Had it not been for Andrei Svechnikov delivering Hampus Lindholm to Palaookavile in Game 2, who knows how the series might have played out, how the remainder of the playoffs might have unfolded, or even if Jim Montgomery would have been hired over the summer as the club’s new bench boss?
Lindholm returned for Game 6 but delivered little spark, in sharp contrast to what he has shown thus far as the club’s top-producing defenseman (4-14—18).
The Bruins didn’t look quite as bedraggled Wednesday in Sunrise, Fla., but they were far from their best for most of the night, what ended as a 5-2 loss to the Panthers that clipped their second seven-game win streak of the season.
It was only the third time over these two months that the Bruins failed to work with a lead at some point during the night, only the fourth time that they trailed at the 40:00 mark. They entered the one-day holiday break with a league-best 34 points (1 ahead of Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights), and could have picked up 2 points Wednesday had it not been for their constant parade to the penalty box and a very spotty penalty-killing effort (4 for 7).
“We’ll have to tighten that up,” said Montgomery.
Penalty killing has been just one of the Bruins’ bright spots from the start of the season, but it has gone a moth-eaten 15 for 23 (65.2 percent) over the last five games. The unit still ranks No. 2 overall (88.3 percent) in the league, second only to San Jose (91.4). However, those recent numbers are not survivable for a club that portends to have legit Stanley Cup aspirations.
On the flip side, the power play soared over the last five games, delivering at a 10-for-23 clip (43.5 percent) that jiggled the Bruins to a No. 4 ranking (26.3 percent) for the season. Only Colorado (32.8), Dallas (30.4), and Edmonton (26.4) have been more proficient when man-up.
Linus Ullmark (13-1-0) hit the first-quarter mark as the league’s hottest netminder, leading the way in wins, save percentage (.935) and GAA (1.96).
Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman’s backup in Florida, is expected in net for the matinee, most likely to oppose Pyotr Kochetkov, the 6-foot-3-inch Carolina rookie and the 36th pick in the 2019 draft, who is 2-1-2.
Kochetkov, with fewer than 450 minutes of NHL regular-season experience, earlier this week agreed to a four-year, $8 million contract extension.
Ullmark has gone 8-0-0 at the Garden, allowing only 13 goals and posting a .946 save percentage.
The Bruins’ 10 power-play goals over the last five games came from David Pastrnak (3), Jake DeBrusk (2), Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Nick Foligno, Charlie McAvoy, and Bergeron … Granted, it’s a small sample size (seven games) for McAvoy, but he has popped for 2-8—10 since coming back from shoulder surgery — a line given a shot of espresso by his four helpers in Monday’s win in Tampa. If he delivered at the same rate over the remaining 62 games, he would finish with 98 points … Lindholm is on pace for 74 points. Clobbered by Svechnikov late in the second period of Game 2 last May, Lindholm returned for Games 6 and 7, finishing the series 0-0—0 for his four games. He was lugging the puck out behind the net, head down, when Svechnikov put the hammer on the Hammer at the goal line.
The Bruins wrap up a very busy November with Tuesday night’s visit by the Lightning, amid what will be the quietest stretch of the season for the Black and Gold other than the February break. Following the visit by the Hurricanes, they’ll play only twice over the next nine days, leading up to the Dec. 5 stop here by Vegas. They then play 13 games from Dec. 5-31 … In their 12 games on home ice, the Bruins have amassed a humongous advantage in lead time: 401:14 to 15:12. Of the dozen visitors to Causeway Street, only the Wild (1:17) and Flames (13:55) have culled a temporary lead over the Bruins.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.