BRIGHTON, Mass – The Boston Bruins have been able to tread water and remain within shouting distance of a playoff spot despite experiencing some difficult circumstances – both self-inflicted and out of their control – through the first quarter of the regular season.
But Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings where they failed despite outshooting the Winged Wheels by a 42-16 margin was a warning sign that there could be some rough riding ahead for the Black and Gold. Certainly a pair of upcoming games against playoff-caliber teams in Nashville and Tampa Bay could spell major T-R-O-U-B-L-E for a Bruins team that’s come up woefully short against the NHL’s best thus far this season.
“It’s been a little challenging. The schedule didn’t do us any favors as far as getting into a groove, but it’s still a work in progress,” said Boston Bruins President Cam Neely during an intermission interview on the 98.5 the SportsHub broadcast on Tuesday night. “Goaltending has been okay. Not great, but okay. The secondary scoring we’re still searching for that a little bit. The hope is the more we get into games that guys will get into a rhythm…that’s the hope anyway.”
The summarize: The Boston Bruins are 15th in goals for, 15th in goals against and 21st in save percentage this season. They are average or worse in all the major team categories and are once again hanging on a fifth-ranked power play that’s being carried by the Perfection Line trio.
Whatever improvements the Boston Bruins attempted this past summer with a lot of investment in free agency, it hasn’t shown on the ice. In fact, things look even worse with what they’ve cobbled together attempting to replace losses like Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Krejci, Kevan Miller and Tuukka Rask over the last two seasons.
The Bruins were missing significant offensive oomph 5-on-5 on Tuesday night with their best player, Brad Marchand, missing while serving a three-game suspension, and only looked like a dangerous offensive team when they had a 5-on-3 advantage that they scored on. Otherwise, it was largely a perimeter attack that gave Alex Nedeljkovic as easy a 41-save performance as he’s probably had in his professional hockey career.
The Providence Bruins have been shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak, so the Bruins were forced to put Jake DeBrusk back in the lineup after he demanded a trade earlier this week. DeBrusk responded with an invisible performance of one shot on net and one hit (still placing him last with eight registered hits on the season) in 10:25 of ice time.
With Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy off the bench and in quarantine due to COVID-19 protocol, it was a chance for DeBrusk to show what he could without the coach that’s understandably been on him to play harder. Instead DeBrusk played his typical phantom game where he was a non-factor and won’t be upping his own trade value if he does indeed desire a fresh start in another NHL destination.
David Pastrnak scored a goal and led the Bruins with nine shots on net, but he also committed five turnovers for a B’s hockey club that had 17 giveaways in a game against the Red Wings.
Couple that with the 10 takeaways for the Red Wings, and the Boston Bruins turned the puck over 17 times in a game they clearly didn’t even try to bring their “A” game.
“I thought we made it a little easy on their goaltender by not getting in front of him enough,” said Boston Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco, filling in for the ill Cassidy as B’s bench boss. “I thought we could have done a better job of screening and taking his sight lines away. I thought we had some good chances and we played inside the dots, but unfortunately we weren’t able to finish off those chances that we had.”
To make matters worse, 36-year-old Patrice Bergeron took a nasty shot off the foot and was the victim of a nasty Gustav Lindstrom cross-check during the game. He was not on the practice ice on Wednesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and can’t afford to have many more games where he endures that kind of beating.
In the old days, a cross-check to the back of a Boston Bruins captain from a young player like Lindstrom would have invited a swift, unmistakable response from the Black and Gold. Clearly the Bruins don’t have the personnel to bring a little more “old days” to their game when it’s called for in moments just like that.
To their credit, the Bruins at least capitalized on the ensuing power play and scored their only goal of the game. But a languid effort all over the ice allowed the Red Wings to win the war on Tuesday night, and it could be a rough few weeks coming up drama unfolding over the DeBrusk trade request, a possible Tuukka Rask return looming like a specter over young goalies Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman and the team’s performance on the ice still very much a question mark against quality opponents.
“[DeBrusk] talked to us this morning. He just said ‘I love you guys. This is something in my career, I’m at a crossroads’ and he’s going to have to do. Jake’s a great kid. He’s got a lot of skill and is going to have a good career in this league. He’s not a distraction at all.
“As a group and as an organization, I think you deal with those distractions head on, and you just go out and play the game. That’s the culture and that’s the motto that we have. Whoever is in, you’ve got to play well. We expect Jake to play well even under the circumstances.”
Taylor Hall when asked by @mattyports about Jake DeBrusk’s trade request:
“He talked to us this morning. He just said – ‘I love you guys. This is something in my career, I’m at a crossroads.’ … He’s not a distraction at all.” pic.twitter.com/8sNHuHsld4
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 1, 2021
Well, they didn’t exactly look fully engaged scraping for one goal on 42 shots against a Detroit team still not ready for prime time.
After barely beating the Canucks on Sunday night and shooting blanks against the Red Wings on Tuesday, the Bruins might even need to start worrying about opponents of all kinds whether bad or good quality.