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  • What we learned: Bruins keeping the faith amidst even-strength issues

    Tim Rosenthal January 18, 2021

    After sleepwalking themselves to a point in Newark on Saturday, the Boston Bruins had a better pep in their step in against the New York Islanders.

    Yet, their offensive struggles continued. The Bruins failed to solve another trap-happy team in Long Island. Their lack of finish came back to haunt them late in the third after Jean-Gabriel Pageau batted home his first of the season on a double-deflection with 4:09 left in regulation.


    Now the Bruins return home without an even-strength goal through nine regulation periods and two overtime sessions.

    “No consolation to losing a game like that when you feel like you’re the better team,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the 1-0 loss.

    Here’s what we learned from Boston’s frustrating setback in Uniondale.

    Lineup cohesion a work in progress

    Cassidy knew he had some holes with his four forward lines and three defensive pairs (more on them on the next takeaway) to start the year. Notably, he needed to find a pair of defensemen to fill the significant vacancies left by Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug while also finding a short-term suitor to take David Pastrnak’s place on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

    More often than not, the fifth-year Boston bench boss had to throw his lines into a proverbial blender. Jack Studnicka, returning to the lineup Monday after sitting as a healthy scratch two days prior, had the first crack with Marchand and Bergeron in the opening night victory. Anders Bjork and a slew of skaters had their turn with the dynamic top-line duo the next day.

    Jake DeBrusk had his turn on Monday. He looked the best out of all the options skating with Marchand and Bergeron through the season’s opening road trip. He remained engaged throughout despite only tallying a single shot on goal, helping establish puck possession against a stingy Islanders bunch.

    But it wasn’t enough. The revolving door throughout the lineup hasn’t helped Boston’s early-season scoring woes, especially at even-strength. Aside from the fourth line featuring Trent Frederic, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner, and the chemistry between Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle on the third line — albeit for two of the three games — the Bruins struggled to develop into a cohesive offense.

    While they couldn’t find the back of the net, the Bruins deserved a better fate against the Isles. They generated enough traffic in front of Semyon Varlamov to create a handful of quality scoring chances en route to a 27-17 shots on goal advantage. Heck, if it weren’t for hitting a couple of posts, the Bruins may have found themselves coming away with two points in regulation on this night.

    “I liked our game from the eye test,” Cassidy said during his postgame Zoom call.

    This game isn’t decided by looks. It’s a result-oriented business. They managed to tally a meager five goals during this road trip, two power play tallies (Marchand and Nick Ritchie) a shorthanded marker (Patrice Bergeron) and a shootout winner (Marchand)

    But even in a transition year, the Bruins still have confidence in one another to dig themselves out of this early-season rut.

    “We’re obviously focused on it. Obviously, it’s what everyone wants to talk about — production at 5v5. It’s one of those things that we’re very aware of, but we have confidence in our group,” DeBrusk said.

    “With no preseason, you can use any excuse you want. We know what we need to do. It’s just about going out and executing. Sounds easier than what it is obviously, but we have faith in this room.”

    Young D haven’t been an issue thus far

    Yes, they’ve needed Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak to save them at times. Another case in point came Monday when Rask bailed out Jeremy Lauzon after stoning Anthony Beauvillier on a breakaway.

    More often than not, the blue-line hasn’t looked all that bad through three games.

    Brandon Carlo looked comfortable taking Chara’s spot as a minute eater on the penalty kill. Charlie McAvoy’s smooth skating and transition game kept the opposition on their heels. Lauzon hasn’t looked out of place pairing with McAvoy on the top unit. Kevan Miller’s physicality resonated with his club in his first three games since 2019. Jakub Zboril isn’t shy moving the puck and creating some chances on the rush.

    The Bruins allowed a mere four goals in their first road trip of the season. They went a perfect 13-for-13 on the penalty kill, albeit against two teams who were in the bottom third on the power play a year ago.

    Who knows whether Boston’s D can sustain this success consistently. They’ll have a fierce test coming Thursday against a hungry Philadelphia Flyers bunch, pegged by certain pundits as one of the favorites in the East Division.

    Rask, like DeBrusk, sees good fortunes coming Boston’s way in the long-term.

    “It’s early in the season. I think we’re playing really good,” Rask said. “If we play that team defense throughout the year, I think we’re going to win a lot of games. I know the offense will come. We just have to stick with it and not hang our heads.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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.


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