One goal in 120 minutes is hardly a recipe for winning hockey.
Facing their fourth straight unbeaten opponent, the Boston Bruins hardly appeared in sync during Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Sure, Bruce Cassidy’s peppered Frederick Andersen late in desperation mode, but they struggled all night gaining entries into the attacking zone.
The Bruins chased the game from the get-go. They watched Jeremy Swayman fall victim to tip-ins and lucky bounces off teammates from Tony DeAngelo’s first-period tally and Nino Neidereitter’s second-period marker. Andrei Svenchnikov capped off Boston’s frustrating road trip with an empty netter late in regulation.
The Bruins will return home in desperate need of a spark. Here’s what we learned after the B’s dropped to 3-3-0.
Boston’s power play looked powerless
The Bruins encountered a season-high five chances with the man advantage on Thursday. Not only did they fail to light the lamp, but they generated a meager one shot on goal. And yes, this includes the pair of two man-advantages.
Their best look came in the final stanza on a Brad Marchand doorstep feed to Taylor Hall. But a timely backcheck prevented an easy tap-in for Hall, further highlighting Boston’s frustrating night.
“I don’t know if their guy whacked my stick a little at the end, or I just literally shot it out of the net. A bit of a mistake, but if you notice, we’re a little tight gripping the sticks,” Hall said to the press of his prime missed opportunity. “If everybody, myself included, is feeling uber-confident, that’s an easy tap-in.”
Certainly, a top playmaking unit of Marchand, Hall, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy provides plenty of intrigue when they’re clicking. And indeed, they have time to work on their chemistry. But the 12.5 percent success rate with the man advantage provides some early-season concerns. And as Hall alluded to, the stagnating offense had the Bruins during this two-game rut.
Cassidy replaced Hall and McAvoy’s goal-line and point spots with Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk, respectively, on Boston’s fifth power-play chance. Both provide suitable replacement options for the top unit because, let’s face it, Cassidy won’t likely break up the potent Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio this early into the 2021-22 campaign.
“We’re just not in sync right now. We might be forcing it a little bit,” Marchand added. “We’re kind of rushing to make a play rather than settling down and getting to our spots. We just have to calm down out there and win battles. It always starts from there.”
Jack Studnicka struggling to gain traction on the second line
With Nick Foligno still injured and Craig Smith sitting out the road trip — with his potential return coming Saturday — the Bruins needed a spark out of Studnicka. After initially skating on the fourth line during Sunday’s 4-3 victory over San Jose, Cassidy moved Studnicka to the second line with Hall and Charlie Coyle. The trio generated some decent scoring chances in the first period of Wednesday’s tilt and found the back of the net after Coyle’s feed in front deflected off a Panthers skate past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Studnicka tallied an assist on Coyle’s fortunate bounce. Yet the line struggled to generate quality looks as the Panthers found their skating legs late into the opening stanza and into the second period. Studnicka returned to the fourth line and rarely saw ice time with the Bruins in desperation mode during the final 20 minutes of play in Sunrise.
Once again, Studnicka jumped around from the second and fourth line. This time, Cassidy called his number in the third in another attempt to spark the offense. He had a golden chance on a mini-breakaway in the closing moments. But a strong Carolina backcheck and a timely poke check from Andersen kept Studnicka off the scoreboard.
Cassidy will have another tough decision ahead if Smith is good to go for Saturday. Studnicka hardly did himself any favors to secure that second-line center role in the long term. He ended his two-game trip firing a paltry three shots on net and a little over 10 minutes of average time on ice.
The Bruins need more out of everyone, not just Studnicka. Surely, he’s battling through some growing pains at the NHL level. But the coaching staff and the front office need to see results from Studnicka sooner rather than later. Otherwise, he may have to continue his professional hockey development in Providence or even somewhere else.
Panthers and ‘Canes appear primed for bigger things
Several hockey pundits circled the Panthers and Hurricanes as a pair of teams to watch entering the season. The two squads remain undefeated heading into October’s final weekend.
The Bruins will get another crack at Florida on Saturday, this time at home. The Panthers won’t have disgraced coach Joel Quenneville behind the bench following his resignation in the fallout of Brad Aldrich’s 2010 sexual assault of Kyle Beach during his time with the Blackhawks. But once again, the Bruins will face a Florida squad with four deep forward trios, three stout defensive pairs and a stellar goaltending tandem of Bobrovsky and ex-Boston College standout Spencer Knight.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have built a cohesive squad over the past few years under general manager Don Waddell. Their young up-tempo defense hasn’t lost a step with Dougie Hamilton’s departure. They solidified stability in goal with Frederik Andersen. Jesper Kotkaniemi’s arrival from Montreal provides more scoring depth. They’ve all complimented a strong core built around Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Teuvo Teravainen, Jaccob Slavin and captain Jordan Stall to name a few.
It’s still early. The Bruins had chances that slipped away from them in this tough two-game stretch. But they have some defensive flaws and lineup concerns they need to address. And the Panthers and Hurricanes are ready to pounce if the B’s indeed slip into a deeper hole.
“They’re both very good teams. You have to give them credit,” Marchand said to the press of the Carolina and Florida matchups. “We knew they were going to be good coming in. I think we can play with both of them. We just couldn’t capitalize on their chances and they got a couple of lucky bounces that kind of turned the tide. You know, I think we have some things that we need to continue to work on. That’s all you have to do with these games. You can’t dwell on it. There are a lot of games left in the season, and we just have to take what we need to get better on, work at it and go from there and get ready for the next one.”
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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