If their ugly 6-1 loss to the Canucks Saturday night was any indication, the Bruins may need to acquire defensive help sooner rather than later. Or one could just chalk it up as a rare lapse in judgment on the back end.
In an unusual stinker, the Black and Gold, despite outshooting the Canucks 45-24, just couldn’t get out of their own way defensively. The frustrating loss resulted in a wasted opportunity for the Bruins to pull within one point of the Atlantic Division-leading Lightning, and five points ahead of the Maple Leafs.
Here is what we learned as Bruce Cassidy and company suffer one of their worst losses of the season.
An old friend and a Bruins killer highlight Canucks’ offensive onslaught
As Bob Lobel famously stated in many of his broadcasts when a former Boston player does well in another uniform: “Hey, why can’t we get guys like that?” The latest ex-Bruin to back that quote is Loui Eriksson. The veteran scored twice, including the game’s first goal, in his third career game against his former team to spark the Canucks’ offensive onslaught.
While Eriksson’s days in Boston are long gone, the Bruins may want to look at acquiring Thomas Vanek — especially given his history against the Black and Gold. His first period assist on Daniel Sedin’s 15th of the season marked Vanek’s 68th point in 63 career games against Boston.
Vanek is having one of his better seasons since leaving Buffalo in 2013-14 and wouldn’t cost as much as some of the other top-six players on the market like Evander Kane and Rick Nash. If he doesn’t land in Boston, at the very least, the Bruins hope Vanek stays in the Western Conference given his history.
Hard to blame Tuukka Rask or Anton Khudobin
Sure, Rask wasn’t as sharp as usual with his rebound control and Khudobin couldn’t bail the Bruins out in relief during the second and third periods. The bigger picture here is the defensive liabilities that led to second-chance opportunities and odd-man rushes.
Unlike the Bruins, the opportunistic Canucks took advantage leading to Rask allowing four goals on eight shots in his 20 minutes of play. Khudobin, who relieved Rask for the second time this year, allowed two goals on 15 shots.
As well as Rask and Khudobin have played throughout the 2017-18, Saturday proved that the talented goaltending duo is susceptible when defensive breakdowns leave them out in the cold.
Bruins offense lacks finish
Though Anders Nilsson had a solid 44-save night, the Canucks backup left a few rebounds in the prime scoring areas. The Bruins, however, couldn’t pounce on those second-chance opportunities as the Canucks were just one step ahead in their puck pursuit all night.
Despite the disparity, the Bruins deserve some credit for not quitting. Jake DeBrusk, in particular, played with an edge and was finding time and space to create a few chances of his own. But the B’s just couldn’t finish as evident by hitting the post twice in the first period, David Krejci missing the open net in the second and an 0-for-5 showing on the power play.
Whatever went right for the Black and Gold in the last few months trended in a completely different direction on both ends of the ice.
Playing down to the competition?
Saturday’s loss marked the first time the Bruins lost twice in a four-game span since November. Those two setbacks are rather head-scratching.
Both the Sabres — who earned a 4-2 win at TD Garden one week ago — and Canucks are at the bottom of the league standings. Buffalo sits next to last while Vancouver jumped up to 26th out of 31 teams following their victory.
Is it a case of the Bruins getting caught looking down at their opponents, or simply a matter of execution?
“You can accept not executing certain nights, you can accept the puck not going in,” Cassidy said following the loss to Buffalo. “But giving them the free chances the other way is just not who we are.”
The Bruins bounced back the very next night after their ugly loss to the Sabres. This time, they’ll have an extra day to sit on their poor performance before Monday’s contest in Calgary.
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