ELMONT, N.Y. — Once again, the Boston Bruins hardly faced ideal circumstances heading into their UBS Arena debut against the New York Islanders.
Already without Brad Marchand and Craig Smith following Tuesday’s 4-1 setback at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Bruins hardly trotted out an NHL-worthy lineup against a struggling Islanders bunch. Patrice Bergeron, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Oskar Steen and Jeremy Swayman joined Smith and Marchand on Boston’s COVID-19 protocol list over the last 48 hours.
Without practicing for two days, Bruce Cassidy’s 17-man bunch had a significant battle that only heightened upon Steen’s late entry into protocol. They didn’t put forth a poor effort given the circumstances. They found themselves in chase mode early as a defensive lapse behind Linus Ullmark’s net led to the first of two Cal Clutterbuck markers.
An Anthony Beauviller power-play blast 1:44 into the second period put the Bruins in a further hole. They found their skating legs following Beauvillier’s fourth of the season but passed on some quality scoring chances even after firing 41 shots on goal.
A stout performance from Semyon Valarmov capped off the Isles’ 3-1 win over the shorthanded Bruins. Here’s what we learned as the Bruins put forth a solid effort given the circumstances.
“I have no issue with the effort. I thought our guys came to play tonight. I’d say after the first 10 minutes we were on our toes much better. We can attribute some of that to travel day, not practicing yesterday and losing our morning skate today,” Cassidy said. “But all-in-all, I thought the guys competed hard, tried to play the right way, got better as the game went on. I thought we played a more assertive north-south game which we’ve been trying to preach.”
Boston’s effort wasn’t in question despite overwhelming circumstances
The COVID situation forced the Bruins’ hand into trotting out a lineup resembling their AHL club in Providence. Salary cap reasons prevented Don Sweeney from making another emergency recall following Steen’s diagnosis, hence the 17-skater status.
Quite frankly, the Bruins needed someone to get them out of this rut with half of their top-six out of the lineup. They couldn’t afford any defensive lapses, nor could they trap themselves into the Islanders’ tight-defensive structure.
The Bruins managed pucks deep into their attacking end more often than not. They had a decent structure in place against Varlamov and company. But they encountered difficulties putting pucks past Varlamov in his stellar 40-save outing.
Their one miscue defensively proved costly on Clutterbuck’s opening marker. Facing any deficit against a struggling Islanders bunch only magnified their concern. The top weapons on this night, including a struggling David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall, couldn’t dig Boston out of its hole.
Their effort wasn’t in question. The Bruins just couldn’t find the back from the net until Mike Reilly’s goal in garbage time.
“It’s unfortunate we just didn’t get the bounces tonight. We created a lot of good chances, but just couldn’t find a way to get them past Varlamov,” Foligno said. “Got to give him credit. More opportunities and more chances and more efforts like that are going to result in wins.”
Foligno tried to light a spark in his second-period bout against Matt Martin following the latter’s altercation with Pastrnak moments prior. Yet, the Bruins need scoring production from the former Blue Jackets captain pronto.
Yet, the Bruins need more than executing the Xs and Os. At this rate, they need a break and a return to health.
Shorthanded Bruins need a breather
Even with vaccines and boosters widely available and players adhering to protocols, the league can’t escape from the recent outbreak amid the omicron variant.
The Calgary Flames got the worst of it with all but five of their players currently protocol. The Bruins left Calgary last week following their 4-2 win and the Flames haven’t played since.
The Bruins completed their second game following their Western Canada trip. Conventional wisdom suggested their season should’ve hit pause upon returning to Boston to face the Golden Knights before beginning this three-game road trip with another pair of scheduled stops north of the border.
Cassidy confirmed the Bruins would stay in New York overnight and practice Friday before heading to Montreal. The Habs played the Flyers in front of an empty Bell Centre on Thursday, and that fate likely awaits the Bruins IF they somehow continue their road trip.
“It’s been a nightmare, to be honest with you,” Foligno honestly said.
In reality, the Bruins need a pause just surely from their recent COVID nightmare. The league could use a brief stoppage too. Indeed, they don’t want to lose any additional revenue during turbulent times, but the protocol lists can only grow so much before the product finds itself in an unsustainable situation.
The Isles finally have a home to call their own
The charm of Nassau Collesium provided Islanders fans with a handful of memorable moments — specifically during their four-peat in the early ’80s. But the venue eventually showed its age, ultimately forcing the Islanders into other options.
After a handful of seasons without a proper home with stints at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center and a return to a renovated but undersized Nassau Collesium, the islanders finally have a building to call their own at Belmont Park.
The Islanders don’t need to worry about cramped concourses from their Uniondale days or odd sightlines during their stint in Brooklyn. They now have their state-of-the-art arena that unquestionably lives up to its billing.
The Islanders nailed the details into their new barn, be it through their unique food and beverage options to the plethora of choices inside their team store and their tribute to their various fan chapters. While still a work in progress, the public transit options through the LIRR provide easier access to and from UBS Arena through Manhattan or any of the stops along Long Island.
The well-traveled Bruins supporter would appreciate catching a game at UBS Arena, and it’s a go-to destination for any passionate hockey fan.
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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