By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
BOSTON — The Bruins were 44 seconds after from a flawless opening frame against the Flyers on Thursday night.
Then came a Charlie McAvoy attempted shot on net that was easily blocked and sent the other way on a breakaway opportunity by Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Philadelphia’s leading scorer did not miss, either, going upstairs on Tuukka Rask and sullying what was an otherwise dominant period from a beleaguered Boston bunch.
It was the latest example of everything this team touching turning to an utter disaster before their very eyes.
And while it wasn’t what doomed them in a 3-2 overtime loss on TD Garden ice, good for the Black and Gold’s third straight loss and fifth defeat in their last six games overall, it was a major sticking point for a frustrated Bruce Cassidy. See, Cassidy knows that the Bruins are strapped for secondary scoring, and that their five-on-five scoring has yet to arrive in full this season, leaving him to ask and trust his defense to make the right reads and plays at critical junctures.
“Part of our D corps doesn’t have numbers because we don’t hit the net very oft en, so there’s an issue right there,” Cassidy, who was probably at his angriest in recent memory, began. “Now, are you going to get mad at every player that misses the net every time? Of course not, but after two periods I think Philly missed the net once, so that’s partly on us. That is on the player to hit the net. You’re shooting to score or you’re shooting for a second chance. There’s the delicate balance. These guys are pros. You trust them to make the right decision, but yes then the puck rattles around and now he’s caught.
“Happens to us a lot, so we have to be aware.”
The third-year Boston coach even called out the team’s captain, Zdeno Chara, who was on the ice for two of the Flyers’ three goals, and his inability to get the B’s younger defenders to buy in on what Cassidy is trying to sell this goal-starved team.
“Listen, he’s the captain of the hockey club. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league, so yes, he’s part of that group, and the biggest part of it,” Cassidy said. “He’s a terrific leader. The next game, he [needs to] understand what makes us successful. We’ll have a conversation about it.
“But he is the leader back there. [Chara has] got to get Charlie [McAvoy] to buy in, got to get [Brandon] Carlo, he has, and that has to continue. Kevan Miller, I put him in that group too. They have to lead back there and understand what it takes to be successful right now for us. Right now for us [that] is team defense.”
But the greater issue for the Bruins remains their lack of a scoring punch beyond the top line, as they’ve scored just five goals in their two games out of the break, with three coming off the stick of David Pastrnak and two from Patrice Bergeron.
It remains an issue, but one that’s clearly not fixable with the roster Cassidy has been dealt, leaving him to focus on fixing what he can, beginning on Boston’s backend and how they defend the opposition.
“Talking about some mistakes in the backend that are increasing here, we have to put the brakes on in a hurry,” Cassidy offered. “It’s up to the leaders back there, it’s up to me and it’s up to Kevin Dean.
“We have to straighten this out now because we’re not scoring enough to get away with it.”
It doesn’t get much better for Cassidy and the Bruins, though, as they will now travel to Washington for a meeting with the Capitals, a team they have not defeated since Mar. 2014, some 15 head-to-head meetings ago.