PITTSBURGH, PA – The Boston Bruins offense has been sputtering as of late with David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm out of the lineup with injuries, and Black and Gold may have hit their low point on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
For the first time in the long and storied Original Six history of the Boston Bruins, they were shut out despite flinging over 50 shots at the Penguins net in a frustrating defeat.
The Boston Bruins finished with 52 shots on net with Penguins netminder Casey DeSmith stopping all 52 offerings, and essentially lost the game when they gave up a goal in the second period to go down 2-0 after failing to score despite outshooting Pittsburgh 10-0 to start the middle frame. It happened shortly after DeSmith made a stop on a quality chance from Brad Marchand and really flipped the game completely in Pittsburgh’s favor given Boston’s inability to put up big offensive right now.
“Yes, [DeSmith] made some good saves you can’t take that away from him, but we have to be better about bearing down when we have those good looks,” said Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “It’s the type of game where you want results and obviously when you’re on the power play you want the results.”
The Boston Bruins have now scored just 16 goals in eight games without Pastrnak in the lineup for a two goals per game average that’s simply not going to cut it in the NHL, and they’ve gone 0-for-29 on the power play during that fallow time as well. It may continue on Saturday afternoon vs. the New York Rangers as the banged-up Boston Bruins players will be out for that game as well, but the good news is that Pastrnak and Lindholm are both trending toward a return on Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Still, that was of no help to them in a loss to the Penguins where there were a bevy of shot attempts, but not enough bodies at the net and true quality chances despite over 50 shot attempts. The numbers looked good in the end, but clearly the Boston Bruins know there wasn’t enough of a price paid in front of the Pittsburgh net to make it tough on DeSmith and the Penguins defense.
“We need to finish better,” said Cassidy. “We’ve been struggling to score here the last little bit and got away with it the last few games because we play good defensively and we got the saves, and tonight we didn’t.”
“I think we need a timely save tonight. We didn’t get it, but we obviously didn’t finish any plays either at that end. “We are a hard-working group. That shouldn’t change, whatever games next, we have to stick to our identity. They did a good job of keeping us to the outside. We got a lot of shots on net, but I thought they were able to keep the net clean a lot on the original shot. We were able to generate some rebound chances, but not the screens as much as we’d like.”
It’s too bad because there were some good moments in Thursday night’s game where they ultimately couldn’t bring it to the level that a well-rested Pittsburgh did. Derek Forbort blocked three blistering Sidney Crosby shots in a 30-second span in the first period on Boston’s only penalty kill of the game, and that should have given the Boston Bruins more O-zone energy in Cassidy’s estimation.
“That’s the thing. I didn’t think some of our offensive guys were invested. Forby, how do you feel like when you just ate five or six pucks it seemed like? I think they gave him credit for three, but it seemed like more than that,” said Cassidy. “The offensive guys should have gotten a lift from that at the other end and that was kind of the frustrating part. He really picked us up on that PK and held us in it. You would have liked to see more of a response, but it wasn’t there. It certainly was at the start of the second period, but not at the end of the first.”
With just five games remaining until the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s perhaps natural that some players are going play if safe rather than risk net-front injuries that could spill over into the postseason. Brad Marchand is in a funk where he’s had one point in his last six games and just one goal in the month of April. Similarly, Patrice Bergeron has just a single point in his last six games as well as Boston’s best players have all hit a late season wall all at once.
But Thursday night’s no-show offensively should be a reminder that the Boston Bruins also need to bring more than they did against the Penguins as they fine tune things and still have playoff positioning in mind headed into the postseason.