Here are Talking Points from the Boston Bruins 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Monday that leaves them with three of a possible six points in their first road trip of the season through New Jersey and Long Island.
GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask only made 16 saves, but he was the best player on the ice for a Boston Bruins team that couldn’t score any goals. While the shots weren’t plentiful, there were some high-quality ones for the Islanders including an Anthony Beauvillier partial breakaway when he snuck behind the Boston defense in the third period.
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Rask was able to kick away that scoring attempt and the Islanders needed a funky, bouncing puck to beat the Bruins goaltender for the game-winner. The good news for the Bruins is that their goaltending is thoroughly and totally on point with just five goals allowed in the first three games of 2021 regular season. But Rask and Jaroslav Halak have needed to be that good considering how much the popgun Bruins offense is struggling without an even strength goal through the first three games of the season. Rask has stopped 36-of-39 shots for a .923 save percentage through two games, so it looks like the abbreviated training camp hasn’t slowed him down at all.
BLACK EYE: What else is there to say? It’s the offense that’s the problem without David Pastrnak, with the right side of the forward group in shambles with both Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase out and with a team full of players that haven’t been able to score an even strength goal in 189:58 to start this season. The Bruins have been all around it in two of the three games played (the season opener and Monday’s loss to the Isles), but the NHL is a league where close doesn’t matter when it comes to goal-scoring. The Bruins need to find a way manufacture some offense in the next couple of weeks while they wait for Pastrnak to make his return, and even then, nobody is expected the B’s to be world beaters during 5-on-5 play. It’s a weakness for this Bruins team that still hasn’t been addressed and it makes one wonder why they didn’t make a stronger play for Mike Hoffman when he was available for cheap, cheap money this season.
TURNING POINT: Honestly, the turning point was early in the game. The Bruins had the Islanders on the run and outshot them 11-3 in the opening 20 minutes with so many of those shots coming in the second half of the period after they killed off a penalty. The B’s were controlling play and hopping over the boards in wave after wave with their forward lines, and they had some good chances to score including David Krejci ringing a bid off the crossbar. But they didn’t score a goal, the Islanders were allowed to escape with a 0-0 game and things evened out a bit after that with both hard-nosed, heavy teams settling into a game where they had to fight for their ice. Predictably it came down to the third period and the Islanders getting a fortunate bounce against the Bruins, and the B’s were left to wonder where their offense is without an even strength goal in 189:58 of ice time in three games to start the season.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Bruins penalty kill has been the silver lining of the early season for the Bruins. The PK has gone a perfect 13-for-13 to start this season and youngsters like Jack Studnicka, Anders Bjork, Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril have been getting their share of shorthanded time thus far this season. In fact, it was an energetic PK from Sean Kuraly and Bjork as a tandem in the first period that seemed to really energize the Bruins group and allow them to dominate the second half of the first period. The penalty kill was going to be under a microscope to start this season with Zdeno Chara now gone to Washington, and they have clearly been up to the challenge with a perfect PK record along with a dazzling shorthanded goal in Saturday’s OT loss to the Devils. The PK has been the biggest thing to write home about for the Black and Gold thus far.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the number of years since the New York Islanders had actually won a game against the Boston Bruins on their home ice, dating back to a Nov. 2, 2013 game also played at Nassau Coliseum.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s no consolation to lose a game like that when you feel you were the better team.” –Bruce Cassidy, watching his Boston Bruins struggle to score goals and lose a 1-0 game to the Islanders where they outshot them 27-17 and generally outplayed them for long stretches of the game. But it’s all about scoring the goals.