The talent disparity was evident from the beginning.
On one side of the ice was a Boston Bruins squad who are still trying to prove that they belong in a discussion among the top eight of the Eastern Conference. In a year of ups and downs, head coach Claude Julien has his team playing their best hockey since the trade deadline.
On the other side of the ice, the Anaheim Ducks boast a hoard of talent that includes former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf, former Canuck Ryan Kesler and a plethora of young guns including Richard Rakell, Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm to name a few. After a slow start, head coach Bruce Boudreau is righting the ship as the Ducks are back in the discussion as one of the Stanley Cup favorites.
Much like the first meeting that ended in a 6-2 blowout at TD Garden back in January, that talent gap was front and center as the Ducks swept the season series with a 4-0 win over the Black and Gold at the Honda Center on Friday night.
“They’re a big team and they have a lot of skill. They like to hold on to the puck and they cycle it really well,” Brad Marchand told reporters postgame. “When you have big guys like that who have that much skill, it’s tough to take the puck away from them.”
Here is what we learned as the Bruins fall to 0-5 against the California trio — being outscored 27-10 in those five games.
Ducks capitalize, Bruins don’t
The Bruins didn’t play all that poorly on Friday. As evident by their 38 shots on goal, they had their chances against Frederik Andersen, who is now 4-0 in his career against the Black and Gold. Sixteen of those shots came in a second period where the Bruins matched the Ducks” intensity and generated quality scoring chances.
Still, against a powerful squad like the Ducks, a slow start is the last thing that Claude Julien wanted from his team.
Defensive breakdowns from Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug led to Jamie McGinn scoring his 18th of the season. Just 1:16 later, Ryan Kesler banked home a Jonas Gustavsson rebound and the Bruins quickly found themselves behind the 8-ball.
“I don’t think it was a 4-0 game, to be honest with you,” Julien said to the press about the end result not reflecting the final score. “The first goal was sort of a ping pong goal and it goes off two or three people before it goes in. Not a good one on the second [goal] so we dig ourselves a hole there 2-0.
“We had our chances, and I thought their goaltender really stood tall when he had to. I thought it made a big difference in their game. But, you know, we had our chances and as many opportunities as they did tonight, but they cashed in and we didn’t.”
Indeed, those chances came back to haunt Julien’s squad when Hampus Lindholm fired a one-timer past Gustavsson 58 seconds into the third. Richard Rakell added his 19th of the season late in the final stanza to officially put the game out of reach.
Julien shuffles lineup and sends a message
Suffering from a 10-game skid where he hasn’t tallied a single point, Dorchester’s own Jimmy Hayes watched Friday’s game from the press box. This marked the third time that the former Boston College standout was labeled as a healthy scratch this season.
Brett Connolly moved up to Hayes’ third line right wing slot alongside Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey while Tyler Randell, playing on the fourth line with Landon Ferraro and Noel Acciari, made his first appearance in the Bruins lineup since February 18th in Nashville. David Pastrnak, who came into the night with a three-game point streak, took Hayes’ spot on the second power play unit.
A former Duck returns to ‘The Pond’
For six seasons, Beleskey called Anaheim home. The Bruins took notice after Beleskey had a strong showing in the Ducks’ run to the Western Conference Final. During the regular season, he notched his first 20-goal campaign of his career.
In his first appearance back in Anaheim since signing a 5-year deal in Boston during the off-season, Beleskey fired two shots on goal, delivered four hits and had several stitches below his eye following a high-stick from former teammate Simon Despres during his 12:21 of ice time.
“It was a little scary at first, but vision is good and all that,” Beleskey said about the incident. “Just another black eye.”
The Bruins hope they don’t get a black eye of their own as they try to salvage their three-game trip tonight against Milan Lucic and the Los Angeles Kings, who cruised to a 9-2 victory in the first meeting of the season back in February.