The Boston Bruins hardly looked hot in Sunday’s matchup against the scorching Calgary Flames.
Johnny Gaudreau’s opening tally on Jeremy Swayman’s rebound a mere 89 seconds in foreshadowed Boston’s long night. Gaudreau’s fellow former Boston College standout Noah Hanafin capitalized on another Swayman rebound in the middle stanza.
Quite frankly, the Bruins had no answers against former teammate Dan Vladar and the rest of the Flames. Their stagnant power play prevented them from establishing any momentum against Calgary’s stout penalty kill. Their secondary scoring dried up on a night where the usually potent top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak struggled to gain any traction in 5v5 play.
All of this haunted the Bruins as they gave up a pair in the third on an Andrew Magnipane shorthanded goal and a Mikael Backlund marker 70 ticks apart.
A third of Calgary’s tilts ended in a shutout victory entering Sunday’s tilt.
That shutout percentage jumped even higher after Daryl Sutter’s club netted its seventh blank in 19 games.
The Bruins needed a quality effort throughout the lineup against Calgary’s stingy defense. Their secondary scoring uptick over the last three games didn’t carry over into Sunday’s tilt. Yet, Boston’s usual reliable scoring options hardly provided a tone-setting outing.
A couple of bad bounces, including a Taylor Hall rebound attempt off Nick Foligno’s first-period shot, didn’t help their cause. But more often than not, the Bruins’ usual go-to options like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy shot themselves in the foot with head-scratching puck decisions.
A disastrous night on the power play topped off Boston’s uninspiring performance. The sputtering man advantage struggled to gain clean entries and establish quality looks on their former netminder. It all unraveled early in the third as a poor decision led to Magnipane’s tally with Foligno, Bergeron, and McAvoy failing to bail out a struggling Swayman on Calgary’s shorthanded rush.
“The top guys did not have a good night in any area of the game,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said bluntly.
“When it’s a game like that I think you have to simplify, and I don’t think we did that. They took advantage and capitalized,” Bergeron added. “We were trying to be too cute and too fancy.”
Once again, the Bruins complicated things against one of the top teams in the league in the early going. They’ve failed to play to their north-south identity and instead allowed the red-hot Flames to walk away with another convincing win.
The Bruins have lost ground among the league’s upper-echelon
Sunday’s loss marked Boston’s sixth of the season. They’ve fallen victim to the Flyers, Hurricanes, Panthers, Maple Leafs, Oilers and Flames. All but Philly sit in either first or second place in their respective divisions.
The combined record from the aforementioned squads: 72-24-10.
The Bruins envisioned some early season hurdles with a new goaltending tandem of Swayman and Linus Ullmark replacing Tuukka Rask. They expected some growing pains with a quintet of newcomers arriving in the off-season in Foligno, Ullmark, Derek Forbort, Tomas Nosek and Erik Haula. And, of course, they knew it would take some time to sort out the second line following David Krejci’s departure.
Bergeron and company sit at 9-6-0 through 15 games. They’ve played to their identity at times — notably during Saturday’s victory in Philadelphia — yet struggled to perform to their lofty standards against the stiffer competition in the league.
The Bruins will see the Flames again during their Western Canada swing in early December. Several upper-echelon opponents await in the next 67, including a trio of late-season matchups with the Maple Leafs, a couple more tilts against the Hurricanes and Panthers, and four showdowns with the two-time defending champion Lightning.
The humbled Bergeron senses better things ahead. After all, the captain encountered similar early-season situations throughout his illustrious career.
“We’ve played 15 games this year,” Bergeron said. “The belief is there. We’ve been in this position many times also. I think we know what it takes to [get there]. We have a lot of things to work on and there’s plenty of hockey left in front of us. That’s good news, but obviously, we have to rectify and be better and roll up our sleeves, and go back to our identity and play our game.”
Swayman struggles lead to first home loss
His perfect record at TD Garden wasn’t going to last forever. It just so happened that Swayman’s first home loss of his career came in a rough outing against one of his former goaltending partners.
The Bruins hardly tested Vladar with quality scoring attempts. In their rare moments generating quality looks, Vladar simply had Boston’s number en route to his second shutout of the season.
Swayman didn’t have much help in front of him. The Bruins let him down on a handful of occasions, notably on Magnipane’s third-period shorthanded tally.
But Swayman hardly looked sharp either. He struggled with rebounds and secondary looks all night, evident with Calgary’s first two goals from Gaudreau and Hanafin.
The Flames earned their bounces with their blue-collar approach. Swayman bailed the Bruins out on several occasions, but couldn’t keep his team afloat consistently.
Surely the loss doesn’t fall directly on Swayman’s shoulders. His off-night wasn’t a glaring issue per se. If anything, the off nights from everyone against a stout Calgary bunch serves as a learning lesson.
“They’re a good team. They worked hard and played the right way,” Swayman said following his 27-save outing on Sunday. “We’ll take the positives from this game and move on.”
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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