This is hardly the way the Bruins envisioned things heading into the bye week.
With another chance to surpass the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division standings, the Bruins let a winnable game slip through their fingers against a rebuilding Rangers squad Saturday night at TD Garden.
Adding injury to insult, Tuukka Rask left Saturday’s contest after sustaining a concussion after Filip Chytil ran into the Bruins netminder following a hit from Charlie McAvoy prior to the Rangers’ first goal of the evening.
“Tuukka took the brunt of that collision,” McAvoy told reporters postgame. “There was no way to prepare for it because he was focused on the puck.”
Filip Chytil collides with Tuukka Rask in the crease.
Rask leaves the game. pic.twitter.com/DusVYsokqm
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 20, 2019
If there’s one silver lining entering the bye week it’s Rask getting some recovery time. The Bruins don’t return to action until a week from Tuesday when they host a highly-skilled Winnipeg Jets squad on Causeway Street.
The Bruins limp into the bye week with a 2-3-1 mark in their last six. Here is what we learned following their 3-2 loss to the Blueshirts.
One Bruin thought he’d have extended time off and watch his counterpart as he approaches history. Instead, Bruce Cassidy needed to tab Halak following Rask’s injury late in the first period.
It’s a tough situation for anyone to come in relief. Halak didn’t fare all too poorly given the circumstances, stopping 11 of 13 shots. He may have wanted both goals by Mika Zibenajad back — especially the game-winner — but Halak didn’t put his team at a disadvantage much as he did during his start Wednesday night in Philadelphia where he allowed four goals on 18 shots.
The Journeyman had a hot start to his Boston tenure but has cooled off over his last handful of appearances. He’ll have to find his rhythm again as the Bruins will need him upon returning from their week off — with or without Rask.
The members left from the 2011 Stanley Cup squad went down by one following Adam McQuaid’s trade to Broadway.
As with any former player returning to TD Garden for the first time, the Bruins production team put together a nice package for McQuaid in his first game back. The video package included a handful of McQuaid’s fights, hits and, of course, his skate with the Cup in Vancouver in June of 2011.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) January 20, 2019
“It was good. Like I said, it was a lot of great memories here, nothing but great things to say about the organization and the people of Boston, so it brought me back,” the soft-spoken McQuaid said. “I was getting ready for a faceoff, so I couldn’t really — I had to get right back into the zone there, but I appreciate that, and it was nice to see it.”
The ovation and stick taps then paved way for the business in hand. And McQuaid certainly had a busy night.
From exchanging pleasantries with Brad Marchand to coming to the aid of Jesper Fast in his bout with Chris Wagner, McQuaid notched four hits and three blocked shots in 17:28 of ice time. Yet, aiding Fast nearly came back to haunt the Rangers as the former Bruin got an extra two minutes for instigating as the third man in.
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) January 20, 2019
As they did all night, New York’s shorthanded unit killed off the McQuaid minor late in the third period to secure the two points.
The Bruins hardly looked like a team ranked second in power play percentage over the last week. The man advantage reared its ugly head Saturday night as Boston went 0-for-5 on the power play. Their biggest wasted chance came on a four-minute power play after former Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren high sticked Patrice Bergeron in the face.
“We had an opportunity early in the game with the three power plays and a four-minute [chance in the first period],” said Brad Marchand, who notched his 19th of the season to tie things up at 2-2 in the third. “It kind of sets the tempo there. If we get one early there, then we feel pretty good about ourselves. We didn’t and we kind of got deflated and gave up a couple of opportunities. So we need to be better in that area and take advantage of situations like that.
So what’s been the issue? Well at least they cleaned up on allowing shorthanded goals, but the Bruins are having problems getting clean entries for one. Even when they do, the power play units get passive as opposing penalty kills find ease getting into their defensive setup and disrupting the passing lanes.
The Bruin also dealt with moving parts — more so on the second power play unit — as they finally got a clean bill of health upon McAvoy’s return to the lineup last Saturday in Toronto. But they’ll need another veteran top-six cog and power play specialist between now and the Feb. 25 trade deadline
Cassidy’s squad has no problem getting up for marquee games against divisional opponents. They embrace those tough matchups against the Maple Leafs, Sabres and Canadiens. They also had no problem producing on the league’s biggest regular-season stage at Notre Dame Stadium during their Winter Classic victory over the Blackhawks.
But what happens when they face a team outside of the top eight? Well, that’s where they have a bit of a problem.
The Bruins took care of business against the Blues Thursday night. St. Louis entered Saturday’s slate four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Rangers and Flyers are further away from the final wild card spot in the East — trailing by nine and eleven points, respectively, following their victories.
The two recent losses paint a bigger picture for Cassidy’s bunch. The Bruins have left points on the table against the likes of the Hurricanes, Red Wings (twice), Canucks (twice), Panthers and Oilers this season, just to name a few.
They could be sitting pretty in second place in the Atlantic Division. Instead, the Black and Gold still find themselves looking up at Toronto. They could drop to one of the wild card spots coming out of the bye week with the Habs hosting the Coyotes Wednesday night in Montreal.
Given the rash of injuries earlier in the year, the Bruins still have to feel pretty good about themselves as they get some much-needed rest. But they know they have to be at their best when they return to the ice against the high-powered Jets a week from Tuesday.
“We had some games. We could’ve probably played better, but overall I think we’re in a good position going into the break,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “Obviously after the break, it’s going to be very important to keep playing strong and keep climbing in the standings.
“It’s always very important to play better and keep improving and closer you get to the playoffs, you know, you demand to play the best hockey.”
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