BOSTON – The Boston Bruins could have grabbed old of the easy excuses to explain away a lackluster showing in Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at TD Garden.
After all, the numbers say that a home team loses more than 80 percent of the time this season in their first game back after road trips of three games or longer, and the B’s successful Western Canada road trip was across several time zones. And the Bruins were short both Brad Marchand and Craig Smith due to the league’s COVID protocols as a possible outbreak looms over the team after last weekend’s trip to Calgary.
But the B’s weren’t having any of it in a game where they trailed 3-0 in the first period despite allowing just nine shots on net and didn’t really even get going in any discernible fashion until the middle portion of the game.
“They’re playing well, and it seemed like we had a really hard time sustaining momentum. It was a lot of one-and-done’s. It just seemed like we were a little bit late to pucks, a little bit late to battles and a little bit late to rebounds for most of the game. We chased the game for most of the night,” said Hall, who assisted on Patrice Bergeron’s lone Bruins goal playing in place of Brad Marchand. “Today I can’t really buy into the excuses, the travel or the COVID stuff. Every team deals with it, and it is what it is. We have to respond and have to get better.”
It was a disappointing result for a team coming off a 3-0-2 stretch where they took five out of six points in Western Canada, and where it had appeared that the goaltending and the secondary scoring was beginning to gain some consistency.
Instead, the defense looked porous and soft while getting pushed in around the Boston net and Jeremy Swayman didn’t have his “A” game allowing four goals on 25 shots. The offense wasn’t any better aside from a typically excellent all-around effort from Patrice Bergeron, who scored the game’s only goal and won 15-of-19 faceoffs.
But, otherwise, things looked pretty uninspired from a Boston Bruins team that had just climbed into a playoff spot a few days prior to that.
“Early on mentally it took us a while to check in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Getting through the first period was really important to us to get back into hard hockey mode, and we weren’t able to do that. Part of that was execution, obviously.
“We have to do a better job staying in the game there [in the first period] and that obviously really hurt us. We found our legs as the game was going on, but against a good checking team by then it’s too late. Offensively for us we’re not a team that gets into very many shootouts, so getting behind 3-0 is not a good formula for us. That’s typically why we’ve started well because we know we can’t get into those games very often. Mentally I thought we weren’t there early, and we were standing still a lot. We were easy to check because we weren’t moving.”
Certainly, a couple of the goals in the first period were tough bounces and ricochets that typically even out over the course of the season, and it didn’t feel like a game where the Black and Gold were outclassed by a better team. But there was zero fight, little emotion and practically no resistance from a Boston Bruins team that has played soft, detached hockey much too often this season. Instead, it was a night when one Vegas player in Max Pacioretty really stepped up to dominate scoring-wise, and the Boston Bruins made it all too easy for a road team coming into their building.
With no Brad Marchand or Craig Smith for the next few games and the COVID specter hanging over everybody’s head with a trip to Canada this weekend that could spell real trouble, it feels like things could really go sideways for Boston. If any Boston Bruins players were to test positive while in Canada, it could be a problematic situation for them getting them back to Boston in a timely fashion give the COVID situation in both countries.
Then again, it’s kind of felt like that all season as the Bruins have been hit with one helping of adversity after another while attempting to get into a groove with a new mix of players.