Boston Bruins, we have a problem.
Clearly things could be worse as the Bruins are still in playoff position in the ultra-difficult East Division, but they are just one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the fourth and final playoff spot with both teams having played 23 games this season. The Bruins have games in hand with the Islanders, Capitals and Penguins all ahead of them in the standings, but we’re also talking about a Boston Bruins hockey club that’s gone 3-5-2 over their last 10 games.
We’re talking about a Boston Bruins team that is looking all-too familiar after dropping a 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night where the only offense was a power play goal from David Pastrnak.
“We’re having trouble scoring goals now, and I think that goes without saying. Some of that obviously falls on the forwards’ ability to get inside and make plays themselves,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “But most good offensive teams if they have a ‘D’ that can initiate the breakout and initiate some transition where forwards can get rush chances, it just makes it easier for everybody.”
Bruce Cassidy thought the Bruins were the better team and they had a 50/50 chance to take away the two points in the shootout, but they also frustratingly couldn’t finish on a number of offensive chances.
It was a pretty familiar narrative to the way things have ultimately gone down for the Bruins in the playoffs in each of the last few postseasons. In essence it’s starting to feel like the Bruins are trying to win games 1-0 or 2-1, and that’s an awfully difficulty way to go through a hockey season where the playoff margins are going to be Tuukka Rask-thin.
“I thought we were the better team. We didn’t have much luck around the net,” said Cassidy. “I liked our team’s effort from start to finish. We had issues with the third period each of the last three times we were in here, so we were better. We didn’t generate a lot, but we didn’t give up a lot either, so we kept ourselves in the game.
“We had a few opportunities to win it in overtime but didn’t. As a coach you’re never displeased when your team goes out and plays a strong, structured hockey game, but we just didn’t finish enough plays. Or one more play [for a win].”
This season the Perfection Line has accounted for 32 of Boston’s 64 goals and they are getting little-to-zero offense out of David Krejci (zero goals in 19 games), Jake DeBrusk (one goal in 17 games), Anders Bjork (one goal in 22 games) and Jack Studnicka (one goal in 14 games) with two goals apiece from Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner. The third line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith has actually been their second-best line with a combined 12 goals this season, but that means the first line and the third line are powering 69 percent of Boston’s offense this year.
If not for Nick Ritchie’s eight goals and 15 points in 23 games, the second and fourth lines would be pretty disastrous thus far this year, and much of Ritchie’s offensive damage has come on the man advantage.
We’re talking about an offense that’s 21st in the NHL averaging 2.78 goals per game, which isn’t going to get it done as a team with Stanley Cup expectations. They have averaged 2.5 goals per game in their last 12 games since the back-to-back postponements with the Buffalo Sabres, and have scored more than two goals exactly four times in those dozen games.
That’s not going to cut it regardless of the injuries on the B’s back end, or the challenges of the schedule.
Certainly, the Bruins can point to a stellar Semyon Varlamov stick save on Krejci as a team just not getting the puck luck, and they can also point to a number of posts including Brad Marchand ringing the crossbar in overtime after stealing a puck at the offensive blue line. But this goes beyond luck and goes into a Bruins offense that’s in the bottom third of the NHL this season, and even went six games without a power play goal before finally getting one from Pastrnak against the Islanders.
This is a Boston Bruins team that needs outside help and could use it as soon as possible before they sink in the standings. In hindsight the Bruins absolutely could have used the seven goals that Mike Hoffman has scored for the St. Louis Blues, and they should have anticipated that Ondrej Kase was going to have a hard time staying on the ice.
In short, they need a winger that can score, and they probably need a top-4 defenseman as well given their overall inexperience and Kevan Miller’s knee issues. The good news is that useful players like Taylor Hall, Tanner Pearson and Jake Virtanen will be available at the trade deadline. The bad news is that the Bruins won’t be the only team looking to be buyers at the trade deadline, and this is going to be a tough season economically to add on too much salary.
The bottom line for the Boston Bruins is this: Everybody predicted the Bruins were going to need more offensive help prior to this season given the personnel and given the loss of Torey Krug from the back end, and that is coming to fruition. Rather than the Bruins being better offensively than they were last season, they have taken a half-step back this year both during 5-on-5 play and in the special team’s game.