The Boston Bruins are at the mercy of the COVID-19 impacted NHL schedule just like everybody else, and that was pretty apparent as they saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday night.
The weary Bruins finished with a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum where they allowed 42 shots on net, gave up a couple of special teams goals and pretty clearly lost steam as they went along in the game. It was understandable given that the Bruins had spent 11 of the last 14 days on the road, hadn’t played a home game since Jan. 28 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and were at the tail end of playing three games in four days on the road.
“We just had a really tough time [breaking pucks out], we got hemmed in and it cost us three goals, really,” said Bruce Cassidy, who has now watched the Boston Bruins suffer both of their regulation losses at the hands of the Islanders this season. “The first three goals we had puck possession and we just didn’t execute plays, so that’s where our problems were tonight. We were maybe mentally a little off. Some of that is the schedule. This is one of those [games] on the road where the other team is waiting for you at the end of a road trip having played three [games] in four [days]. There were mental lapses, but I thought we battled back.”
The Bruins certainly did battle back to a tie score after two periods of play, but they very clearly didn’t have much sustained push in a third period they’ve owned on most nights this season.
All if it didn’t quite lead to a “scheduled loss” in NHL circles, but it was obvious the Bruins didn’t have their “A” game as they tried to mount another comeback in the third period once a Matt Barzal power play goal put them behind on the scoreboard. The first goal allowed started with Kevan Miller retreating with the puck behind the Boston net instead of clearing it away from trouble, and the second B’s goal allowed was simply Tuukka Rask flubbing a Jordan Eberle tester shot from the right face-off circle.
Rask is going to want that one back. pic.twitter.com/MvplYLh9Gc
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 14, 2021
After that it became a special teams’ breakdown in the third period for the Bruins, and that’s really when you know the B’s are off their game. The sight of David Krejci and Nick Ritchie colliding at the offensive blue line to take each other and open up a shorthanded goal for Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a pretty clear sign weren’t featuring a vintage brand of their hockey.
“Yeah, I don’t think we had our legs tonight and I don’t think, at times, we were making the best decisions,” admitted Patrice Bergeron, who nevertheless finished with a goal, two points and won 19-of-24 draws in defeat. “They’re a great team that’s hard on the fore-check and they got a lot of turnovers out of it and created a lot of chances out of it. It is what it is…the schedule is the same for everyone. We know what’s there and we do have to rest when we have that time. But tonight, was one of those nights where the energy wasn’t the greatest. Hopefully, we can have a few days to regroup and recharge.”
The good news for the Boston Bruins? The Black and Gold are set for a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday provided the Devils can get through the next few days without any additional COVID-19 setbacks and have just two games this coming week with the other being the scheduled Sunday matinee at Lake Tahoe against the Philadelphia Flyers provided Boston’s opponents once again don’t have any more COVID-19 issues this week.
The further good news for the Bruins? They hold a four-point lead in the East Division even after Saturday’s defeat and have the second-most points (22) in the NHL behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs leading the way in the wild North Division this season.