Thursday’s night tilt between the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders was a war of attrition as both teams struggled to generate offense and create separation on the scoreboard.
This battle went to New York, 3-2, by way of a shootout.
Anders Bjork opened the scoring when he picked up loose puck in the offensive zone and buried a wrist shot right under the cross just 1:58 into the game.
Bruce Cassidy stated after morning skate that it would be tough to best the Islanders defense and that proved to be true as Boston could only muster 10 shots on net through 40 minutes of play.
On the flip side, the Islanders were physical and seized momentum over the first two periods. New York would take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission after Johnny Boychuk and Matt Barzal each tallied during the middle frame.
When the puck dropped for the third period, however, Boston came alive.
The Bruins out-shot the Islanders 16-1 over the last 20 minutes and pressured them with a relentless pace and tenacity. Torey Krug brought Boston even with a one-time blast during a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Yet the Bruins couldn’t reach that second gear to put them over the top of a very good New York side. The game would go into a shootout and the Islanders walked away victorious as Brad Marchand misses the final attempt.
“Our third period was excellent. Our first two, we have some work to do,” Cassidy said ernestly after the loss.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s second straight loss.
Boston has lost seven of the last eight games
The Boston Bruins got off to one of the hottest starts in franchise history this season and were making it look easy. Now they have come back down to earth a little bit as they have lost seven of their last eight games.
At 1-4-3 during that stretch it’s been a mixture of slow starts and poor puck luck in games they probably deserved to win. They have two one-goal losses to Washington and Tampa Bay, as well as the last two losses in overtime to LA and New York.
However, it’s not time to panic as the Bruins have remarkably stretched their lead to 11 points in the Atlantic division.
Shootouts are becoming an area of concern
The Bruins have a monkey on their backs in the form of the dreaded shootout. Five times they have participated this season and five times they have come up empty.
Thursday’s result was just the latest example.
“Listen, do I always sit here and tell you I want to win them? Of course,” Cassidy said. “Hasn’t happened for us, and other teams have finished better than us. I don’t have an answer for you there. We’ve talked about this before, we do work on this in practice. Not everyday, but we do certain reps on it, build it in like probably every other specialized part of the game, like working on six-on-fives, etc. Hasn’t gone our way yet. I’ve got to believe we stay in that, if we get in enough of them, some are going to go our way, but clearly it’s not a strength of our team.”
Boston has some of the most talented and dynamic players in the league, including the league’s leading goal scorer. However, when it comes to the shootout they seem to forget all of their natural abilities.
It’s not for a lack of talent but there is a certain black cloud that hovers over the TD Garden crowd whenever the Bruins can’t finish the game in regulation or overtime because they know what the result is going to be.
It’s certainly not the end of the world as the Bruins don’t see the shootout every game, but it’s starting to become an area of concern when they are just gifting away points.
“I think we are a little frustrated by our outcomes in the shootouts,” Bjork said postgame. “It’s tough it hasn’t gone our way lately. It’s tough but obviously we have guys that can score goals.”
Trust in Anders Bjork is growing
There was no doubt about it Thursday night, Bjork was Boston’s best player.
He played with a fiery pace and confidence that led to several quality looks, including his 5th goal of the season. The 23-year-old almost cashed in a second against the Islanders in the second period if not for a tremendous save from Varlamov to rob him of a sure goal.
“I definitely thought I had that one,” Bjork said with a laugh. “It was a great save. But I’ll learn from it and maybe go low next time.”
More importantly, the coaching staff’s trust in Bjork to play key minutes in a wide variety of scenarios. When Bjork was first called up some 27 games ago, Cassidy was gun shy about trotting out the youngster in important phases of the game.
But now, Bjork has seen minutes on both the power play and penalty kill, his bread and butter. During the first period against New York, he played alongside Brad Marchand on the primary penalty kill unit and killed off 1:10 of Connor Clifton’s infraction.
Bjork’s development is key for Boston moving forward as secondary scoring has been a major issue.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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