Granted, they didn’t face the stiffest competition over their previous three games. But Bruce Cassidy finally found scoring balance throughout his lineup, with 13 different skaters finding the scoresheet during that span.
Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Bruins faced a tougher task against a young and up-and-coming Wild bunch. They didn’t hesitate matching Minnesota in physicality and scoring chance departments but once again fell short against a team ahead of them in the NHL standings.
Frankly, neither team sustained a decent rhythm with the amount of special teams’ time during the first 40-plus minutes. But on a night full of missed calls, special teams play, heated tempers, and former Boston College standout Matt Boldy scoring his first career goal in his NHL debut, the Bruins dropped a 3-2 decision in front of a lively TD Garden faithful.
Here’s what we learned following Boston’s first loss of 2022.
Special teams play hindered the game’s flow
A potent power play and/or penalty kill could provide difference-making moments. But a game full of special teams play can hinder any tempo established by two teams on a given night.
Thursday provided a fine example of the latter. The Bruins and Wild combined for 50 penalty minutes and 13 power-play attempts — eight for Minnesota and five for Boston.
Boldy’s first career marker provided the game’s lone even-strength tally. It gave the Wild a 3-1 cushion a mere 14 seconds after Trent Frederic’s minor for boarding Kirill Kaprizov expired.
The Bruins faced a 3-1 deficit on Boldy’s tally. They grabbed a 1-0 lead on Taylor Hall’s 4-on-3 marker at 6:35 of the first period only to see that lead fall within a 1:23 span on Kaprizov’s one-timer on a 5-on-3 and a Nico Sturm tip on Jonas Brodin’s shot from the point.
Brad Marchand put the Bruins within striking distance with his 12th of the year on a 5-on-4 power play attempt. But the Bruins couldn’t get into their rhythm at 5-on-5. The situation forced Cassidy’s hand into reuniting David Pastrnak with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron as Craig Smith became one of many Bruins to fall into the proverbial blues from the off-kilter special teams’ developments.
“I don’t think either team had a ton [of chances] 5-on-5,” Boston’s sixth-year bench boss said. “It was one of those games where there was zero flow.”
The Bruins managed a pair of power-play markers without Charlie McAvoy as he nursed a lingering lower-body injury. Yet, they found themselves stuck in neutral on a night full of questionable calls.
Shoddy officiating took center stage
Anyone named Chris Rooney would generally fit the Boston stereotype to a T. Yet, the head official on this night once again felt the brunt of the passionate Bruins fanbase following another rough night.
A pair of missed calls on a high-sticking infraction against Hall and a trip on Pastrnak in the middle stanza provided the evening’s lowlights. Even worse was the makeup calls going against the Wild in the third period. A third-period icing call on after Pastrnak won a race to the puck by a good two strides capped off the officials’ performance.
The referee’s job isn’t easy. Every mistake becomes magnified ten-fold thanks to social media. It’s a gig that a 12-year pro like Hall, even in a frustrated state, doesn’t begrudge.
“The refs have a tough job, and I don’t envy being in their spot,” Hall said. “I thought I got high sticked in the second period, which was pretty clear, and the only way to draw a high-sticking penalty is to fall down. They didn’t see it that way. They called the game that they called…and like I said they have a tough job.”
Indeed the officials had their hands full in a physical tilt between the two teams. But they allowed tempers from two teams with little to no history with one another to escalate to the highest degree possible.
One Bruin, in particular, had a particularly difficult time keeping things in check.
Frederic was a bit reckless
For most of his young career, Frederic had a knack for getting under opponents’ skin while toeing a fine line. But Thursday provided a rare development for the 2016 first-round selection.
Frederic, fresh off potting goals in consecutive games, didn’t go into game misconduct territory, but he came awfully close to it after boarding Kaprizov midway through the second period. The Wild understandably took exception after seeing their star forward go down with defenseman Dimitri Kulikov challenging Frederic to his first of two bouts.
Kaprizov didn’t return. The Wild remained peeved at Frederic in the third period. So another bout with the St. Louis native ensued early in the final stanza, this time involving Marcus Foligno — brother of Bruins forward Nick. Frederic received an extra two minutes for high-sticking moments before dropping the gloves for the second time.
Frederic, nor Cassidy, thought there was any malice to the Kaprizov hit. But they both understood why Minnesota felt upset after watching last season’s Calder Trophy winner exit Thursday’s contest.
“He’s a good player. I hope he’s alright. Obviously, I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Frederic said of the Kaprizov hit. “I was just trying to make a hockey play and finish a check, and I didn’t really see it, but it looked like he fell so it was hard to tell. Obviously, he’s a good player, so they came in [and protected him] on that one.”
“I didn’t think there was a malicious intent other than separating him from the puck, which you better do or he’ll hurt you, right? You just have to do it in a legal matter.” Cassidy said. “It looked clean from my point. They didn’t see it that way. Obviously, Minnesota is going to react because it’s one of their best players. I get that. We would’ve done the same. But I didn’t think there was anything malicious with the hit personally.”
The Bruins would’ve acted similarly to the Wild had the same hit occurred regardless of their role, but especially if it happened to one of their top players like Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak and McAvoy. But now they’ll wait and see if the Player Safety offers Frederic a hearing ahead of a tough two-game road trip with respective Saturday and Monday tilts against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
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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