By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Yes, the Boston Bruins have their share of injuries. Their top-line center remains out of action, and same for their No. 1 and No. 2 defensemen. But no matter the injuries, nights like Tuesday in Florida, which saw the Bruins straight-up hammered to the tune of 5-0 by a Panthers squad that’s won just 10 of their first 25 games this year, cannot happen.
It’s really as simple as that.
Apparent late arrivals to Sunrise in a first period that saw them doing nothing of substance (seven shots on Roberto Luongo, and with almost no sustained attacking-zone time) and really survive on the play of Jaroslav Halak’s 13-for-13 mark in the opening 20, it was in the middle frame that things simply fell apart for Halak and the B’s.
In the worst way, too.
Mike Hoffman jammed a loose puck over the line and behind a spinning Halak at the 4:21 mark of the second period, and as the Bruins struggled to even muster the ability to attempt to even the score, Michael Matheson decided to pull a Bobby Orr, even after an offensive-zone faceoff win from the Bruins. In a sight I don’t believe anybody expected to see — not even the 287 people in attendance in Florida — Matheson went end-to-end with the puck, made easy work of Ryan Donato and Torey Krug’s defensive efforts along the way, and easily beat Halak for an unassisted goal at the 13:13 mark of the period.
The Bruins had a chance to pull themselves back within a goal, but a David Pastrnak penalty put that opportunity to bed, and Jonathan Huberdeau made it 3-0 with the softest goal Halak’s allowed all season.
Naturally, riding the momentum of the Huberdeau goal and a period that was all Panthers, Hoffman added his second goal of the night with just 3.7 seconds left in the period as the B’s stumbled in their own end, and in the blink of an eye, the B’s found themselves on the complete wrong end of a 4-0 period.
In a third period that was as get-the-hell-out-of-here as any period this league can offer, Evgenii Dadonov made it an even five goals for Florida with a power-play strike scored through Halak with 5:34 left in the game.
And in what was his first start Nov. 23, Roberto Luongo stopped all 33 shots thrown his way. The Bruins rarely challenged Luongo, though, and it might honestly go down as one of the easiest of Luongo’s 77-shutout NHL career.
Nights like this are going to happen, that much is obvious. It may have been lost in all the positives of Bruce Cassidy’s club overachieving their way into wins and points in recent weeks, but that possibility still exists. I’m just not sure that it should exist when you’re going up against a team like the Panthers, especially in an anything-but-rowdy building.
Right now, the Bruins have too many players you watch only to end up asking yourself what they bring to the table.
I have no idea why Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was in his third straight game as a healthy scratch while Colby Cave has legitimately nothing since being promoted to the first line with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Cave, by the way, was on the ice for two goals against and had zero shots on goal tonight. Noel Acciari has one assist in 24 games (and four points in his last 40 games dating back to last season), and his promotion to the third line continues to make less sense with each passing game. And David Backes, the player the Bruins spent $30 million on in 2016 in an attempt to provide a boost down the middle or somewhere on wing of their middle-six, remains entrenched in a fourth-line role and unable to help in those areas (even in dire times), and finished Tuesday’s loss with two shots and two hits in 12:52 of time on ice.
Some nights, you’ll be able to survive this. Hell, I think you can make the case that the Bruins have done exactly that all year.
But when goaltending eventually falters (Halak stopped the first 18 shots thrown his way, but allowed five of the next 26 to go through him) and the power-play sputters (the Boston man advantage finished the night 0-for-4), it becomes a glaring issue. Never mind the fact that the Bruins looked completely clueless as to how to gain possession of the puck in their own zone.
It may get even worse, too, as the Bruins head to Tampa Bay for a Thursday meeting with the East-best Lightning.