The complacency that has reared it’s ugly head on the Bruins for a month, finally prevented the Bruins from stealing a point despite on many nights recently, not deserving one.
The Bruins lost their third straight game and second at TD Garden with a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon. The loss was also just the second regulation loss this season on home ice as the Bruins are now 14-2-1 in front of the Garden faithful.
All things considered, the Bruins and specifically defenseman Brandon Carlo who drew the daunting task of shutting down Connor McDavid, did a solid job with the Oilers superstar. Yes, McDavid scored a goal 1:48 into the final frame to give the visitors a 3-1 lead, but he was held off the board in the first two periods thanks to some brilliant saves from Halak and Carlo and the Bruins limiting his options.
The other half of the Oilers’ dynamic duo, Leon Draisaitl also lit the lamp but it was with an empty-net goal with just nine ticks left in regulation. Draisaitl did assist on what proved to be the game-winner, a goal by Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse with just 6.3 seconds left in the second period, but the goal was on a bad angle shot that nine of ten times, Bruins goalie Jaro Halak (23 saves) stops.
That leads us to our first takeaway and with all due respect to Oilers goalie Mike Smith who stopped 21 Bruins shots in the third period and 35 total, the Bruins beat themselves in this game as they seem to be doing way too often over the last month.
Bruins Their Own Worst Enemy
As mentioned above, Nurse’s goal was definitely one that Halak wants back, but it’s what led to that and the Oilers’ first three goals that did the Bruins in. After Halak stoned McDavid twice in the first period, the Bruins headed to the second period up 1-0. They were silencing McDavid and Draisaitl and playing smart and disciplined hockey. Then the roof caved in as it seems to do so often lately when the Bruins hold a lead. They started getting too cute with the puck (sound familiar?) and too loose with their coverage through the neutral zone, enabling the Oilers to get the track meet they thrive off.
The first Oilers goal, a Gaetan Haas tally 7:41 into the second period wasn’t off a turnover but rather a lazy play by Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk who sent a blind pass cross-ice in the Bruins zone that Haas gladly picked off, broke in on Halak and beat for a 1-1 tie. The next two goals though did come off turnovers, one in their own zone that led to the Nurse goal and one in the neutral zone that allowed McDavid to cap off a 3-on-2 and beat Halak.
The Bruins finished with eight giveaways. David Pastrnak had two and DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Charlie Coyle, David Krejci, Par Lindholm, and John Moore all had one apiece.
The Bruins also stopped going to the net in the second period and for the middle portion of the game just got away from their system. The result was the Bruins blowing a lead for the third straight game, allowing consecutive goals from the opponent and never answering.
“Right now, we’ve got to find a balance where we get the lead and play the right way, protect the lead,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “I think that’s how we play our best hockey. So, mindset is, I think there’s a little bit of a sickness going around the room, so guys were lacking a bit of energy and it showed on the ice today at times, but I think our mindset is good.
At the end of the day, we just gotta pull ourselves up. We’re the group that’s got us this far, had some success. We’re the group that’s gotta kinda get back to a little more basics. I think the third period we were a little more attack-oriented in terms of putting pucks on the net, going to the net, recovering pucks. I mean, that’s hockey 101 and we’ve gotten away from that.”
Time To Worry About Leafs And Lightning?
After winning eight straight games and racking up 16 points in the process, the Bruins have gone 4-5-6 over the last month. However, they have still made it to extra time and earned a point six times even in defeat. That early cushion in the standings and getting one point despite oftentimes not deserving one seems to have built a feeling of complacency for a good portion of this Bruins squad. They were getting away with it for a while, but will their first regulation loss since a 3-2 defeat against the Tampa Bay Lightning snap them out of the complacency phase?
Speaking of the Lightning, as we mentioned here following the Bruins’ last loss, 2-1 in overtime to the Blue Jackets Thursday, they and the Toronto Maple Leafs are creeping up in the standings and two of the hottest teams in hockey right now. The second-place Leafs were eight points back on the Bruins heading into their tilt with the New York Islanders in Toronto on Saturday night and the Bolts, winners of five straight, were eleven points back but had three games (a possible six points) in hand on the Bruins. With the way the Bruins are shooting themselves in the foot right now and sitting back on leads, by no means is it as crazy as it seemed a month ago to suggest either team could catch the Bruins in the standings.
Special Teams Were Solid
Down 3-1 after the early McDavid goal 1:48 into the third period, the Bruins were given a chance to get right back in the game when Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear was sent to the sin-bin for high-sticking at 4:02. The Bruins had some solid chances but couldn’t solve Smith. They did, however, extend their powerplay scoring streak to ten games when Pastrnak connected. The Bruins now have 12 powerplay goals during this current streak.
The Bruins killed off both Oilers powerplays and considering that’s a powerplay that has McDavid and Draisaitl on it, that’s no small feat. If only the Bruins could’ve played the way they did on the kill when they were five-on-five!
A Tale Of Two Games For Pastrnak
Pastrnak started the game off like a bat out of hell! He got his league-leading 14th powerplay goal and 31st goal of the season. It was the second straight game that Pastrnak connected on the man-advantage and almost from the same spot, just inside the blue line, where he once again took a feed from defenseman Torey Krug and rifled the one-timer far-side to beat Smith. Pastrnak got physical as well when he drilled Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom behind the Oilers net. He was tenacious on the puck and creating chances.
In the second period, Pastrnak reverted back to that younger Pastrnak that used to drive Claude Julien nuts with brain fart like turnovers and just lazy plays. One of them led to the zone entry that preluded Nurse’s game-winner. He recovered nicely in the third period but the damage was done.
Flu Rips Through Bruins
We’ve been pretty scathing of the Bruins here so it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t mention that defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was a last-minute scratch thanks to the flu and Steven Kampfer was thrown right into the fire filling in for him. Grzelcyk was reportedly not the only one suffering and that was evident on the bench where the Bruins had numbers on their water bottles so the flu wouldn’t spread anymore.