By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
David Pastrnak summed up the Bruins’ woes in the shootout, which have now left them with defeats in all four games that have gone beyond the 65-minute mark in 2019-20, best. “Shootouts are 50-50,” Pastrnak said. “Right now it feels like 20-80.”
But he’s actually giving the Bruins too much credit.
Sent to their third shootout in a week’s time on Saturday, it was Charlie Coyle who once again came through with the lone Boston goal in the five-round affair, “improving” the Bruins to a gross 2-for-16 on the year in the shootout. Or, if you’re into percentages, 12.5 percent. (Non-Coyle shooters are 0-for-14, if you want to truly feel icky about this skills competition.)
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has tried everything to get his shootout lineup in order, too. He’s stayed true to the skill guys, he’s tried mixing it up (Chris Wagner is now 0-for-2), and Saturday saw him with go both philosophies in just five rounds. Still, these shootouts almost feel like foregone conclusions given the B’s struggles and the way they make it look straight-up ugly.
I mean, just watching the Capitals last night, they seemed more than content to simply possess the puck and kill the clock for the majority of that overtime frame knowing that they had the advantage over Boston in a shootout.
It’s enough to make you rethink how the Black and Gold approach the five-minute, three-on-three overtime frame.
“In our group, now, at some point, the conversation becomes you sell out in overtime because we struggle in shootouts, right?” Cassidy admitted. “But, at the end of the day, I thought we’ve made strides in overtime in terms of – I thought last year we lost a lot of them early, at least we’re getting our opportunities to win in overtime, so we’d like to be able to close one of those out.
“But that’s a bit of the, maybe, what’s happened in the shootout, right when you get in all alone, we’re more of a volume team, even though we have high-end skill, it would seem in the short sample size. It’s now growing into a larger sample size, so it’s something we’re looking at, but we’re not going to overanalyze.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from another late-game collapse on Garden ice…
Charlie McAvoy has best game of season
“Chuckie Bright Lights” is one of the realest nicknames you’ll come across on this roster.
Asked to go one-on-one with Alex Ovechkin throughout the night, Charlie McAvoy was the B’s best player not named Jaroslav Halak in the losing effort, coming through with two helpers and countless d-zone breakups at the other end.
“[McAvoy] was terrific,” said Cassidy. “Level of competition tends to bring out the best in Charlie, we certainly saw that tonight. We needed it against a heavier group. I think he took the challenge head-on.”
And getting into the nitty gritty of that matchup against Ovechkin, McAvoy and the Bruins won the possession battle (56.25 percent), and out-chanced Ovechkin and the Capitals by 6-1 mark in 12:04 of head-to-head five-on-five play between the two.
“With Charlie, it’s just, he’s got to stay in the moment, that’s when he plays his best hockey,” said Cassidy. “So we’re not in there feeding him, it’s not information overload for that particular type of player. It’s protect the middle of the ice, be assertive with the puck when you see ice, make good decisions when to go, and I thought tonight a lot of it fell into place. He was up the ice at the right time, defending at the right time, not being vulnerable to a serious counterattack from a team that can finish.
“He wasn’t putting himself in bad spots. I thought that was the best part. As much as he was involved in the game, there wasn’t much risk. That’s a sign of a guy that’s growing.”
McAvoy was happy to keep No. 8 at bay, but was more upset with the team’s inability to seal the deal on the victory.
“I’m just pretty pissed off that we pissed away two points,” said McAvoy.
Patrice Bergeron misses game with lower-body injury
The Bruins skated without yet another regular on Saturday, as top-line center Patrice Bergeron was scratched due to a lower-body injury. Cassidy seemed to stress that Bergeron would have likely played had this not be the second leg of a back-to-back (they’re wisely thinking long-term with No. 37’s health), so it’s probably nothing to worry about massively disrupting this year.
But you’re beginning to see the mounting injuries hurt the Bruins, though, as Cassidy’s running out of trustworthy options to ice a full, 12-man forward unit. That certainly limited the Bruins on the second leg of a back-to-back on Saturday, too, with Paul Carey logging 6:22 on eight shifts, and Trent Frederic finishing with just 4:16 of time on ice in seven shifts.
In other words, the Bruins need bodies back and as soon as possible.
Why was Pastrnak on the ice with a minute left?
It’s easy to second-guess decisions. I mean, that’s why I’m sitting on the ninth floor and not behind the bench of a Stanley Cup contender. But it was somewhat strange to see David Pastrnak on the ice with the Bruins protecting a one-goal lead in the final minute of a game. Yes, this was not the first time that Pastrnak has been on the ice with the Bruins in protect mode, but that has almost always come with Patrice Bergeron also out on the ice. Bergeron, as previously mentioned, was not dressed last night.
So it brings me to one question: Why on Earth was Pastrnak out there in that situation? I mean, just run down the list of guys you’d want out there and it goes something like Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, Danton Heinen, and even Charlie Coyle.
And sure enough, it was Pastrnak who was just out of reach of TJ Oshie on what was the game-tying goal with 58.6 left to play.
Now, do any of these guys prevent Oshie from tying things up? Not sure. But if it comes to a battle in the slot in the defensive end, I’m not sure Pastrnak cracks anybody’s top five, even if the Bruins are at less than 100 percent.