By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Nights like Sunday against the Flyers, and weeks like the one the Bruins have just lived through (with one victory in four games), make you grab the Advil and ginger. But I don’t believe this is the Stanley Cup hangover finally hitting the Bruins. I’m not even sure that this is the Bruins hitting “the wall” many expected them to after a white-hot start to their season.
This is really just the Bruins playing some uncharacteristically poor (and at times legitimately unwatchable) hockey.
Start with the obvious: With no disrespect to the Flyers, a night like Sunday can’t happen. Under no circumstance should the Bruins, who had Saturday off, get pushed around on their own ice by a Philadelphia team that played in Toronto the previous night.
There’s almost no acceptable explanation for that — same for the fact that the B’s had just five shots in the opening 20 minutes, and only two of them came from their forwards — and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t run from that.
“I don’t think we had enough urgency, would be the simple answer,” Cassidy said of Boston’s sluggish start. “We weren’t breaking pucks out, got stuck below our goal line. In every facet there are — we never got an opportunity to sort of put them on their heels, in any way, shape or form. So as a result they’re on their toes, they get a lead, we’re chasing the game. As a road team that’s come in, played a little bit lately, they all of a sudden find energy because of that. That’s my explanation of the start.”
These low-energy starts have left the Bruins chasing more than they’d like, with the Bruins trailing for 137:55 of the last 185 minutes of play. That’s the most among any team that’s played at most three games since last Monday, and it’s kept the Bruins from being the stout “defend-first” team that Cassidy knows the Bruins have to be to be successful in today’s NHL.
“A concern to me is getting out of our end a little quicker,” Cassidy acknowledged. “We have some smaller guys in the lineup with foot speed, so you hope that that’s an advantage with breaking pucks out, but right now it isn’t. I thought there was some goalie-[defense] communication issues as well. We could have been cleaner. And then the forwards get frustrated so they don’t manage it through the neutral zone, so they’re not seeing as much as they’d like and it snowballs.
“That would be my concern that we’ll start addressing tomorrow.”
It’s something that Cassidy and Co. will have to correct quickly, too, or this is only going to ‘snowball’ worse for the Bruins, with meetings with the Panthers (six wins in their last 10), high-scoring Maple Leafs, and league-best Capitals on deck this week.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 3-2 shootout loss to Gritty’s Crew…
Charlie Coyle is worth more to the Bruins as a center
Down Jake DeBrusk and with Peter Cehlarik failing to secure the gig on David Krejci’s line, the Bruins decided to move Charlie Coyle off his third-line center spot and to the right of Krejci on the Black and Gold’s second line. It wasn’t a horrible combination (they were the ones who got the Bruins on the board in the third period), but it really shouldn’t last another night.
While Coyle’s frame and build allows him to win battles along the walls and jam around in front of the net, putting him on the wing tends to lead to some quieter shifts, if only because the puck is not on his stick like it is when he plays in the middle. Given his at times dominant possession skills, that’s an issue that comes with a trickle-down on the B’s third line.
Simply put, the Bruins are a better team when No. 13 is driving a line as its center.
Taking a look at the positives from a largely negative night
Let’s be real: There wasn’t much to like from the Bruins in this one. So let’s quickly run through the positives, shall we?
- Danton Heinen got on the board with his fourth goal of the season. Heinen hit that mark in just 17 games this year after requiring 29 games to hit this mark last year. It’s been a mixed bag for Heinen, too, as he’s ripped some bullets through goaltenders, while Sunday’s girl was a spinning effort in front of the Philly net. The B’s will take more of the latter.
- The Bruins erased a two-goal hole despite looking like complete junk for 40 minutes. That’s a sign of this team always being in games. This team really refuses to give up most nights. Even when the motor is going for two whole periods.
- Jaroslav Halak didn’t let this one slip out of control when the Bruins were pushing for offense.
What’s in a shootout lineup?
The Bruins are not a great shootout team. In fact, through seven rounds in 2019, they’ve yet to score a goal.
Who’s in charge of picking these shooters, anyway?
“[Bob Essensa] typically picks them,” Cassidy said when asked about his lineup. “I will sometimes mix it up if I feel a guy is having a good game. [Brad Marchand] and [David Pastrnak] typically go. I talked to Pasta today about it. He had a penalty shot earlier, so does that help you or hurt you getting one practice run? I still think he’s good at it.”
But with the numbers staring the Bruins in the face, Cassidy has given thought to mixing it up.
“Maybe we do got to look at going outside the box,” Cassidy admitted. “We did that with Charlie [McAvoy] last year out of the blue, he scored, so we’ll look at it. Typically, Bob has the best eye for that. He runs the practice drills for his goalies, and he charged the percentages and who – what certain type of goalie – we talked about [Chris] Wagner, right? He has that one move that seems to work well for him in games, but at the end of the day, maybe he’s a guy we have to look at even closer next time.”
Factoring in their 0-for-7 start to the year, the Bruins have a league-worst 19.7 percent shootout shooting percentage since the start of the 2017 season, with goals on just 12 of 61 attempts and a 5-8 record over a 13-game shootout sample.
An out of context picture of Gritty