By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins have been playing with fire for a long time now.
And it's been a while since we've talked about this team coming with an all-out, balls to the wheel complete effort.
Now, last week was full of half-positives -- the Bruins played well enough to earn victories in Washington and Tampa Bay but small mistakes (especially in the defensive zone) doomed them by the night's end and Saturday in Florida came with the strong start this team needed but ultimately became dicey in the third period -- but Tuesday felt like a big step backwards. And while it's just one of 82 on the schedule, it's kind of hard to feel any sympathy for the Bruins in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Kings.
They simply got what they deserved.
Facing off against an L.A. squad that entered Boston dead last in the Western Conference, the Bruins not only played down to their competition, but they outright lost a key battle with the Kings.
After surrendering a power-play goal just minutes into the first period (and against a Kings power play that came to town with the second-worst power play in the league), the Bruins answered with a power-play goal of their own off Danton Heinen's skate. (Hey, a goal is a goal is a goal.) And with the chance to truly grab a hold of this game and beat the Kings into submission with a second-period power-play look, the Bruins whiffed on their chances and sent Adrian Kempe towards Tuukka Rask on a shorthanded break.
Kempe scored, and the Kings grabbed a 2-1 lead down a man.
'We didn’t defend that very well, obviously," Bruce Cassidy said after the loss.
And against a King penalty kill that began the night ranked 30th out of 31, mind you.
The Bruins rallied from that and tied things up on Patrice Bergeron's 11th goal of the season, and had a chance to enter the third period with a lead thanks to another power-play opportunity, and on a soft call against the Kings' Dustin Brown. But the Bruins fumbled against that 30th-ranked Kings penalty kill, and failed to land a single shot on Jonathan Quick. I'm fairly certain they spent more time trying to get into the offensive zone than they did inside of it. While up a man. Against the 30th-ranked kill.
Unexpected? Of course. Inexcusable? You bet.
"Everything seemed to happen quick," said Cassidy. "I don’t think we gave up much in terms of defending; offensively, certainly created enough to win the game, from my estimation, but they scored a lot of situational goals so it’s really nothing going on five-on-five for them, which is a positive. That’s the way it goes some nights."
But these are the nights that'll sting worse than others, as the Bruins did everything to wipe away their advantages against an obviously inferior opponent on Tuesday night. And with a schedule that's not getting any easier.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-3 overtime loss at TDG...
In battle of Rask vs. Quick, reality points to the skaters in front of each
It's easy to look at the box score and say that Jonathan Quick truly outdueled Tuukka Rask. After all, Quick finished with a strong 36-of-39 performance in net, while Rask took the loss behind a 23-for-27 night in the Boston crease. Twitter made sure I was aware of this after the game, too, with a few calling Quick the "superior goalie."
That's a jump no one should make in 2019, really.
Let's get this out of the way: Rask did not play well. Nope. No, he did not. But if you were watching this game, neither did Quick. In fact, the only constant in Quick's game on Tuesday night was his fighting of the puck on every Boston sequence and making routine saves look downright adventurous with his bafflingly horrific rebound control. Seriously, the Bruins had about a billion second-chance opportunities and rebound looks, but were routinely unable to cash in.
That's 90 percent on them, and maybe 10 percent on the goalie.
They put the game on Anders Bjork's stick -- and then Patrice Bergeron's stick -- in overtime and missed on both Grade-A chances. Bergeron didn't even hit Quick's net on his attempt, and the Kings scored on the rush that immediately followed.
There's also Sean Kuraly's open-cage miss in the first period, and the horrendous breakaway the Bruins surrendered to Adrian Kempe on their second-period power-play opportunity (what David Pastrnak was doing there, I'll never know).
Key saves could've helped, and the Bruins were the first to admit as much. Cassidy said it, and so did Rask.
But at a certain point, a key conversion at the other end nullifies the need for that key save. Lord knows both guys in Boston's net have given them key saves again and again this season. And, again, the Bruins left chances (and a point) on the board by not burying the countless chances generated against an inferior opponent. Period.
And both things can be -- and certainly are -- true. So while you can focus on the goalie and 'key saves' all you'd like, you should remind yourself that it's really not even a topic of discussion if the Bruins cash in on their (boatload of) chances.
Then again, anything to willingly engage in the dumbest argument of our lifetime...
The Bruins really need to move Charlie Coyle back to center
The Black and Gold's best shot to be more than a one-line team, which sees Charlie Coyle moved away from his third-line center spot and up to the right of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, comes with a different problem: It robs them of having an elite third line that features Coyle as an obvious mismatch for every other third line (and every third defensive pairing) in the NHL.
And it's a problem Cassidy tried to rectify late in Tuesday's contest, moving Coyle, who is a puck-possession monster when he's on his game (like he was Tuesday), back between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen in a losing effort.
"Some of it was to help Charlie a little bit offensively to play with some players, maybe he handles the puck a little more and that will translate as he goes back to his normal spot, and I thought it did," Cassidy said of the switch. "I thought he did a good job in the third period. I don’t have a beef with any line in the third period. We just didn’t keep the puck out of our net in the last two minutes, and we had done a pretty good job up till then doing that, and still keeping attacks up where we have a chance to extend the lead. That’s what we want to do; we don’t want to just sit back but couldn’t bury it."
To Cassidy's point, the Bruins need to put Coyle in a position that allows him to handle the puck more. Riding in the middle of his own line, and not working the walls to Krejci's right, does exactly that. And gives the B's a matchup advantage they need.
Window Shopping: Kings Edition
The Kings are definite sellers come deadline season, and it's worth wondering if they have anything the Bruins should try to pry off their roster in pursuit of a return to the Stanley Cup Final.
And the big one in this game was, of course, Tyler Toffoli, who finished with an assist and two shots on goal in 15:21 of action.
In the final year of his contract, Toffoli is a right-shot, right wing that some consider a perfect fit for this roster. It may also help that Toffoli's value has certainly plummeted in recent seasons, and with No. 73 beginning tonight's contest on LA's fourth line after some recent healthy scratches, and that he's not as coveted as he was as recently as last deadline.
Now, did you see enough out of him to make you think he's a must-have piece for the Bruins? Of course not. But in a market short on natural right wingers (with right shots), Toffoli may very well emerge as Boston's go-to option this deadline. Make of that what you will.