RALEIGH, NC – While it’s clearly not the end of the world after the Boston Bruins dropped both ends of the road trip through Florida and Carolina this week, there is undoubtedly work that needs to be done for the Black and Gold.
They were outscored 7-1 by the undefeated Panthers and Hurricanes and have now faced seven straight opponents to start the year that were undefeated when the B’s faced them. Some of them they have beaten like the upstart Buffalo Sabres and the surprising San Jose Sharks, and others they clearly aren’t at the level with like the Panthers and Hurricanes.
Through it all the B’s are 3-3-0 with a minus-3 goal differential and still very much figuring who and what they are this season. One area that’s absolutely hurting them right now is the power play where the Bruins went 0-for-7 in the two losses to Florida and Carolina and are tied for 25th in the league with a 12.5 percent (2-for-16) success rate.
They have some now elements this season with Charlie McAvoy running the point at the top of the formation and Taylor Hall playing net-front, so it’s pretty clear there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period.
“We’re just not in sync right now. We might be forcing a little bit where we typically get pucks back. Maybe we’re rushing to make a play rather than settling it down and getting to our spots and getting set up. Then we get frustrated, and it snowballs from there,” said Brad Marchand. “So we just have to calm down out there and win battles, it kind of always starts from there. We’ve always been a power play that thrives when we win battles, get pucks back and get them to the net, and then win another battle.
“Then the PK gets tired and we capitalize. We need to get back to doing that and realizing what kind of power play unit we are. Then hopefully it starts connecting.”
Clearly there is work to be done as the Bruins couldn’t cash in on a power of 5-on-3 chances in Thursday’s shutout loss to the Hurricanes, and a soft backhanded David Pastrnak pass near the blue line vs. Florida turned into a shorthanded breakaway chance for the Panthers. And it may be that Hall’s ultimate PP role isn’t the net-front position, or that Matt Grzelcyk gets a look at the point shot on the top unit as well.
But to Marchand’s point, the Bruins also should have had a PP goal late in the game vs. Carolina when a scrambling Marchand dished to a wide-open Hall at the top of the crease. Hall somehow missed the net with Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad bearing down on him and somehow shot the puck right through the crease.
Cue the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song…
You gotta tip that feed in Taylor Hall!! #NHLBruins
— Short Handed Takes: A Boston Bruins Podcast (@ShortHandedTks) October 29, 2021
But the sustained pressure and the creative structure isn’t there yet for the Bruins, and it feels like vital cogs like Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak haven’t got their games untracked yet this season.
“It’s still the guys you rely on to finish plays and right now it’s not going in for a couple of the guys,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “You have other guys like Pasta that’s had a few odd-man rushes now and nothing is happening. He needs to bear down on those, very simply, if we expect to win close games. If we’re scoring lots and it doesn’t happen then fine, but lately there’s a couple of 2-on-1’s that he’s got to understand he’s a proven goal-scorer in this league. That’s the kind of mentality he needs to have.
“We were looking at the numbers before today and they dictate that we should be a little better [on the PP]. Analytics are what they are, sometimes they don’t tell the whole truth. Puck recovery, where are the shots coming from and execution are what we look at, and we’ve been okay there. We just haven’t had the end result. [Against Carolina] we just need the end result. Entries, analytics, none of that really mattered. We had to finish on the 5-on-3. One went right by the back post when we weren’t clean at the top and the last one, I think Hall missed a bunny, a tap-in. I still think we’re turning down shots that we typically get at the right elbow from Pasta and that plays into the bumper with [Bergeron] for shot-tips. Right now, it’s just not clean, so we’ll look at it and get back to work.”
Clearly there are players and units that need some fine-tuning for the Boston Bruins at this early juncture of the season, and the power play is a paramount one given it’s importance to the win-loss bottom line for the Black and Gold.