Sometimes it takes a break to get some of the bad habits off your chest.
Fresh off an uninspiring loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Boston Bruins hardly displayed a desirable performance during the opening 20 minutes against the COVID-ridden Ottawa Senators. An ill-advised Taylor Hall turnover put the Bruins in catchup mode on Zach Sanford’s first goal of the season a mere 74 seconds in.
Even though they outshot the Sens 14-11, a frustrated Bruins bunch committed ill-timed penalties and hardly looked in sync in the opening 20.
But Cassidy’s squad established good habits in the middle 20. They earned a few fortunate breaks as the period progressed, beginning with Brad Marchand deflecting David Pastrnak’s shot off his chest for his first power-play goal of the season. Another unlikely goal from Derek Forbort and Patrice Bergeron’s crafty lamplighter off the broken stick — 5:11 after Nikita Zaitsev tied things off on a bad angle shot — capped off a crazy second stanza.
Jeremy Swayman brushed off his soft goal on Zaitsev’s first of the season after staving off Ottawa’s desperate attempt for the equalizer. The Bruins overcame a shaky opening 20 to hand Cassidy his 200th career win behind Boston’s bench.
The Bruins remain in search of an elusive 60-minute effort. For now, they’ll take another two points to improve to 6-4 on the season.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 3-2 triumph.
Physically engaged Bruins earn their breaks in the second
The bounces off Marchand’s chest and Charlie McAvoy’s broken stick — en route to Bergeron’s go-ahead marker — weren’t the only positive developments from the middle 20.
In fact, the Bruins returned to their physical roots.
They found themselves on the other end of the physical spectrum after Ottawa defenseman Josh Brown delivered a clean, open-ice hit on Trent Frederic. Boston’s fourth-line winger exited the game with an upper-body injury following the nasty collision.
But more often than not, they laid out the proverbial hammer. Their physical prowess came through with usual suspects like Charlie McAvoy laying out Zach Sanford and Connor Clifton dropping the gloves with Alex Formenton following Clifton’s potential goal-saving backcheck late in the middle stanza. Even Pastrnak displayed muscle with a big hit along the boards before falling victim to a save of the year candidate by Matt Murray.
The Bruins bucked their second-period trends in a good way through their return to basics. It wasn’t pretty, but their physicality led to breaks on Marchand and Bergeron’s tally, thus helping the team overcome a rather pedestrian opening 20 minutes.
“Typically, our starts have been good. That hasn’t been an issue — it’s been our second period, but today was the reverse,” Cassidy said. “We got going after that and brought some emotion.”
The Bruins outplayed the Sens for 40 minutes. It was good enough on this night, but they can’t afford to fall in a similar hole when they host the Connor McDavid-led Oilers Thursday night.
Bruins still eying that 60 minute effort
If only the Bruins could only display a similar second-period effort from Tuesday into a full-60.
Through the first 10 games, the Bruins hardly provided a clean outing from start to finish. At times, they’ve remained assertive in their puck pursuit in all three zones. In other instances, they’ll grip their sticks tight and overthink their decisions in the attacking end.
Both Jekyll and Hyde showed up on Tuesday. The Bruins struggled in the opening moments establishing clean entries offensively, especially on the power play. The costly turnovers and ill-timed penalties nearly put them in a further hole. Their miscues almost piled up, but Bergeron and company escaped with just a one-goal deficit after 20 minutes.
“At times, we get away from our system, and we get away from the details,” Bergeron said of the struggles sustaining a 60-minute effort. “Every time we take care of the neutral zone, and we don’t force plays. We get the puck in areas, and we go and get it. I thought we got back to that in the second and third, and it was a lot better.”
The opening 20 served as a reminder. The Bruins need to remain sharp even against a rebuilding team like the Sens. From top to bottom, they can ill-afford to take shifts off as they search for their identity.
But these dilemmas aren’t necessarily a terrible development. They could find themselves better off in the long run as they navigate through the ups and downs of their first 10 games.
“If you have that adversity, it could be a good thing,” Bergeron said. “So I think you have to work through it, and I definitely believe in everyone.”
Boston’s PK remained consistent amid undisciplined penalties
The see-sawing from the opening 20 to the final 40 provided plenty of tense moments. Yet, Boston’s penalty kill stood tall after a rough outing in Toronto.
Cassidy and company needed that PK consistency as the Bruins found themselves on the tail end of untimely penalties.
The Sens had four chances to extend the lead to 2-0. But the Bruins killed each of their four opening period, highlighted by 4V3, 5V3 and 5V4 situations over a 1:39 span.
Boston’s stout PK delivered with timely clears and solid goaltending from Swayman. Yet, they didn’t provide a shining display of discipline with a handful of infractions coming in the attacking end.
“We were in the box again a lot tonight — way too much,” Cassidy said. “Was that us, or were we on the wrong end of calls? Whatever the case may be, we’ve got to rectify that.”
Ideally, the Bruins will want to avoid turbulence against the red-hot Oilers and the otherworldly McDavid. And quite frankly, they have several concerns to address before Thursday’s matchup.
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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