up at least 50 shots and lose the game, the Bruins became just the fourth team in the 2021-22 NHL season to put at least 50 shots on goal and lose.

    The other teams and their losses: The Penguins put up 50 shots in a Nov. 27 loss, the Stars landed 51 shots on goal in a Jan. 18 loss, and the Leafs did it twice, with 51 shots in a Mar. 26 loss, and a staggering 53 shots on goal in a Feb. 12 loss. Oddly enough, the winning team in three of those four games? The Montreal Canadiens. Can’t say their goalies aren’t doing their job in a dismal season, I guess.

  • Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) skates with the puck during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) skates with the puck during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Bruins play on without David Pastrnak, Trent Frederic

    With both David Pastrnak and Trent Frederic injured in Monday’s win over the Blue Jackets, and without a morning skate on the docket with Tuesday being the second leg of a traveling back-to-back for the Bruins, the Bruins soldiered on without both players for their head-to-head with the Red Wings.

    With those players out, and with Curtis Lazar also taken out of the lineup, the Bruins iced an entirely new fourth line with Jack Studnicka between Anton Blidh and Marc McLaughlin. The line was actually the B’s most deployed line in terms of five-on-five action together, and they certainly had their looks. But in terms of direct lineup replacements, Tomas Nosek was elevated to Pastrnak’s spot to the right of Taylor Hall and Erik Haula, while Nick Foligno moved up and manned the left side of Boston’s third line with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith.

    The Bruins also suffered another injury in this contest, with Hampus Lindholm missing from the Boston bench for the third period of action. Speaking after the game, Cassidy noted that Lindholm “seemed OK,” and added that his doesn’t believe the injury is going to any sort of long-term issue for the Swedish defenseman.

  • Apr 5, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Oskar Sundqvist (70) skates with the puck defended by Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (48) in the second period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 5, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Oskar Sundqvist (70) skates with the puck defended by Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (48) in the second period at Little Caesars Arena. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

    The Junk Drawer

    • Love random crap like this: With his shorthanded goal Tuesday night, Brandon Carlo is now tied for the 16th-most shorthanded points among all NHL defensemen since 2016. In case you’re wondering, Mark Giordano leads all defenders here over that sample, with nine goals (nine!) and 14 points while down a man.
    • Taylor Hall is in takeover mode right now. A lot of fun to watch. Every shift seems to have legit purpose and drive. Really curious to see how it translate this postseason. I think last year showed him just how difficult it is to score and win that time of year.
    • Random Red Wing: Sean Avery. No, seriously, you probably remember him best from his time with the Rangers, but Sean Avery actually broke into the NHL with the Red Wings.
    • Going from an arena named after one of boxing’s greatest legends to an arena named for the worst pizza in the world is perhaps the greatest example of dystopian hell. Pizza pizza.