Perhaps all it simply took was a wakeup call from the Boston Bruins coaching as the players waltzed through a home opener at TD Garden in an empty building, but things snapped into focus between the second and third period in a 5-4 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bruins were trailing 2-0 after the first 40 minutes of the game, and once again they were being frustrated during even-strength play. The Bruins seemed to be taking it to the net with a little more forcefulness, but they were giving up quality chances to the Flyers and allowed a couple power play goals to dig their two-goal deficit.
The Bruins were already getting pucks close to the net with close calls from players like Craig Smith, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but they weren’t forcing the issue after the initial quality chances from these players. And there was still too much one-and-done attempts from the perimeter that Hart was able to stop just as Mackenzie Blackwood and Semyon Varlamov had been able to in the first three B’s games of the season.
That clearly had to change, and it did after a well-timed message from the reigning Jack Adams winner.
At that point the Bruins were privy to their first paint-peeling session from head coach Bruce Cassidy during the second intermission and the B’s came out and scored just 57 seconds into the third period during a wild third period where they scored four goals overall.
Essentially, the Boston Bruins were playing way too soft at the offensive end of the ice, particularly at a time when they’re missing the NHL’s leading goal-scorer and need to manufacture more of their offense.
“It was great to see them respond. It’s in the room. What was addressed? Essentially, we were too easy to play against offensively. We’re a hard team to play against defensively and we’re willing to play the right way, but offensively we were too easy to play against,” said Cassidy. “We discussed a couple ways we can get getter and harder to play against in a little bit of a forceful manner, so that hopefully the message gets across.
“At the end of the day you have to be willing to get inside and find some pucks around the front of the net. If everybody is on the same page, then the puck will end up there and the pucks will go there. A good example of that is Jack’s first goal where he got to the top of the crease, stopped and pay the price if we have to in order to get a second chance, or a third chance.”
Clearly the message got through as the Bruins rifled 22 shots on net in the third period, scored four goals and peppered Flyers goaltender Carter Hart with quality chances and bodies flying around the front of the net. Let it be said that Boston’s even-strength goal drought ended at 230:55 with Jack Studnicka shoveling home a rebound after the rookie had redirected a David Krejci centering pass while standing at the top of the crease. Studnicka needed to fight through a Nolan Patrick stick-check to poke home the second effort score, and showed the exact kind of dogged goal-scoring pursuit Cassidy was calling for minutes earlier.
Jack Studnicka with his first career goal.
The Bruins’ even-strength scoring slump is over. pic.twitter.com/skBCzlastp
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 22, 2021
“I think intermission had a lot to do with it prior to my goal. We know we’re an offensive group in there and were just trying not to get frustrated. It was just fortunate that pucks started going in,” said Studnicka. “It was a team mentality thing to take it to the net and keep things simple. I’m playing with a really good center in Krejci, so I’m just trying to get to the net, keep my stick on the ice and find some open ice…most of the time he’s going to find you.”
The Bruins got a Brandon Carlo bomb from the point later in the third period and a sweet leg-raised flamingo trick shot from Jake DeBrusk to win things in the shootout, but the next two B’s goals after Studnicka were of the old-fashioned hard work variety as well. Charlie Coyle carried a puck to the Flyers net, spun and then fired a bullet past Hart while ruggedly protecting the puck, and Nick Ritchie hammered home a power play goal after a nifty spinning Patrice Bergeron dish from the bumper.
Suddenly the Bruins were hard to play against offensively and have finally seemed to shake off some of the soft offensive habits from offseason training and gently sparring against each other during training camp.
The real Boston Bruins final stood up on Wednesday night in their first game at TD Garden in 10 months, a back-and-forth shootout win over the Flyers, and it looks like it’s going to be a wild ride through the East Division this season.