While the Boston Bruins have taken three out of four points in their last couple of games, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is still not fully enamored with what he’s seeing on the ice as of late. The Bruins and Capitals slugged it out to a 2-1 shootout win for Washington on Wednesday night at TD Garden and the B’s managed just 19 shots on net in a 65-minute hockey game.
That’s not the usual modus operandi for the Bruins, just as giving up 13 goals over two losses to the Islanders and Rangers last week was uncharacteristic as well. So, what’s the diagnosis for what’s ailing the Boston Bruins?
It was easy to tell when Cassidy was preaching the skating game at the end of Thursday’s practice ahead of a Friday night date with the Capitals.
“I think we’re not playing at a high enough pace. If there was an easy answer, I’d give it to you,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of it is personnel we’ve changed. So, we’ve got to them playing to a higher pace that we’re used to. We’ve got some new people in our lineup.
“Some of it is that we’ve emphasized getting a little bigger and maybe you lose some of that pace. Some of it is just our play that I haven’t stressed this enough. You’re trying to adjust for opponents every night and trying to do certain things, and maybe you lose track of the forest through the trees sometimes. You just say ‘Hey, let’s get going and simplify and get on top of them quicker.’ I think it’s a little bit of everything.”
The B’s bench boss pointed to the play that ended up hurting them on Wednesday night as a prime example of the issue. Sean Kuraly wheeled to come out of the defensive zone and, rather than turn on the skating jets to carry the puck up the middle, the fourth line center lofted a careless, unforced pass that was intercepted by TJ Oshie at the Bruins defensive blue line and ended up in Boston’s net as the game-tying Capitals goal in the third period.
It was a case in Cassidy’s mind of Kuraly “not moving his feet” and there’s been too much of that as of late from the Bruins. There’s not enough pressure on their fore-check, not enough puck possession and not enough clean and crisp breakouts form the defensive zone for the Black and Gold.
“Usually, we’re late on the fore-check and then we lose our structure. Not creating enough turnovers to get the puck back as a group of five,” said Cassidy. “Eventually if you’re playing with enough pace away from the puck, one of the five people will create the turnover. Teams that get through the neutral zone easy against us usually means they got out of their own zone too easily against us. It means we weren’t on them quick enough.
“Some of that is reads by a young ‘D’ so there’s a little bit of patience there and we get that. But some of the other parts we could be much better with guys that have been at this level for a while.”
The good news is that the Bruins are within three points of the first place Capitals and have two games in hand against Washington at this point. So, there is plenty of time and cushion within the standings for the Boston Bruins to get back to their game.
But it starts with Boston Bruins players like Kuraly, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork and others to kick start their speed game and get back to the bread-and-butter that’s made them effective NHL players in the first place.