By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins have not been playing well.
Just look at their record over the last couple of weeks (1-2-2), along with a pair of late-game collapses, and that fact stares you in the face. Now, there’s a couple of factors there; Boston’s health is and has been a huge issue, as Bruce Cassidy’s squad has felt the strain of playing without almost 10 regulars. The team has also experienced an expected dip in production from the things that carried them in October, namely in net and when on the power play. Those numbers were never sustainable for a full 82.
But this week felt like the Black and Gold’s best opportunity to get themselves back to the roots and very foundation of what makes them a successful team, with meetings with the struggling Devils, free-falling Sabres, and league-worst Wild.
It’d be nice to do what you’re supposed to do and simply win, but these are also the kind of head-to-heads that should allow you return to your structure and system, something that’s been lacking at times (and grossly) over their two-week slide.
And the Bruins started that process in dominant fashion with Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Devils at the Prudential Center.
The Bruins began this game with an aggressive approach that really limited the Devils, and had their defense backpedaling, while the activations from Matt Grzelcyk (two goals by the night’s end) and the other Boston defenders kept New Jersey defending more than they’d like. They stayed on the attack even after those two goals in 14 seconds (Grzelcyk then David Pastrnak), and it really wasn’t until the second period that the Bruins ran into trouble and surrendered a goal against.
But the Bruins got back on the attack and the third period and put any idea of another late-game meltdown to the Jersey swamp with three goals in 10:23, simply beating the will out of the Devils for a classic “get right” kind of night.
“We came out in third [period] and played the right way,” Bruins center David Krejci said. “When you play the right way, we take care of the little details.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a win in Newark…
Charlie McAvoy gets torched for Blake Coleman goal
Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy did a masterful job of limiting Alex Ovechkin in Boston’s shootout loss to the Capitals last weekend. But unfortunately for McAvoy, those things almost don’t mean anything when you get burned like this the next game.
McAvoy recovered and finished the game strong, but it feels like we’re still waiting for McAvoy, now in his third full NHL season, to take that next step and become a dominant defenseman on a nightly basis. Doing that means stringing together a consistent stretch of games where he is without question the best player on the ice. That has yet to happen in 2019-20.
DeBrusk, Ritchie return to lineup while Bergeron misses another
The Bruins finally got a break on the injury front on Tuesday, as both Jake DeBrusk (lower-body) and Brett Ritchie (upper-body) returned to the lineup. Both wingers had missed the last five games, with the Bruins going 1-2-2 over that stretch. DeBrusk nearly got on the board right off the jump, with a great solo move on Mackenzie Blackwood, but finished his night without a point despite three shots in 15:17. Ritchie, meanwhile, finished with four hits in 13:15.
But the Bruins did not get the lift of a healthy Bergeron back in action, as No. 37 sat for the second straight contest due to a lower-body injury suffered in last Friday’s win over the Maple Leafs. Labeled a game-time decision after participating in the morning skate, Bergeron was not on the ice for warmups, ruling him out of action. While it’s easy to panic whenever you hear Bergeron and lower-body in the same sentence, consider this the B’s version of load management with their top-line center.
They’re not trying to rush Bergeron back only to have him miss three weeks instead of one.
A return to normalcy at the dot
Something that may have flown under the radar in recent days: The Black and Gold’s sluggish efforts at the dot. In fact, the Bruins entered New Jersey coming off their two worst faceoff nights of the 2019-20 season, winning just 26 of their 70 faceoffs against the Leafs last Friday (37 percent), and then grabbing wins in just 17 of 52 battles at the dot against the Capitals.
But the Bruins got themselves back to center (I swear I didn’t mean to do that) on Tuesday, as they left the Pru with wins in 29 of their 48 faceoffs in their head-to-head with New Jersey. Par Lindholm was Boston’s best man at the dot, with wins in eight of 11 faceoffs. Charlie Coyle was not too far behind, winning six of his 10 faceoffs, including a 2-for-2 mark in the o-zone.
Another note involving the center position: I thought moving Coyle to Bergeron’s “bumper” spot on top power-play unit was a much better move for the Bruins this time around, as the Bruins had David Krejci in that spot on Saturday night. Coyle, while not exactly known a shoot-first option, is more of a shooting threat from that area of the ice than Krejci, who prefers to do his power-play work along the half-wall.
Window Shopping: Devils style
Barring something major changing (John Hynes has to be on borrowed time here), the Devils are most likely going to find themselves at deadline sellers once again this trade deadline season. So, who on the Devils is worth the gamble for the Bruins? And most importantly, who would you want them to target? Naturally, I decided to throw a quick little poll out there.
You can add one Devil at the deadline. Keep in mind the prices will be different of course.— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) November 20, 2019
Taylor Hall is the big name, of course, and the Bruins would not be alone in their pursuit of the free agent to be. Hall is just two years removed from his Hart Trophy season, and though he’s another left-shot forward, it’s hard to deny the potential impact Hall would have on the Black and Gold’s top six. He’s the kind of addition that could and would make the B’s Cup favorites.
But don’t sleep on Kyle Pamieri (at least 24 goals in four straight seasons and seven goals and 12 points in 19 games this season) or Blake Coleman as middle-six options that can bolster Boston’s Cup hopes. There’s also the possibility that Wayne Simmonds or Miles Wood are bottom-six bangers the B’s think they could use for potential playoff dates with the Lightning (Patrick Maroon and Cedric Paquette are in their bottom-six group), Capitals, or a Cup rematch with the Blues.