BUFFALO — Just about everything is going gangbusters for the Bruins at the moment.
They won their fifth straight game Tuesday night, a 2-0 silencing of the Sabres, the lambs of the NHL East.
They picked up three guys at the trade deadline — Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly, and Curtis Lazar — who’ve fit in better than Adele at your favorite pub’s karaoke night.
One of the league’s weakest five-on-five teams for the first 10-plus weeks of the season, the Bruins connected twice more at full strength vs. the Sabres. A total of 15 of their last 17 goals, all across the winning streak, have come at five on five.
And then there’s the power play, which has turned coach Bruce Cassidy’s whiteboard blue of late.
Hold your ticket applications to the Cup Final, please, because there’s still some work for the Bruins to do. When goals should be there for the taking, nothing’s doing for the Bruins on the man-advantage.
Consider: While winning five straight, the Bruins went only 1 for 16 on the power play, with Craig Smith scoring the goal across 29:17 in power-play time.
A broken clock may be right twice a day, but a broken power play never looks right.
Enter Matt Grzelcyk. The fourth-year defenseman returned to work Tuesday after 10 days sidelined by injury and resumed duty as the lone point man on the No. 1 power-play unit, backing forwards Nick Ritchie, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.
The result wasn’t any better. Even with the nimble, active Grzelcyk manning Torey Krug’s old turf at the right point, the Bruins were blanked again (0 for 4, 4:07) on the advantage.
However, the power play did look better with Grzelcyk. And with Charlie McAvoy and Reilly filling the point roles on the No. 2 unit (behind Hall-David Krejci-Smith), it’s reasonable to think something could pop soon.
“It was nice to get back out there and feel a little bit more comfortable and get a few opportunities in the first game,” said Grzelcyk, who posted a team-high 3:10 on the power play. “Hopefully can have some more success [Thursday] night.”
The Bruins face the Sabres again here Thursday and Friday, before moving on to Pittsburgh for a two-game set.
“I thought we moved it pretty well,” added Grzelcyk. “Hopefully we can see a few more go in.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Cassidy was not on the ice for what was an optional workout (also a surprise) early Wednesday afternoon.
Practice days are a rarity in the highly compressed schedule, and with the power play in need of tuning, an offday workout on the road seemed a logical fix-it opportunity. Earlier in the week, in fact, Cassidy noted Wednesday would make for a solid practice opportunity.
Cassidy held his daily Zoom session prior to the 2 p.m. workout, also a surprise, and the small media gathering didn’t ask about the day’s plans.
The workout at KeyBank Center, which included Jaroslav Halak and Jeremy Swayman as the goalies, lasted only 35 minutes, though 10-12 players lingered for extra work.
Assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, Joe Sacco, Kevin Dean, and Bob Essensa oversaw the workout.
Tuukka Rask, who turned aside 32 shots Tuesday for his 51st career shutout, did not attend practice.
Cassidy said Swayman will be the starter Thursday, and the plan remains for Rask to close out the series on Friday. Cassidy didn’t reveal his goalie plans beyond Friday, but Swayman or Halak would be the logical pick for Sunday’s matinee in Pittsburgh.
“Normal wear and tear,” said Cassidy, noting that Rask had the day off for maintenance. “That’s a good sign. The plan [is] to put him back in Friday, so we’ll stick with that for now.”
Hindered for the better part of a month because of a back injury, Rask has won his three starts since returning, victories over the Islanders, Capitals, and Sabres. He turned away 84 of 91 shots in those wins, a save percentage of .923, improving to .916 for the season.
“A lot of high-danger stuff,” said Cassidy, lamenting that Rask has been forced to turn away an uncharacteristic number of good scoring chances of late. “More acrobatic, athletic saves … he’s been forced to make the last few [games] than we typically force him to do, by playing better in front of him.”
Swayman (4-1-0) will make his first start since recording his first career shutout (3-0) over the Islanders last Friday.
On the schedule
The Bruins have 12 games remaining in the regular season, and one-third will be against the Sabres.
The other eight matchups: New Jersey (2), New York Rangers (2) Pittsburgh (2), New York Islanders (1), and Washington (1). The Bruins have finished their season series with the Flyers.