By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
No matter how good the Bruins are now (or by the year’s end, for that matter) nights like Friday in Detroit are going to happen.
Even the worst team in the league — which the Red Wings certainly were entering Friday’s contest, with losses in 12 of their 13 prior contests — is capable of punching you in the mouth. That’s life in the National Hockey League and the life of an 82-game schedule. The Bruins got punched in the mouth by the Wings, too, in every sense of the word.
But the B’s were more than pleased to punch themselves in the face a few times along the way.
Let’s be real: This hasn’t been a great week for the Bruins. There’s a legitimate case to be made that they should have losses in three straight games, but they were saved by a third-period comeback against the Penguins (after blowing a three-goal lead in the second period), giving them a 1-2-0 record for the week. And this felt like the B’s bottoming out.
Start with the goals against. It’s never pleasant to give up a wraparound goal, and the Bruins allowed two goals from the same high-danger area of the ice on while on the kill. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he can accept it happening once, but not twice. That just shows a lack of adjustments from a team that’s known for their structure and in-game adjustments.
The Bruins also struggled to get in sync before their deficit grew to two. And even then, the team had too many passes stuck in their feet, too many board battles lost due to a strange and uncharacteristic lack of effort. Second-chance looks were few and far between. It was as if the entire team was battling the flu. (Hell, maybe they are. It’d almost be better if they were.)
No matter how it’s sliced, this was a terrrrrrible night for the Bruins. And it feels as low as it can get.
What the Bruins need right now is a “get-right” effort where they hold the opposition to the low-danger areas of the ice (think their defensive effort in a shutout win over the Blues two weeks ago), and they’ll get that chance on Sunday night against the Flyers.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a letdown at Little Caesar’s…
Count me out on Peter Cehlarik
Friday featured Peter Cehlarik’s third kick at the can with the Big B’s this season. And while Cehlarik came through with the primary assist on David Krejci’s game-opening goal, it was another night that didn’t feature a whole lot from the 24-year-old.
I mean, it’s harder to imagine a better opportunity for Cehlarik, too. With Jake DeBrusk out of action, the Bruins recalled Cehlarik and plugged him next to Krejci and Danton Heinen on Boston’s second line. But Cehlarik failed to record a shot in 12:07 of ice-time, and didn’t make a difference in any of the battles along the board. At 6-foot-2, you’d like to see Cehlarik make a difference in these scenarios if he’s not going to score (or even shoot the puck), and that didn’t happen either.
This was after Cassidy called Cehlarik’s last NHL game “average,” seemingly giving the Slovak winger something to prove.
Instead, it was just another empty-feeling point in an NHL career that’s featured 11 points in 40 contests.
At what point do we stop hoping there’s more to be discovered and just accept that he is what he is?
Bruins switch up d-pairings for Friday’s game
The big change for the Bruins in this one: Moving Charlie McAvoy to the right of Matt Grzelcyk and moving Zdeno Chara to the left of Connor Clifton. The early results for the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing were strong, too, as the pairing finished with an 81.25 Corsi-For percentage at five-on-five, and with the Bruins outshooting Detroit 8-2 over their 16:04 on-ice sample.
The Chara-Clifton pairing, meanwhile, finished with 29.41 Corsi-For percentage, with the Bruins outshot 5-3, and with each scoring a goal with this duo on the ice in 12:25 of five-on-five action.
Injuries starting to cause problems for Bruins
The battered Bruins entered this contest without DeBrusk, David Backes, Par Lindholm, and Joakim Nordstrom.
And then Brett Ritchie was a late scratch due to an upper-body injury. That plugged Steven Kampfer into the lineup as Boston’s fourth-line right wing/seventh defenseman. Kampfer began and ended the night on Boston’s bench, with zero shifts to his name. Perhaps Kampfer was part of a lengthy morning skate (you’ll often see “scratched” players go through an extensive morning skate if they’re not playing, meaning Kampfer could have already gotten his game-level workout).
But it absolutely limited the Black and Gold’s lineup to a noticeable degree.
With 11 forwards (and three of them not exactly completely trusted by Cassidy just yet), the Bruins played all three members of their first line over 20 minutes. Pastrnak led the line there, with 23:38, Patrice Bergeron finished with 21:15, and Brad Marchand had a line-low 20:23. David Krejci finished with over 18 minutes of action, Charlie Coyle nearly hit 18, and Danton Heinen pushed for almost 17 minutes. But the lack of a legitimate winger for Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner forced the Bruins to essentially skate without a tone-setting fourth line, and left their younger options without much ice-time or with a fit.