WASHINGTON — All eyes and mental energy directed to their Game 1 playoff matchup with the Capitals here Saturday night, the Bruins opted to close out their regular season Tuesday night with virtually their entire starting cast taking the night off for R&R.
Adult skate canceled … so the Bruins flooded the ice with kids to take on the Capitals in the last game (No. 56) of the pandemic-shortened regular season, which Washington won, 2-1.
The scratches included Boston’s top two lines of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall-David Krejci-Craig Smith.
Other forwards granted a day’s furlough included Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle.
Right winger Ondrej Kase, who pulled out of Monday night’s action after two periods, did not make the trip here following the 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders.
Coach Bruce Cassidy also gave the night off to the six defensemen who likely will suit up in Game 1 (start time, 7:15 p.m.): Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon, and Kevan Miller.
Tuukka Rask, as planned, also had the night off, leaving the start in net to rookie Jeremy Swayman, backed up by Dan Vladar.
“Quite a list,” said Boston Herald reporter Steve Conroy during Cassidy’s morning Zoom session, noting the great number of absentees.
“You asked,” said a smiling Cassidy.
The Bruins, because their schedule was jammed up, did not get more than a single night off over the last 28 games, dating to March 25. That exhausting pace, coupled with the playoff seed in hand, prompted Cassidy to keep his regulars rested.
The Bruins will be off Wednesday, essentially allowing the regular cast a two-day rest prior to returning to practice on Thursday and Friday.
“I just feel after the amount of time we’ve spent at the rink playing, and the energy spent to play well, it’s also good to have a mental break,” mused Cassidy. “We can get in the rink Thursday, start our conversations about Washington’s tendencies, build some of those into practice, get our legs back under us, and Friday drill down a little more.”
Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin returned to action for the first time in more than a week, but only after testing his injury (right leg) in the warm-up. Ovechkin had played in only one game (May 3) since April 22. He took only one 39-second shift in the May 3 game against the Rangers.
Ovechkin did not factor in the scoring, but he fired a game-high nine attempts and landed four on Swayman. Ovechkin (24-18—42) finished with fewer than 30 goals in a season for the first time in his illustrious career.
Points well taken
Not that it was in doubt, but Marchand, who turned 33 Tuesday, will end the season as the Bruins’ top scorer (29-40—69).
Marchand’s longtime linemates, Bergeron and Pastrnak, will finish tied for second with 48 points.
It is the fourth time in the last five seasons that Marchand won the club’s scoring title. It is only the second time that he also led the way in both goals and assists, matching his 2016-17 campaign when he totaled 39-46—85.
Marchand’s overall impact, noted Cassidy, is felt throughout the dressing room and lineup.
“You can see it on the stat sheet,” he said. “You can see it in the other teams’ frustration, not being able to contain him.”
Kase returned Monday after not playing in nearly three months because of a concussion he suffered in the second game of the season.
Cassidy said he does not believe Kase exited Monday because of anything related to the January injury.
“I think there was a little bit of conditioning with him, his first game in a long time,” said Cassidy, who saw the right winger leave after logging 6:49 and landing two shots on net. “I was told he just didn’t feel like he was getting through it, where he needed to be, so he let the training staff know, so they decided, ‘OK, let’s cut it short tonight.’ We’ll see where it ends up.”
For a fairly light night’s work by Kase, Cassidy felt somewhat encouraged.
“He was competing,” said the coach. “He was on pucks. I know he put a few to the net, which is what he typically does — doesn’t overthink it, likes to shoot.”
Kase is similar to Smith, in that sense, added Cassidy.
“Wants to get pucks to the net, wants to play in straight lines,” he said. “I thought he did a good job battling pucks out at the blue line, getting in shooting lanes, doing what he had to do. So, yeah, there were some positive signs.”
Not so fast
The irascible Tom Wilson of the Capitals and the Bruins’ Trent Frederic were tagged with 10-minute misconducts early in the third period, the officiating crew seemingly intent on Wilson not stealing any more of the league’s narrative prior to the start of the postseason … In the absence of Bergeron, the league’s faceoff impresario, the Bruins lost 62 percent of their draws. Curtis Lazar lost 7 of 10, while Jack Studnicka lost 5 of 8 … Oskar Steen upended ex-Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in the first period with an effective forecheck in the Bruins’ left corner. Big Z remained down for a few extra seconds and was limping once back on his feet. But, as usual, he did not miss a shift. The plucky Steen landed a game-high six hits … The Bruins entered the night with nearly a 5-1 advantage in lead time in the 16 games since acquiring Hall, Reilly, and Lazar at the April 12 trade deadline. Their time with the lead: 499:09, compared with 102:29 for opponents. The Bruins didn’t allow their opponent a lead in 10 of the 16 games. Also in that stretch, the Bruins only once trailed after two periods: a 3-1 deficit to the Sabres on April 23 that turned into a 6-4 loss … Krejci, if he returns to the NHL next season, will need to play in 38 games to reach 1,000 … Swayman has seven victories in 10 games. Only six other Boston draftees have recorded more wins in the Bruins net: Bill Ranford (52), Andrew Raycroft (43), Marco Baron (31), John Grahame (29) Hannu Toivonen (12), and Jim Pettie (9). Mike Moffat also posted seven wins in the Boston net … Cassidy made Swayman his pick over Halak as Rask’s backup to begin the playoffs … Rask will enter the playoffs with a 51-42 record in 93 postseason games. He could become the 19th goalie in NHL history to reach 100. The all-time leader: Patrick Roy (247) … The Bruins will be off on Wednesday, but team president Cam Neely and GM Don Sweeney will hold separate season-end Zoom sessions with the media.