Why Bruins’ loss to Rangers wasn’t as crushing as it seemed

Matt Kalman
February 06, 2019 - 11:40 pm

Well that was one way to crush momentum.

The Bruins, coming off playoff-intensity wins against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and the Metropolitan Division leading New York Islanders, tried to beat the rebuilding New York Rangers by playing just one strong period Wednesday. It didn’t work.

The Bruins scored three goals during a span of 4:44 of the second period to take a 3-1 lead but left Madison Square Garden with just one point in the standings after losing 4-3 in a shootout. It was just the fourth time this season the Bruins have lost when leading after two periods (19-2-2).

They won’t make excuses, but the Bruins could be forgiven for playing with heavy legs after grinding out a 3-1 win against the heavy Isles on Tuesday. To look on the bright side, Boston now has a five-game point streak (2-0-3) and is ahead of Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division based on the season-series tie-breaker.

There were a couple other silver linings in an overall disappointing night for the Bruins:

Line juggle worked

One day shy of the two-year anniversary of is ascension to the Bruins’ head coach’s office Bruce Cassidy was on his game, reminiscent of when he first took over and he could seemingly do no wrong.

With his team sleepwalking through the first period, Cassidy juggled his forward lines in the second and it paid off instantly.

Danton Heinen moved to a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and scored the goal that tied the game 1-1. David Pastrnak left the Bergeron/Marchand line to join David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik, and scored the go-ahead goal on a setup from Krejci.

Bergeron’s power-play goal then gave Boston a 3-1 lead.

Perhaps Cassidy has found his new, better-balanced line combinations for the Bruins’ next stretch of games.

Hooray for Halak

Jaroslav Halak now has a five-game losing streak (0-3-2) and he entered the Rangers game with an .850 save percentage in his past four games. He was strong for two periods, making 21 saves on 22 shots, then had a hiccup on the game-tying goal when he had a clear look at a point shot by Pavel Buchnevich. The rebound went off the post to Filip Chytil, who buried the puck.

Halak’s play has dropped off big time since his first couple months when he was pushing Tuukka Rask for the Bruins’ No. 1 job. But in overtime, that Halak showed up. He made six saves, all on odd-man rushes except for a point-blank save on Mike Zibanejad, who was left all alone in front of the Boston net.

If the Bruins lost the shootout but were able to boost Halak’s confidence in that overtime period, it may have been worth it.

McAvoy making his mark

Defenseman Charlie McAvoy took the penalty that led to Chytil’s goal. It was a foolish boarding penalty at an inopportune time.

But that shouldn’t take away from his strong all-around game, as the second-year blueliner blocked five shots, had four hits and logged 24:53 of ice time. He’s now had three strong games in a row after his play had dipped a tad.

Undoubtedly there will be more ups and downs in McAvoy’s seasons, but the highs are just too impressive to ignore and there’s no doubt he’s still on track to be the Bruins’ No. 1 defenseman for years to come.

You can’t lose sight of the fact that he’s still just 21 years old with 90 games (that’s right, just 90 regular-season games) of NHL experience.

Related: The things that made Patrice Bergeron’s 1,000th game extra special