What we learned: System sputters in loss to Capitals
“I’m not saying we can’t outscore a hockey team,” Bruce Cassidy summed about the Bruins system after Thursday’s 2-1 win over Vegas, “but right now, until guys they’re comfortable offensively, I’m not sure that’s the formula. If you can see the games here, we won 2-1 [against] San Jose. 2-1 LA [Kings] beats us, but we get a point, 2-1 tonight. I think they’re going to see more of that just because of our makeup.”
That makeup speaks to the absence of Adam McQuaid, David Krejci, Noel Acciari, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, and Anton Khudobin, meaning tight defense and reliable goaltending with offensive contributions beyond the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. And secondary scoring needed beyond.
While that system worked against the expansion Golden Knights, the Black and Gold faced a significantly stiffer test Saturday night against the Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby-led Washington Capitals – the Presidents Trophy winner as the best team in the NHL in 2016-17.
Both teams coming into Saturday with 13 points; the B’s with two games in hand.
Boston’s – and Tuukka Rask’s – biggest challenge: beat Holtby. He was 11-2 in his 13 career games vs. Boston with a 1.80 GAA. Rask a career paltry 1-9-5 with a 3.07 GAA.
Your Monday morning stat: The Vegas Golden Knights ninth win Saturday afternoon exceeded the season total of eight for the Washington Capitals their inaugural season in 1974.
Here’s what we learned as Cassidy’s system sputtered, and Washington – and Holtby – did what they usually do against Boston in a 3-2 win.
“So some nights [secondary scoring] going to show up and it won us a game the other night,” Cassidy lamented about the need for such. “Tonight we could have used one more.”
Wilson staples Marchand then scores first goal; Ovechkin the second
“We had a bad start and we can’t have that, especially against a team like Washington with a lot of skills,” Bergeron said, “and they made us pay in the first period and it’s tough to play catch-up hockey.
Tom Wilson delivered a heavy check to Marchand five minutes in; Marchand wobbling to the pine.
Two minutes later, Wilson took a faceoff from Lars Eller and fired a no-angle 10-foot shot behind Rask from along the right goal line.
Ovechkin took a breakaway from center ice to Rask’s doorstep 12 minutes in but Rask held serve. For about a minute. The ‘Caps leading scorer made no mistake on the rebid at 13:06 when he rifled a left-dot blast past Rask for his 11th goal of the season.
Marchand got nailed again, this time by T.J. Oshie late in the period in a heavy collision in front of Holtby. His frustration clearly visible in reducing a 200-dollar stick to splinters upon his return to the bench.
“They were targeting [Pastrnak] and Marchy [Brad Marchand],” Cassidy said. “It makes sense. They are our top guys, so it’s a good strategy, and that is something that Marchy has been used to for years and Pasta [David Pastrnak] is going to have to get used to. You’re a good player, you are going to get attention.”
B’s play tic-tac-toe for early goal; Wilson strikes again in waning seconds.
Torey Krug sent a pass to Bergeron along the right dasher with Pastrnak putting the Bergeron pass behind Holtby at 3:37 to cut the hometown deficit in half. It was Pastrnak’s seventh of the season.
The Capitals went on their second power play with four minutes remaining, spending all of 1:45 in the Black and Gold end with a passing clinic but no red light. Wilson would change that, potting his second of the night at 18:50 when he redirected a Brooks Orpik blue-line 40-footer past Rask.
Those PP opportunities
The Bruins, with the fourth best power play in the league, ended the second period with one PP opportunity in their last five periods.
But Orpik took a double minor for high sticking forty-six seconds into the final 20. And Wilson almost had the hat trick shorthanded on a clean break-in on Rask. Not a whole lot of luster to the B’s man-advantage even after Cassidy took a unique timeout with a minute left.
To add insult to almost injury, Eller had a clean breakaway as the penalty expired; Rask another big save.
“Just going back to making the plays we’re used to,” Bergeron related about Cassidy’s message. “We know where to be on the ice and it seemed like we were all out of sync and out of position as well. Just to go back to playing smart, taking what’s in front of us and not forcing plays.”
A Dmytry Orlov hug on Austin Czarnik at 9:21 put Boston back on the power play. To no avail.
“It was an opportunity to get back in the game and eventually the power play did score to get back in the game,” Cassidy said, “but you’d like to see it a little bit earlier and a little smoother.”
That would be at 16:21 for a last-gasp effort to get the game to one goal. And Pastrnak delivered on a replica of Wilson’s along-the-goal-line tally to tie him with Marchand for the team lead with eight.
“I think it went between his blocker and the leg,” Pastrnak said about the sliver of daylight.
A frantic 6-on-5 failed to produce the equalizer with Rask on the bench in the frantic finish and the Bruins failed to outscore the ‘Caps.
Streak comes to and end
Into Saturday night, the Bruins earned points in each of their last six games (3-0-3). A point against Washington matches last year’s season-long seven-game point streak from March 25-April 6.
Not to be.
“We’ve been playing some decent hockey, especially based on the guys we’ve been missing,” Marchand said during Saturday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “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.”
“The other night we were one better,” Cassidy said. “Tonight they were one better. We’re going to go through some of those games.”
Minnesota next up.