Young, shorthanded Bruins trying to find their starting point
“We’ve been playing some pretty decent hockey, especially based on the guys that we’ve been missing,” Brad Marchand said during the Bruins’ optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday. “We’re working on different areas of our game and those areas continue to improve. As long as we continue to get points we’ll continue to grow our game and trend upward.”
For 40 minutes, the Bruins played pretty well against the Washington Capitals. If the hockey game was played for only 40 minutes, then Marchand and company could have expanded their point streak to seven games.
Their first win against the Capitals since 2014 could have been in reach if that were the case. Instead, their skid against Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and the Caps reached double digits.
A rough 20 minutes had a lot to do with their losing streak reaching 10 games versus Washington.
“We could have had a better start that’s for sure,” captain Zdeno Chara said following the Bruins’ 3-2 loss. “We fall behind the first two goals, and you know, I thought we had a better second and obviously a pretty good third – and we needed just one more to tie. But, for the most part, I thought we played a strong game and obviously, we just couldn’t score the extra one.”
It wasn’t a poor effort by any means for the Black and Gold. Sure, their outlet passes out of the defensive end weren’t as crisp, but they found ways to stay engaged and put pressure on Holtby in the second and third periods – outshooting the Caps 26-19 in that span.
Even with David Pastrnak’s two tallies in the final 40 minutes, the Bruins still couldn’t overcome that slow start after the Caps tallies from Tom Wilson – his first of two on the night – on a Tuukka Rask rebound and a patented one-timer from Ovechkin in the first 20 minutes.
“We had a bad start and we can’t have that, especially against a team like Washington with a lot of skills,” Patrice Bergeron said, “and they made us pay in the first period and it’s tough to play catch-up hockey.”
The slow starts aren’t anything new over the past few games for the injury-plagued Black and Gold. Unlike Saturday’s contest, they found a way to get points against the Blue Jackets – after they scored two of the game’s first three goals in the opening 20 – and a win over the Golden Knights after tallying just five first period shots.
Injuries to the likes of David Krejci, David Backes, Noel Acciari, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and backup goalie Anton Khudobin have forced Bruce Cassidy to roll a top-heavy lineup for the time being as highlighted by the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. From the veterans to the youngsters, the Bruins know they can’t afford the slow starts to continue while the injured players heal up.
“Each individual has to do their job as a professional hockey player to show up and be ready, and as a team, you need to be ready as well,” said Torey Krug, who extended his point streak to three straight games following a pair of assists. “And, you know, that’s a part of it – it falls on the older group in the room to make sure we’re ready to go and then all of the sudden the younger guys are falling in line after that. So, we have to do a better job for sure. That’s been a tough spot for us the last few games.”
“I think we have a young – and I’m not blaming it on young guys – we have a young, inexperienced group to a certain extent. So I think some of these games, they wait to see what happens instead of initiating, and once they get going and they get the temperature of the game, they get going and we’re okay,” Cassidy added.
“But, they need to have a better understanding of, be on time, get going right away, and I think it’s a bit of a product of our personality right now. You can only roll over Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] line so many times in the first period because they understand what’s at stake, they know their matchups going to be difficult every night, and Zee [Zdeno Chara] is the same way. I thought he was fine early into the game. So some of the other guys that weren’t sure what to expect, all the sudden, two, three, four, five shifts go by and it takes a while. So, we have to impart that on them better, but they have to understand this is the National Hockey League and you need to be on time and you have to prepare yourself and understand you’re playing good teams and they’re going to come at you.”
The Bruins prepare for another playoff team from 2016-17, the Minnesota Wild, on Monday.