Bruins Musings: Top Line, Power Play Can’t Do It All; DeBrusk Needs To Sit
BOSTON – The Boston Bruins came into their first game of the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday calling the big Atlantic Division tilt a “measuring stick” of where they’re at. After a frustrating, but entertaining for the fans, 4-3 shootout loss to the defending President’s Trophy and 2019 Atlantic Division regular season champions, the Bruins are exactly where they were before the Bolts put on a clinic in the neutral zone and showed what depth scoring can do.
“We win the game, right, tonight, if we get secondary scoring from anybody,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy bluntly told the media following the game.
Once again the top line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak carried the load for the Bruins. Pastrnak had two goals – including the game-tying goal with 3:05 left in regulation – and an assist; Marchand had two assists and Bergeron had a goal and an assist. All three Bruins goals came on the power-play. Defenseman Torey Krug had two assists as well.
While the Bruins (5-1-1) were happy to at least get a point and remain in second place, two points behind the first place Buffalo Sabres (6-1-1), they know their early success will not last long if they keep leaning so heavily on their top trio for scoring. Pastrnak (eight goals, five assists) has now scored five of the team’s last seven goals and he, Marchand (four goals, seven assists) and Bergeron (two goals, five assists) have factored in on eight of the Bruins’ last nine goals.
“I think we’re stating the obvious saying that,” a frustrated Cassidy said. “Having said that, our record is pretty good without it, but I don’t think it’s sustainable.”
Cassidy is absolutely right and as much as the accolades of his top line deserve to be celebrated, he and his team would much rather continue to celebrate wins.
Two Helpings Of Pasta On National Pasta Day – After his first four-goal game of his career in a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks Monday, Pastrnak (aka ‘Pasta’) lit the lamp twice on Thursday and fittingly on National Pasta Day. His first goal of the game at 9:34 of the first period made him only the third Bruin in team history to score five straight team goals. Dunc Fisher did the same thing in November 1951 and Glen Murray holds the team record with six straight back in 2004. Pastrnak is now tied with Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal for the league lead in goals with eight lamplighters a piece. He has a four-game point streak going and looks poised to surpass his career high of 38 goals that he scored last season.
Neutral Zone Leaks – The Bruins were absolutely dominated in the neutral zone by the Lightning, who not only had multiple odd man rushes but also three breakaways, one of which Lightning forward Brayden Point scored on to tie the game at one with .8 of a second left in the first period. The Lightning also had multiple odd man rushes during Bruins power plays as the Bruins appeared to part the neutral zone sea for their opponent.
“Leaky through the middle of the ice off the rush, stuff that we address,” Cassidy pointed out. “We’ll see that Saturday and Tuesday with Toronto. Players are going to have to start identifying that, these strengths, they happened too often tonight, they got through the middle.”
The Bruins bench boss was not thrilled with the shorthanded chances allowed either.
“Now, our power play, as much as it scored, gave up some shortys, so that’s a different animal,” Cassidy said. “We’ve got to be mindful of, managing the puck in certain situations. But five-on-five, a couple of goals there — we just need to be cleaner. Defending the rush. I think every goal — yeah, every goal came off the rush. I think our defensive zone coverage has always been good, our guys are good with structure there, but it’s managing the puck in the neutral zone. On the breakouts, we’re better I thought. And rush goals. It hurts.”
It’s Time For DeBrusk To Watch From Above – Following the game as reporters filtered into the Bruins dressing room for post-game access, a frustrated Jake DeBrusk busted out of the room faster than any of his zone entries during the game. DeBrusk’s frustration was on display during the game too, as he failed to light the lamp again and now has gone goalless in each of the Bruins’ first seven games.
DeBrusk has always been a streaky scorer in the past but in a contract year where expectations were high for the third-year winger, it’s clear the goal drought is weighing on him. In the loss Thursday, DeBrusk didn’t even get one shot on net in the first two periods and finished with just two in 17:11 and 21 shifts. Cassidy has never been afraid to bench a player regardless of their age or status on the team and it appears, in the opinion of this puck scribe, to be time for DeBrusk to reevaluate his game from up above. Given the Bruins depth scoring woes, that likely won’t happen, but sooner or later, it needs to be seriously considered.
Power Play Remains Lethal – The Bruins power play continued to be lethal on Thursday going 3-for-5. The precise passing and positioning combined with the skill and insane sense of where to be from the likes of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak is simply proving to be too much to handle for opposing teams.
“That’s probably the best powerplay in the league,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper acknowledged after the game. “Okay you give them one, maybe you give them two, you can’t give them three.”
The Bruins are now 5-for-8 on the man advantage in their last two games and have the second-best power play in the league behind the Edmonton Oilers, scoring at a 38.1 percent clip.
Krejci (Upper Body) Misses Second Game; Clifton Back In – Center David Krejci missed his second game of the season and was replaced by Charlie Coyle (upper-body) on the second line between DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie. Coyle struggled as he was a minus-2 and lost seven of 12 faceoffs. He played 16:23 and had three shots on net.
Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Monday in favor of Steven Kampfer. Clifton had one shot in 13:51 and 18 shifts.
Here’s what the roster looked like Thursday:
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Brett Ritchie
Danton Heinen –Par Lindholm – Karson Kuhlman
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton