Through two games, the Boston Bruins nabbed three of a possible four points. Yet, against the New Jersey Devils, a consensus pick among pundits to finish last in the East Division, the initial results provided a bit of a head-scratcher.
A shorthanded tally by Patrice Bergeron — his first as the Boston captain — and a spirited initial bout between Kevan Miller and Miles Wood provided some building blocks for the Bruins.
Yet, Bruce Cassidy’s squad only had good stretches in spurts. The Devils found their skating legs early and sustained a solid rhythm in the final 20-plus minutes.
Jaroslav Halak kept the Bruins in position to steal a victory with some stellar saves in the third period and overtime, including a breakaway stop on Kyle Palmieri. But he was hung out to dry in the final moments when Yegor Sharangovich took a stellar feed from Damon Severson and fired home his first career goal with 1.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Devils the 2-1 win.
“It’s a work in progress,” Bergeron said following the loss. “As a team, you take three out of four [points], but you always look for more.”
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s first loss of the year.
Even strength scoring issues a primary sore spot
Losing their top power play quarterback (Torey Krug) and penalty kill specialist (Zdeno Chara), the Bruins had to shuffle their special teams’ lines a bit to start the season. They haven’t had a dip in production early on with three of their four goals coming on the power play or penalty kill.
But a troubling trend from the last couple of seasons has carried itself into the realigned 2021 season. The even-strength scoring issues reared their ugly head in last year’s second-round exit to the Lightning. Their 5V5 woes, in particular, continue through the first two games.
The Bruins failed to score an even-strength goal in nearly 130 minutes against a rebuilding Devils squad. On Saturday, the Devils outshot the Bruins 26-24 in even-strength play, including the 3-on-3 OT. A potential Nick Ritchie 5v5 tally was wiped off the board following a debatable goaltender interference call when Craig Smith made a little contact with Blackwood.
And it’s not like they’ve generated numerous quality scoring chances either. The Bruins only had 46 shot attempts compared to New Jersey’s 54 overall. .
More often than not, they’re looking for the perfect play. The Bruins passed up some potential shooting opportunities over the first two games. They rarely generated traffic in front of MacKenzie Blackwood, settling for one and dones more often than not. Hardly ideal to say the least.
“Too many one and dones and not having traffic,” Bergeron said. “As forwards we have to get [to the net] and look for some rebounds.
Ondrej Kase’s departure from Saturday’s game didn’t help. Cassidy had to shuffle his lineup with his 11 remaining forwards for the second half of the nearly 65-minute tilt.
A healthy David Pastrnak come February should help. The Bruins also signed Smith to help in the even-strength scoring department. The former Predator didn’t look all that bad engaging in puck pursuit and establishing offensive zone time in his first game with his new club.
Lacking even-strength execution remains a sore spot, and the Bruins need to find an answer to that early on this season. Shooting the puck would be a good start.
“We’re not shooting enough. We’re not playing on the original shot,” Cassidy said. “Sometimes you’re shooting to force a team to recover a rebound, you’re shooting to force a goalie to control his rebound, you’re shooting for a second chance, to draw a penalty…there are a lot of different things that can happen off a shot. We’re not doing enough of that right now. We’re always looking to make a pass, and it showed tonight.”
Kevan Miller drops the gloves following Rask’s collisions with Wood
Wood ran into Rask on a handful of occasions two nights ago. The Bruins wasted little time sending a message to Wood and the rest of the Devils.
Miller, fresh off skating in his first regular season game in nearly two years, quickly dropped the gloves with Wood a mere 19 seconds into Saturday’s matinee. The veteran defenseman earned the takedown and a five-minute trip to the box.
The Bruins didn’t build immediate momentum following Miller’s fight with Wood. Yet, they needed to respond to Wood after his frequent visits at the doorstep of Rask’s crease on Thursday.
Wood expected this. He didn’t fault Miller for responding.
“That’s just the way it is,” Wood told MSG reporter Erica Wechther during the first intermission. “I respect Kevan. You know, I probably would’ve done the same thing if our goalie got hit a few times.”
Wood didn’t run over Halak on Saturday. But he found other means to haunt the Bruins.
Wood quickly becoming a villain in Boston
The Bruins and Devils faced off for their second of eight meetings this season. And Wood has already established himself as an antagonist.
The ex-Boston College Eagle rewarded his team following their strong first period after tipping in Ty Smith’s shot from the point at 16:15 for the 1-0 lead.
Several minutes elapsed before Wood struck again, this time forcing Kase out of the game following a high hit.
The Bruins didn’t force the issue with another fight. But make no mistake, they took his number and they may very well ask him to answer for another collision when the two teams meet again for their third of eight matchups on Feb. 15.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.