What we learned: An ugly trend continues
No team is immune to blowing leads — small or large — in the National Hockey League. The Boston Bruins have turned their multi-goal advantages into an ugly trend.
The Bruins grabbed a 3-0 first period lead on the heels of Patrice Bergeron’s 21st goal of the season 11 seconds in, Anders Bjork’s tally at 2:02 and David Pastrnak’s 37th lamp-lighter in 2019-20 at 15:07. Yet, despite another hot start, Bruce Cassidy’s squad lacked a killer instinct.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort either during a physically taxing tilt. Matt Murray found a groove following a rough start and Sidney Crosby tallied a pair of slick helpers on Dominik Simon’s and Teddy Bulger’s respective markers at 16:34 of the first and 33 ticks of the middle stanza.
Then they broke down.
Jack Johnson evened things up with his shorthanded one-timer a mere 1:41 into the final stanza. Bryan Rust tallied the game-winner after an ugly turnover in the defensive end by Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins left the Steel City with a 4-3 loss and another wasted opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We all have to take responsibility and be accountable for how we’re able to play in this locker room. It’s one of those games where we’re playing a good team. They’re going to give you a push but then you can’t let that go by,” Bergeron told reporters following the loss. “It’s a 3-0 lead and there’s a lot of game left. So you have to play the right way and keep pushing to increase that lead.”
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s second to last game before its upcoming bye week.
Another blown multi-goal lead
What was a staple of past Bruins teams is now a liability.
The Bruins held a 3-0 lead against this same Penguins squad back on Nov. 4. Crosby and company came back to take a 4-3 lead, but the Bruins bounced back and salvaged two points with a late comeback for the 6-4 triumph.
It wasn’t just a one-off, though. The very next week, the Bruins found themselves with a four-goal cushion entering the third period against the Panthers only to fall in an embarrassing shootout loss on home ice on Nov. 12.
Now they’ve blown a three-goal lead twice in one week on opposite ends of the Pennsylvania spectrum. And on Sunday — unlike their loss to the Flyers capped off by Brad Marchand’s shootout gaffe — the Bruins didn’t even salvage a single point.
Regardless of what the roster looks like between now and the trade deadline, the Bruins can’t afford more of these meltdowns. The last thing they want is to carry this trend into the postseason.
Charlie McAvoy’s bad afternoon
He’s encountered some bad luck with his lengthy goal drought dating back to March. McAvoy appeared poised to finally net his first regular-season goal in 10 months. Instead, as his play against the Pens slowly deteriorated, McAvoy capped off a rather rough afternoon with after coughing up the puck at the worst possible time.
With the score tied at 3-3, McAvoy, upon contact with Evgeni Malkin, attempted an outlet pass to Zdeno Chara behind Jaroslav Halak. Instead, Malkin pick-pocketed the former Boston University standout and immediately set Rust up for the game-winner.
“There are good players in this league,” McAvoy told reporters postgame. “They made a good play and I’ve got to be stronger on the puck.”
Of course, McAvoy shouldn’t be singled out. The Bruins defensive core, again, didn’t get the job done against an opportunistic Penguins bunch.
The blown leads often times start from the defense out. For whatever reason, McAvoy and aren’t as attentive whenever they hold a multi-goal lead.
They haven’t cleared pucks in timely moments, but McAvoy and company will soon have some time to clear their minds for a week and a half.
Break can’t come soon enough
The Bruins have a chance to bounce back on Tuesday night when they host new coach Peter DeBoer and the Vegas Golden Knights at TD Garden. Their next game after that takes place in Winnipeg ten days later.
Pastrnak will be the only busy Bruin during this time when he captains the Atlantic Division All-Star team in St. Louis. Some of the Bruins will use the break to spend quality time with family. Others, like Tuukka Rask and Connor Clifton, will have more time to heal from their injuries.
Of course, the Bruins can’t look too far ahead to their break with a desperate Vegas bunch coming to town. They’ve had a see-saw month full of highs, like their mother’s trip, and lows, including their blown leads to the Flyers and Penguins. A week and a half away from the rink will come at a good time before embarking on the home stretch of the 2019-20 regular season.