It is a strange time of year for this year’s Boston Bruins.
The team has played so well that the Bruins have clinched everything that may give them a competitive advantage during the playoffs.
By beating the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday, the team ensured it wouldn’t have that much to play for over the final two weeks (IF you believe they don’t care about earning the most wins and points in NHL history).
Whether or not the team cares about records or you as a fan cares, there were still some meaningful performances to see this week, but the most encouraging was the penalty kill.
The Bruins spent a full 34:53 shorthanded in their four games last week, more than half a full game. They spent almost eight more minutes killing penalties last week than the No. 2 team in time shorthanded, the Detroit Red Wings, who spent 26:58 killing penalties.
The Bruins spent 2:48 of their shorthanded time killing off a two-man advantage too, which was 2:01 more than the New York Rangers, who were No. 2 in that ranking.
In all that time, the league’s top-ranked penalty kill allowed no goals.
Killing penalties is a team effort, but some skaters shoulder the biggest burden; last week, that was Dmitry Orlov, who, along with spending a league-leading 20:28 killing penalties, added a power-play assist for good measure.
Gotta Love Orlov
Though Orlov’s performance wasn’t as flashy as his nine-point performance a few weeks ago, he (and his penalty-killing partner Brandon Carlo) were incredibly valuable given how much time the team spent shorthanded this week.
The Bruins played Sunday versus the St. Louis Blues without key penalty killers Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy. Carlo also spent four minutes in the penalty box for minors (and missed some penalty-kill time after fighting Boone Jenner in Columbus).
Additionally, the team has been without skilled penalty killer Derek Forbort since March 16. Orlov was the rock on the Bruins’ penalty kill this week.
They don’t provide a lot of penalty-kill highlights during game recaps, but this one is a good example of what Orlov can do well.
He knows when to be aggressive, keeping his stick as close to his opponent’s stick as possible to block as many passing lanes as possible.
Even though he allows a pass, Carlo’s positioning on Crosby eliminates a high-quality chance for the superstar, and Orlov gets back to box Crosby out of the rebound before Carlo collects the puck.
Orlov’s 5-on-5 play wasn’t quite as stout defensively this week as it has been; he was on the ice for several 5-on-5 goals against, including the Blues’ game-tying goal Sunday.
But when you consider how much time he spent killing penalties, an exhausting undertaking, it’s understandable that he might not have been at his best at the tail end of a back-to-back, Sunday, and after playing four games in seven days.
He was also still able to provide offense on the scoresheet and off. His assist on Pastrnak’s go-ahead power-play goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins was impressive. The mustard he got on that backhand attempt from the blueline was shocking.
His assist helped the Bruins start to get their power play going again, scoring two power-play goals in a game for the first time since December 19 against the Florida Panthers.
Then were the things Orlov did that didn’t show up on the scoresheet, like planting 6-foot-6 Colton Parayko on his ass, which led to a Bruins 2-on-1 and a Jake DeBrusk goal.
Honorable Mention: David Pastrnak
David Pastrnak followed up on last week’s player of the week performance with another stellar effort.
Pastrnak scored five goals (one totally meaningless against the Nashville Predators) and added a beautiful power play assist for six total points, including a hat trick against the Penguins.
One of those goals was that beautiful tip-in off the Orlov pass against Pittsburgh. His most impactful goal was his game winner later in that game to help the Bruins win in regulation. That goal helped stave off a potential hope-giving comeback victory to a potential first-round opponent.
Pastrnak’s no-look pass to Tyler Bertuzzi for the Bruins’ second goal of the game versus the Blues was art and gave Pastrnak his 103rd point of the season.
Let’s hope the Bruins’ power play can build on this momentum through the season’s final games and head into the playoffs as the threat it once was. If that does happen, you can be sure Pastrnak will be involved.
Connor Clifton - 1
Taylor Hall - 1
Garnet Hathaway - 1
Charlie McAvoy - 1
Dmitry Orlov - 1
David Pastrnak - 2
Jeremy Swayman - 2
Linus Ullmark - 2