The Boston Bruins played their first meaningful game Sunday night since Mar. 10 when the NHL paused it’s season due to the coronavirus pandemic. And it was a rather pedestrian showing from the black and gold.
On the backs of lackluster performance against Columbus in an exhibition game on Thursday, Boston followed it up with an equally disheartening 4-1 outing against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first of three Round Robin games.
After the game, Torey Krug admitted the loss was a big wake up call for a team that won the President’s Trophy.
“I hate to lose,” Chris Wagner said postgame. “In that regard I’m upset, I think we all are. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and get it figured out because if we play like that against Tampa [Bay] we could be in trouble.”
It wasn’t all bad as the Bruins came out of the gates with a flurry of scoring chances generated by good energy and a fast pace of play. However, things started to fall apart in the second period after the Bruins – admit-tingly – got comfortable and slowed the work rate down.
Michael Raffl, who finished with two points, started off a three-goal second period for the Flyers as he beat Jaroslav Halak 5:33 into the middle frame. Nate Thompson cashed in four minutes later with a wrist shot under the crossbar to give Philadelphia a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Boston fought back and appeared to generate some momentum when Chris Wagner cut the deficit in half with less than two minutes remaining in the second period.
However, Philadelphia answered back nine seconds later via a Philippe Meyers tally to squash any thought of a comeback.
Scott Laughton added an insurance goal in the third period to secure the victory for the Flyers.
“We made some mistakes, some puck plays where they came back and buried on us quick,” Bruce Cassidy said following the loss. “We do need structurally with the puck generate a little bit more. Some of that is execution and the other half of that is decision making.”
Here’s what we learned as Boston dropped Game 1 of the Round Robin.
Offense has been nonexistent
Through six periods of hockey, the Boston Bruins have been outscored 8-2 and have yet to hold a single lead. This is not the same team that finished with the best record in hockey.
Simply put, the Bruins look like a team that hasn’t played, practiced or even thought about hockey in the last four months. Obviously some rust is to be expected, but the team seems lost out there right now.
And it falls on the shoulders of the best players. David Pastrnak, who led the league with 48 goals this year, hasn’t looked like himself and has been passing on opportunities where he usually makes teams pay.
The second line was a non factor against Philadelphia and that can’t happen for the Bruins to be successful. Jack Studnicka – a young talented prospect – was second to last in terms of time played as the right wing on that line.
The Bruins simply need more from their best players. One goal from a fourth line player isn’t going to get it done.
Consistency is a big factor in Boston’s success
Boston is playing in a foreign city with questionable ice conditions during a global pandemic. Things are already hard enough but the Bruins are shooting themselves in the foot with stretches of inconsistent play.
Thursday against Columbus it was a sluggish first period and Sunday it was a lazy start to the second period that cost them the game. Most of the mistakes – namely turnovers – they have made have been mental and can be fixed rather quickly.
The Bruins made their money in the regular season off of being sound defensively and working their way forward. In the last two games the defense has lacked the confidence it usually has and that is in large part due to the layoff.
Another factor for inconsistency was the absence of Tuukka Rask against the Flyers. However, Cassidy stated that he “hopes and expects” Rask to be in net when the Bruins take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
Third line generated quality opportunities
The lone bright spot from Sunday’s loss was the play of the third line.
Without a doubt they were the best line for the Bruins and generated eight shots and sustained a bulk of Boston’s offensive zone pressure.
It all started with Anders Bjork, who peiced together one of his best outing of his season against the Flyers.
Bjork – playing in his first postseason game – was all over the ice creating chances and drawing two penalties. He even showed off a bit of his skill when he dangled by Matt Niskanen in the first period.
Charlie Coyle and Bjork have displayed good chemistry during the regular season and Karson Kuhlman is a solid compliment to them with his speed and bulldog-like mentality on the fore check.
It is uncertain if Cassidy will make changes to the lineup given the poor performance, but keeping these three together is in Boston’s best interest.
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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