By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins put on an absolute clinic for the first nine minutes and 12 seconds of Wednesday's meeting with the Flyers.
Torey Krug had the Flyers' penalty kill hopelessly spinning in the defensive zone and found David Pastrnak for a one-timer good for Pastrnak's 27th goal of the season, and the freshly recalled Peter Cehlarik made his opportunity count with his first goal in as many NHL games this season, scored just 4:33 later. The Bruins were doing everything needed to make the Flyers look the basement-dwelling disaster that they've been all year long, and looked legitimately paced for a five-goal night.
Then came a crumbling rarely seen since Bruce Cassidy took over as the team's head coach almost 24 months ago.
One that left the Bruins on the wrong end of a 4-3 final, good for their third loss in the last four games.
The Flyers got on the board before the opening frame's end behind an Oskar Lindblom goal that Jaroslav Halak had absolutely no business surrendering, sparked by a d-zone turnover and immediately failure to close on Lindblom. It was a parade of silliness that ended up in the back of Boston's net, and gave Philadelphia life in an otherwise dead first period.
Philadelphia turned that into more results on the board just 5:32 in the second period, and then again at the 6:47 mark off a pair of goals from Sean Couturier, flipping this game and the Bruins on their head in a matter of 75 seconds.
But the Bruins were given life when Jori Lehtera threw a dangerous and reckless hit against Ryan Donato along the boards, giving the Bruins a five-minute power play. And to say that the B's did nothing with this power play would be kind. It was an absolute disaster, from the lack of anything even close to a clean zone entry to the noticeable absence of legitimate chances generated, and was all you needed to see to realize that the Bruins were never going to regain control of this contest.
In case that wasn't enough, though, Couturier put the finishing touches on a Flyer victory when he scored on Halak for a third and final time. Making the veteran look like a legitimate beer league goaltender (no offense, beer league goaltenders, as you make the game possible in the first place) with his worst goal surrendered yet, the goal unofficially put the Bruins to bed, leaving them in a two-goal hole with just 4:07 left to play in the third period.
Of course, the Bruins made it a box score game with a late-game goal scored from Cehlarik, putting a somewhat fitting end to a night that saw him stand out as the lone bright spot for the suddenly-reeling Bruins.
In an NHL lineup for the first time this season, Cehlarik lined up with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci's on Boston's second line, and looked like a seamless fit, finishing the night with two goals on two shots in 17:40 of action. In addition to the goals, you saw Cehlarik use some of his smarts through the neutral zone, such as dropping a pass back to Krejci to spark the breakout that led to his first goal, and then another dish to Brandon Carlo that sent the big-bodied defender on the attack.
But the minuses were big and obvious, and they come back to porous play of Halak as well as a nightmarish power play.
Halak, who might honestly have been the B's MVP for the first few months of the season, simply laid an egg for the fourth straight game, with four goals surrendered on just 19 shots. Now, the Flyers did beat him on some good looks in the middle frame, but the first and fourth goal simply can't happen. And you saw just how backbreaking those goals were, first from a providing Philadelphia life standpoint and then from a sinking the Bruins into a loss point of view in the third period.
The B's typically-dominant man advantage, meanwhile, is stuck in an absolutely horrendous stretch that's included goals on just three of their last 14 power-play opportunities overall. It's hit the point where you have to wonder if and when Cassidy begins to tweak things, either from a usage standpoint (perhaps starting the second unit first) or personnel standpoint.
The scary thing, though, is that this is sort of the norm for the Bruins right now; More often than not, Cassidy's club is not winning without elite-level production from their power play and/or elite-level goaltending from either Halak or Tuukka Rask. It's simply not a recipe for success, especially as the Bruins enter their stretch run following next week's bye.
The good news is that the Bruins will get a chance to get this sour taste out of their mouths as soon as possible, though, as they'll play host to the St. Louis Blues (20-20-5 on the year) tomorrow night at TD Garden.