BOSTON — The Bruins have earned at least one point from eight of their last 10 games, but Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators won’t do much to help Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Four of those eight games were overtime or shootout losses, and the points that the B’s are not securing could make a huge difference in the playoff race in April.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s matchup.
1. Another Slow Start
The Bruins weren’t able to build a first-period lead and lacked energy for the final 15 minutes of the frame. To be fair, Ottawa also didn’t bring a ton of intensity to begin the game, but the Bruins would’ve benefited from playing with a higher tempo and putting an inferior Senators team on its heels from the start.
The Bruins have been outscored 5-4 in first periods over the last seven games and own an opening-period goal differential of only plus-4 on the season. Boston’s 0.84 first-period goals scored per game is down slightly from last season’s rate (0.86). That said, the Bruins aren’t likely to match their plus-27 first-period goal differential from 2013-14.
2. Second-Period Special Teams Impress
The Bruins entered the third period tied with the Senators thanks to their excellent special teams in the second period. Ottawa had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:42 beginning at 4:30 of the period, and Boston killed off both penalties while giving up just two shots on goal.
After giving up an even-strength goal to Senators center Kyle Turris, the Bruins tied the score less than four minutes later with a power-play tally from defenseman Torey Krug. He unleashed a powerful slap shot from just above the right faceoff circle that beat Sens goalie Craig Anderson, who was screened by Zdeno Chara at the edge of the crease. Krug now has six power-play points (two goals, four assists), tying him with Dougie Hamilton for second on the team.
3. Milan Lucic Struggles, Gets Replaced by Brad Marchand on Top Line
Brad Marchand played nearly all of the third period in Milan Lucic’s spot at left wing on the top line with David Krejci and Seth Griffith. Claude Julien’s decision to swap the left wing positions on his top two lines paid off as Marchand scored at 10:35 of the third period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Lucic now has a seven-game goalless drought and Saturday’s matchup was not one of this better performances of the campaign. He tallied just one shot on goal (he has one shot or fewer in three of his last four games) and posted a minus-3 Corsi at even strength (tied for lowest among B’s forwards). His lack of scoring is among the reasons why Boston’s offense has been inconsistent all season.
4. One Point Not Enough
The Bruins entered this game two points behind the New York Rangers for the second and final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
One point is better than nothing, but the Bruins cannot afford to consistently earn less than two points because there’s at least five teams battling for those two spots (six if you include a red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets team that is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games).
The conference is more competitive than 2013-14 with teams such as the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders making positives strides from last season. It’s also important to note that the Bruins already have played 39 games, the second-most in the East.
5. Adam McQuaid Returns
Veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to Boston’s lineup after an 18-game absence (broken thumb suffered on Nov. 18). He took two penalties and tallied zero shots on goal in 17:26 of ice time. McQuaid was paired with Dennis Seidenberg.
“Overall pretty good,” McQuaid said of his return. “There were definitely some highs and lows with the game, but I guess it’s always good to be back and be a part of things. … Obviously, you want to be a part of winning and trying to be part of the solution. Right now, it’s just tough with some of the outcomes we have been getting but I’m happy to be back and hopefully we can turn things around here and start winning some hockey games.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports