They dropped the puck for the 92nd season on Causeway Street Thursday night before a 255th consecutive sellout crowd of anxious Black-and-Gold stalwarts. Anxious about how this season might evolve with the many changes, first off, and then, on the ice during the offseason.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a David Krejci goal at 5:46 of the first period, the Bruins dropped the ball when the Jets tallied the equalizer at 5:26 of the second. Old-friend Blake Wheeler put Winnipeg in front, 2-1, at 9:17; Drew Stafford upped it to 3-1 at 17:39. David Pastrnak would get Boston to within one early in the third before the visitors fired back with two more and an empty-netter in the 6-2 debacle. It was the Jets’ third consecutive opening-game win – all on the road.
The loss didn’t help to reduce much anxiety around the major long-term questions that need succinct answers in the short haul.
Tops in that list is how a young and inexperienced defense will fare with captain Zdeno Chara on the shelf until at least Saturday’s encounter with the Bruins’ high-flying nemesis from north of the border. Add Dennis Seidenberg’s absence for at least another month, propelling Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid into the No. 1 and No. 2 blueliners and a supporting cast of relative newcomers with surnames like Irwin, Trotman and Morrow.
Next is: Can the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson put up points from the get-go, especially Krejci, who is mightily counted on to play healthy and produce for most of the 82-game schedule.
As for the most important question, Claude Julien was quick to defend his young D-corps that had its problems Thursday night.
“The second period they came out and kind of took over and we started making some defensive mistakes,” Julien said postgame. “I know we’re young and we expect to have some challenges there but I think we have to look at our games as a whole tonight and see where those mistakes were made. It was more than just the backend. It’s not about the young D’s, it’s about our game without the puck. I think we might’ve got a little excited here about our offense and then forgot about the other part of our game.”
While Matt Irwin, Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow put up a combined plus-minus rating of minus-6, the core of Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Eriksson scored a combined total of one point, while posting a combined plus-minus of minus-5.
“It’s something that can be fixed,” Trotman said. “So we’ll have to adjust that tomorrow. I wish we played tomorrow so we can come back at it. Have to be focused every shift and minimize mistakes. You can’t let that pressure affect you. You’re here for a reason.”
“Definitely the back end can play better than that for a fact,” Morrow echoed. “There’s a lot of skilled defensemen here. We just need to show it. All you have to do is do your job. Just get out there and not get scored on. But when you get scored on, things can go south pretty fast. We just need to get more experience and with that will come better play. Tonight was inexcusable and not what we wanted.”
“We created a lot of chances and gave up a lot of chances,” said Tuukka Rask. “First game of the year, obviously going forward (this) cannot become a habit.”
Amen. Montreal comes to TD Garden Saturday night; Tampa Bay on Monday afternoon.
What was learned from opening night…
* Torey Krug will likely play the most minutes of any Bruin except Rask in many games to come. He logged 24:54 of total ice time.
* Claude Julien will likely keep rookie Joonas Kemppainen on the fourth line. He played a total of 14:13 mainly with Chris Kelly and Zac Rinaldo.
* The growing pains will have to be endured along the blue line. Former UMass standout Matt Irwin got his pocket picked behind Rask, leading to Wheeler’s go-ahead goal. Irwin and Zach Trotman were caught flat-footed when Drew Stafford put the Jets up, 3-1.
* How difficult it will be for Boston to win when they have to play from behind, given the need for the forwards to consistently help out on the back end.
* How much the team will rely on Rask.
* How quickly newcomers Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly will have to contribute after going a combined minus-5 in the opener.