The Boston Bruins would not have a 3-point lead over the Ottawa Sentors for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference without excellent offensive production from rookie forwards Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak in March.
Spooner and Pastrnak scored a goal apiece in Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes. It all started in the first period with Spooner scoring his seventh goal of the season, which leads the Bruins since Feb 21 (the date he was recalled from Providence). Pastrnak picked up the primary assist on the goal.
Pastrnak notched a multi-point game with an overtime goal that secured two points for the Bruins. Carl Soderberg skated down the right side of the attacking zone and sent a centering pass likely intended for Milan Lucic. Instead, the puck trickled past Lucic to Pastrnak, who the Hurricanes forgot to locate in their defensive coverage.
The 18-year-old rookie capitalized on the opportunity with a powerful slap shot that beat ‘Canes goalie Anton Khudobin.
Boston’s offense as a whole has struggled a bit in March, but Spooner and Pastrnak have been among the most consistent forwards. Spooner, who currently has a 3-game point streak, leads the B’s in scoring during March with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 14 games. Pastrnak ranks second on the team with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in that same span.
This level of offense has been incredibly valuable for the Bruins because several more established forwards haven’t met expectations this month. Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Max Talbot and Carl Soderberg have combined for just three goals in March. The B’s also didn’t have top-six forward David Krejci for the first 11 games of the month because of a knee injury.
Spooner and Pastrnak still have to improve defensively, and B’s head coach Claude Julien still shelters them with the majority of their shifts starting outside the defensive zone. That said, the offensive skill and scoring production Spooner and Pastrnak are giving the Bruins is quite encouraging, and the Original Six club will need more of it to clinch a playoff spot over the final six regular-season games.
— After giving up the opening goal, Carolina was the better team for most of regulation and overtime. The Hurricanes earned a 73-47 edge in shot attempts (57-37 at even strength) and a 31-20 advantage in scoring chances, per War on Ice.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask gave a sensational performance under constant pressure. He made 30 saves on 31 shots for a .968 save percentage. Rask was Boston’s best player and prevented this game from getting out of hand when the Bruins had very little energy in the final 45 minutes.
— The Hurricanes earned a 46-31 edge in face-offs, which isn’t a huge surprise because they rank third in the NHL in face-off percentage. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was 16-for-37 (43 percent) in a rare poor performance at the face-off dot. Bergeron won 50 percent of more of his face-offs in 20 of the previous 22 games entering Sunday.
— Boston’s win officially eliminates the New Jersey Devils from playoff contention. Realistically, the Devils had been out of the playoff race for several weeks, but it’s now mathematically impossible for them to make it.
Thumbnail photo via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports Images