WASHINGTON, D.C. - Curtis Lazar has only been in Boston for roughly a month.
With such limited time in the Spoked-B, plus the restrictions that playing in the midst of a pandemic present, the forward has yet to meet face to face with many members of the organization.
So, when he arrived to the dressing room on Tuesday night for Boston's tilt against the Washington Capitals, he had to first get some introductions out of the way.
"I didn't know 60 percent of [the lineup] until tonight. I was shaking hands before the game," said Curtis Lazar, acquired from Buffalo on April 12.
The Bruins were taking a cautious approach to their regular-season finale, opting to leave behind much of the regular roster. As such, the Black & Gold had a far more youthful and inexperienced look with the lineup against the Washington Capitals including many of the club's top prospects.
Despite a diminished roster, Boston put forth a stellar effort behind some strong performances from youngsters Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen, Jack Ahcan, and Jeremy Swayman, who made 30 saves but surrendered the winning goal to Michael Raffl with just 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation, sending the Bruins to a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Capital One Arena.
"We fought hard. A lot of good things to take away from this game. I thought they rose to the occasion," said Lazar, who potted Boston's lone goal off a terrific feed from Jarred Tinordi at 10:11 of the second period to give the B's a 1-0 lead.
Boston finished the regular season at 33-15-7 with 73 points, good for the third seed in the East Division and a date with the Caps in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins will be back in the nation's capital - with their full complement of players - on Saturday night for Game 1.
"You want to be a top team. I think we're in that group," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Are we the definitively the top team? No. That's open to debate and that's why the playoffs will determine that. That's how we're going to be judged, that's how you're normally judged in Boston. It'll be no different this year.
"We've got a tough opponent in front of us, but so does Washington, so does Pittsburgh, so do the Islanders. It's a tough division. May the best team win, and we're preparing to be that team. The good news is, we're probably healthier than we've been all year. That's a positive for us going in and hopefully that pays off for us."
Video: BOS Recap: Lazar scores lone goal is loss to Capitals
Swayman to Back Up
Cassidy confirmed after the game that Swayman will be Tuukka Rask's backup for the postseason. The rookie netminder was immense over the past five weeks, compiling a 7-3-0 record with a 1.50 goals against average and .945 save percentage in 10 games, while filling in for Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
"I think he's earned that," said Cassidy. "Obviously, a tough call with Jaro with his experience. He's just played more down the stretch here, Swayman. Some of that was out of circumstance, Tuukka got hurt and Jaro went into COVID protocol, so there's a quarantine, and for goalies, it's a little tougher to get thrown back in there. It'll take time to get back up to speed.
"Thought Swayman grabbed the ball and ran with it. That's the decision there, but that could change as we go along, as Jaro gets more reps. But right now, I think Swayman's done everything we've asked. I thought he was solid again tonight tracking pucks. The last one was a tough one, went in off his head from below the goal line, probably happens once a year. Happened tonight."
Coyle Good to Go
Cassidy said postgame that Charlie Coyle, who missed the last four games of the regular season with an upper-body injury suffered last week in New Jersey, is expected to be ready for Game 1 on Saturday night.
He termed Ondrej Kase, who left his first game back on Monday night in the second period with an upper-body injury, as a "question mark."
Video: Cassidy, Lazar and Steen talk after 2-1 loss
Cassidy was quite pleased with the showing of what can only be described as a skeleton crew. With the vast majority of Boston's lineup left behind in Boston, the B's bench boss iced a lineup made up mostly of members of the taxi squad and call-ups from the P-Bruins.
"I thought they played better as the game went along, guys had a little more conviction," said Cassidy. "Tried to encourage them that, hey, they belong here. Listen, it's a good team we're playing. Circumstances are a little bit unique, the last game of the year. For some of them, might be the last game you play. For others, if we have the run we want to have, then opportunity may knock for you down the road. Put your best foot forward.
"I thought they responded well. As the game went along, some of the younger guys get a little more comfortable, that's normal. Guys that haven't been in the lineup in a while. Other guys stepped right in and did a good job that have been playing, obviously."
Cassidy was particularly fond of the way that Studnicka (three shots, two blocks), Steen (team-high six hits), and Cameron Hughes (three shots, three takeaway) acquitted themselves, while also complimenting the work of veterans Lazar (goal), Tinordi (assist - his first point of the season), Steven Kampfer (team-high 24:05 of ice time), and Chris Wagner (three shots, plus-1).
"I thought Studs played with some conviction and tact," said Cassidy. "Steen was one of those guys that as the game went on, got more comfortable. I thought Tinordi and Kampfer in the back end right away were good players for us. Sway was steady in there. Some good things.
"Nice to see Lazar get in on the scoresheet. That line created a little offense, they're known to - Lazar and Wags, more of a checking role. They had the puck a little more, got to play with it.
"And I thought Hughes was a very competitive player, and smart. Did a good job. He's not particularly big or strong, fast, all these things, but he's an effective hockey player. He's smart. Was in the right spots a lot, so I liked his game."
Video: BOS@WSH: Lazar puts home Tinordi's feed in front
Zboril Exits Early
Jakub Zboril left in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. The 24-year-old blue liner, while playing only sparingly following the acquisition of Mike Reilly at the trade deadline, put together a solid first full season with the big club.
He finished the year with nine assists in 42 games, to go along with an even rating, 18 penalty minutes, while averaging 17:03 of ice time.
Wait, There's More
- Kampfer, Wagner, and Nick Ritchie were Boston's alternate captains. Ritchie finished the season as the only Bruins to play in all 56 games.
- Trent Frederic was engaged physically throughout and, on several occasions, mixed it up with Zdeno Chara and Tom Wilson. Frederic and Wilson were given matching 10-minute misconducts at 1:49 of the third period.