It’s too early to say that it’s anything more than a brief, annoying stretch for the Boston Bruins, but they are suddenly showing a penchant for goals allowed in the closing seconds of periods. On Monday night it was a game-tying strike surrendered to the Los Angeles Kings with 25.1 seconds on a fortunate bounce for the Kings Trevor Moore, a break that led to a 3-2 overtime win for LA against the Black and Gold at TD Garden.
Last weekend the Bruins gave up a game-tying goal on thew power play with three seconds remaining in the third period before rallying to beat the Blue Jackets in Columbus. To be fair, it looked like there was some home ice advantage when the clock at Nationwide Arena gave Columbus three extra seconds off a faceoff late in the third period as well.
But still, the Bruins couldn’t hold things down protecting a one-goal lead.
Last week during the road trip, the Bruins also allowed a goal with 22 seconds left to drop a 4-3 decision with the Anaheim Ducks where they had battled throughout the game.
It’s a legitimate question to ask if it’s just a coincidence, or if the Boston Bruins simply aren’t stalwart enough with their defensive personnel when things get headed in the closing seconds of tight late season hockey games. Because an issue like that is going to crop up over and over again as the intensity ratchets up headed into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It’s certainly stuff that we can cool at on video, but it’s definitely happening,” said Craig Smith, who scored his 11th goal of the season in the loss to LA. “If you look at the segment of the last two weeks, it’s definitely happening too often. You can go back and look at video and correct things as we move forward.
“You can sit and be pissed about it, which we are. But you’ve got to make the next step forward and make the corrections to make sure we’re tightening up. It’s all things that we can fix and we have the people to do it.”
Do they have the people to do it? That’s the million dollar question, of course, as some of those key people looked a little tired late in the proceedings against Los Angeles. Patrice Bergeron lost 14-of-24 draws in the game including some key ones in the third period, and Boston Bruins “shutdown defenseman” Derek Forbort has been on the ice for all three of the last second third period goals surrendered over the last couple of weeks.
Fair or unfair, Forbort is getting paid to keep those pucks out of the net as the top priority of his back end job and he’s not getting it done right now.
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy seemed more aggravated with the blind pass from Charlie Coyle in OT that led to the game-winner for Andreas Athanasiou, and also differentiated the last second goals since both the Anaheim and Columbus ones came on opposing power plays. That wasn’t the case on Monday night when Trevor Moore simply got good position and took advantage of a point blast that bounced off Charlie McAvoy in front of the net.
TREVOR MOORE DIDN’T WANT TO GO HOME JUST YET ‼️ pic.twitter.com/RdLcgPUEZX
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 8, 2022
“The commonality in Anaheim and Columbus is that we took penalties, so now it’s 6-on-4 and we didn’t do a good enough job managing the puck,” said Cassidy. “They had an off-net shot and we knocked [the shot] down with our own defenseman that had to be going three feet wide. That’s a little bit of tough luck on that particular play.
“Unfortunately, once we knocked the puck down, we lost position in front on Moore and it’s an easy tap-in. As for the other time, you’ve got to value the puck. The final play just wasn’t a very good hockey play, let’s face it. We give up a breakaway. We got what we deserved on that play, that’s for sure. At least our structure was better [leading up to the tying goal], but it was just an unfortunate attempt to block a shot.”
The Bruins also lost a little ground on the Maple Leafs team they’re chasing as well and sit three points behind Toronto for the third spot in the Atlantic Division with the Leafs holding one game in hand at this point. One of the focus points for this week, to be sure, will be tightening things down in the third period while protecting leads, but at this point the Boston Bruins also have to wonder what’s out there for stay-at-home defensive warrior types that might give the B’s a better chance of holding the fort around the net when things get a little dicey in the third period.
It’s getting to the point in the year when things happening on the ice aren’t accidents anymore, and more indicators of strengths and weaknesses for each and every hockey team.