The Boston Bruins were putting a brave face on it after Monday night’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, but they are in trouble.
The B’s poured 43 shots on net and had a great first period response while dominating and putting 20 shots on net, but they still only managed one PP goal and couldn’t overcome a rough period from Jaroslav Halak en route to the 4-1 loss to the Penguins.
The Bruins now sit just one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and a distant five points behind the top three teams in the East Division as they begin to separate and turn things into a team battle between the B’s and Flyers for one playoff spot. Sure, we’re only approaching the halfway mark of the regular season and there is still plenty of season to be played for the Black and Gold just like everybody else across the NHL.
There are only two teams in the NHL, the Stars and the Sabres, that have scored fewer 5-on-5 goals than the Boston Bruins this season, and the other teams around them (Devils, Kings and Predators) are nowhere close to a playoff spot. The Bruins have dropped out of the top-10 in power play efficiency and are struggling in a category, without Krug, where they had traditionally been in the NHL’s top-5 during Bruce Cassidy’s time coaching the team.
“They generated enough to win the hockey game,” said Bruce Cassidy, of his team that’s authored two even strength goals in their last five games. “You’ve got to finish…stating the obvious here. But I’m more concerned when you don’t generate. That means you’re not doing the right things to get the opportunities.
“You continue to generate; I believe there’s enough talent in there to get enough goals. We’re not gonna sit here and tell you we’re gonna be one of the highest scoring teams until we get more finish and more confidence. But we generated enough tonight, I thought, certainly, to score more than Pittsburgh.”
The Bruins are averaging two goals per game over the last 10 games and are 23rd in the NHL in overall offense (2.65 goals per game) with only the Blue Jackets, Senators, Devils, Coyotes, Predators, Wings, Ducks and Sabres. Worse still, they’ve become a one-dimensional team where they simply aren’t winning hockey games consistently when the PP or the Perfection Line isn’t clicking on all cylinders.
Once the Bruins fell down by a 3-1 score in the second period, it felt like it was game over for the Black and Gold and they just didn’t have the firepower to get back in the game against the Penguins. In essence, they are pushed into a mindset where they need to play mistake-free hockey or they can’t win, and that’s a hard road to travel in the NHL.
“It does feel like every mistake is going in our net,” said Brad Marchand. “That just means we’ve got to clean up our game a little bit. When things aren’t going well and you’re not scoring the way you want to, you’ve got to play almost mistake-free hockey. We had a much better effort tonight. If we play like that again [on Tuesday], we’ll have a much better result.”
One shouldn’t expect any outside answers to arrive immediately with a trade deadline still a little less than a month away, and with it being a fool’s errand to expect youngsters like Jack Ahcan, Oskar Steen or Jakub Lauko to arrive at the NHL level with all the answers. So, for now they’re going to need to figure it out on their own if they want to continue protecting their coveted playoff spot.
Some of the answers were on display on Monday night: Funneling pucks to the net, generating more traffic in the offensive zone and keeping things simple in the puck management department while the offensive struggles continue for the Boston Bruins. But they bottom line is that they need to put the puck in the net, and Black and Gold morale isn’t going to improve until more varied sources start breaking through with goals on a more regular basis.