By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
What’s left of their defense corps may be held together with bubblegum and inexperience, but it was the team’s performance at the other end of the rink that doomed the Boston Bruins in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
Which oddly enough felt like a victory in its own right.
There’s no dancing around it: The Bruins were icing a largely AHL-bodied defense, their depth issues up front have been a year-long issue on the scoring front, and the Black and Gold struggled to find their footing in an oddly officiated game.
The Bruins clearly felt as if the scales were tipped — especially when Brad Marchand was whistled for a ‘slash’ to Ben Bishop and then handed a 10-minute misconduct for voicing his displeasure with the call while Jason Spezza was able to slash and elbow Bruins rookie Connor Clifton to the tune of matching minors before the two scrapped — against them.
Had it not been for the stellar performance of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (36 saves on 37 shots against, including 19 saves in the third period and overtime), those bad calls and lack of scoring depth would have torched them long before Stars forward Jason Dickinson put the finishing touches on this game at the 1:34 mark of overtime.
And for the third road game in a row, the Bruins could not for the life of them generate any offensive pressure in the third period, finishing the final frame with just six shots thrown Bishop’s way and then zero in the overtime frame.
But most troubling was the noticeable absence — and subsequent limited usage upon his return — of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. Injured in the second period on a hit into the boards by the Stars’ Radek Faksa, Bergeron would come back and log 2:42 on five third-period shifts, but he was not taking faceoffs (Marchand served as the fill-in center, even when the Bruins had an offensive-zone faceoff late in the third period), and was obviously limited from a physical standpoint.
Bergeron finished the game with a season-low 13:00 of time on ice, and is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Down five of their six defensemen from Opening Night, it was Matt Grzelcyk that led all Boston d-men in time on ice, with 25:27. Jeremy Lauzon finished the night with the second-most, at 24:52, including 5:50 of shorthanded time on ice. Clifton, meanwhile, totaled nine penalty minutes in his NHL debut, and finished with four hits and a blocked shot. 2015 first-round Jakub Zboril, meanwhile, had one shot on goal and three hits in a defenseman-low 10:53 of action.
In the special teams department, the Bruins finished the night with a perfect 4-for-4 mark on the penalty kill (impressive considering the absence of Boston’s top penalty-killing defensemen and in-game loss of Bergeron), but went 0-for-2 on the man advantage with two completely disjointed power-play opportunities.
The Bruins will have a quick turnaround and skate against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night in search of evening up a road trip that’s started on an 0-1-1 note.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.