Over a month into the 2017-18 season and the Boston Bruins are still looking for back to back wins.
That feat will have to wait, once again, as the injury-plagued Bruins, despite playing well enough in the second and third periods, couldn’t overcome a sloppy opening 20 minutes against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Bruce Cassidy: “We put ourselves in a bad spot. We need to learn pretty quickly that we can’t put ourselves behind the 8-ball because teams are too good.”
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 9, 2017
Here is what we learned as the Bruins have now dropped six straight to the Rangers, and five in a row at MSG, following the 4-2 loss on NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry.
A new Bruins killer?
After a four-year stellar career at Harvard that included a Hobey Baker campaign in his senior season, the Bruins were just one of a handful of teams that were active in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes in the summer of 2016. As we all know, Vesey ultimately chose the Rangers over rumored squads such as the Bruins, Devils and Sabres, just to name a few.
With just 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists) in his rookie campaign, and a slow start to this second NHL season – three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 games – it’s safe to say that Vesey hasn’t lived up to the hype in his first 96 pro contests. Against his hometown team, however, he’s developed into another Bruins killer.
In just 29 seconds, Vesey broke a 1-1 first-period tie with Goals No. 3 and 4 of the season. The two tallies give him three in four career games against the Bruins to go along with his two assists.
Given his early track record against Boston, we’ll put Vesey in the company of Braden Holtby and Thomas Vanek as perennial Bruins killers.
Pastrnak struggles for the second game in a row
As the injuries continue to fill up a directions pamphlet for the board game Operation, the Bruins know they can afford very few passengers on a nightly basis. One of those passengers, oddly enough, has been David Pastrnak.
With two top-six players banged up in Brad Marchand and David Krejci, head coach Bruce Cassidy has been forced to use Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Anders Bjork. The trio accounted for both Bruins goals with Pastrnak getting a goal and an assist.
On paper, that might be a pretty good night. It would’ve been considered a good bounce back for Pastrnak coming off a poor performance against the Wild on Monday night where his decision making with and without the puck – especially in the third period – led to quality scoring chances.
Even with that two-point night, Pastrnak’s decision making was not sharp for the second game in a row, especially on the power play. Whether it was passing up quality scoring chances or misfiring on his passes, Pastrnak was more of a liability than an asset for the Black and Gold.
His night was sealed late in the third period. With the Bruins down a goal and trying to get something going on a power play, Pastrnak hooked Rick Nash in a 1-on-2 situation down the other end of the ice, thus negating the B’s fourth chance with the man advantage.
“It’s a tough job right there. It’s a good question,” Cassidy said following Monday’s game about Pastrnak needing to play responsibly.
“Sometimes you’re going to give him some rope. Hopefully, he doesn’t hang himself with it. Other times you are going to pull back. That’s just a feel – sometimes it matters how the rest of the group is going. Who else is in the lineup? Are you putting a better player out there in that position? Sometimes you just send a hard message, doesn’t matter who’s there.”
If it weren’t for the injuries to the top six, Cassidy might have sent a hard message to Pastrnak. That’s one tough spot for the Bruins bench boss, who saw Pastrnak take the team-lead in goals with nine following his first period tally.
To trade or not to trade?
Of course, it’s never too early to discuss any potential trades – especially of the footsteps three-team deal with Nashville, Colorado and Ottawa that included Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris. There’s no question the Bruins could use some help with an upgrade in the top-six and a boost on the blue-line – preferably a left-shot defenseman.
During the first intermission on NBCSN, Bob McKenzie mentioned that Don Sweeney is interested in getting an upgrade with a forward or defenseman. Ideally, as McKenzie noted, Sweeney wants to wait until the Bruins are fully healthy before pulling the trigger on a potential transaction with another club.
Several general managers, including Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, were reportedly in attendance for Wednesday’s Bruins-Rangers matchup, thus heightening a little more interest in the topic.
McKenzie suggested that all assets – from roster players to prospects and draft picks – are in play. A story certainly worth keeping an eye on in the weeks and months leading up to the February 26 trade deadline.