By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
You want the good news or the bad news first?
Honestly, let’s go bad news first because it’s better to build up than it is to tear down. The bad news is that after Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Nassau Coliseum, the Bruins are paced to go 0-8-0 against the Islanders in 2021. In a division-only schedule, that’s a bummer.
The good news, however, is that they’re also paced to go 40-0-8 against the rest of the East.
Hey, a 40-8-8 finish is a 40-8-8 finish no matter its route, so nobody can complain if this incredibly unlikely path holds on either front.
But there’s something about these Isles that’s given the Bruins (their only) fits in 2021.
The Islanders, of course, are never going to be an easy matchup. It’s just not in a Barry Trotz team’s DNA. They play a playoff brand of hockey for an entire regular season. But the Bruins have hardly received any help in their two meetings to date with New York. The first one came as the capper to a three-in-five road swing, and with the Bruins still finding their footing amid a rash of injuries. And Saturday’s game was the second leg of a back-to-back, and the Bruins’ third game in four nights. It was also the end of what was a stretch of seven straight road games with a two-game return to Boston peppered in there thanks to a postponed two-game series with the Sabres.
With teams currently barred from leaving their hotel when on the road, that’s a lot of trips to the same two vending machines and walks around carpeted hallways that all look the exact same. Can’t even loiter at the Roosevelt Field Mall, or go to a Backtrack or Crime In Stereo show.
And a team like the Isles are more than happy to pounce on that.
“I thought our legs were fine, maybe mentally a little off,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted after the loss. “Some of that is the schedule. This is one of those ones where we come in here and the team’s waiting for you at the end of a road trip, a three-in-four, and you’re going to have some mental lapses. I thought we battled back to it, but I thought our biggest problems were just our first touch, second touch coming out of our own end, below the goal line, and even the power-play goal they scored. We had two or three chances to execute a bump-and-clear and we couldn’t do it.”
Beginning the third period deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, the Bruins put up a valiant fight with 14 shots on the Isles’ Semyon Varlamov, but failed to jump on the few bounces that were there for them.
That seemed to be more fatigue than anything else, really. And the miscues that led to Mat Barzal’s game-winning power-play goal and the J.G. Pageau shorthanded goal — the Bruins dooming their own clearing attempts on the kill and David Krejci and Nick Ritchie colliding at the attacking blue line to send the play the other way — might not happen with an extra night’s sleep.
“I don’t think we had our legs tonight,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said. “I don’t think we were making the best decisions playing a great team, a team that is very hard on the forecheck. And they got a lot of turnovers and created a lot of chances out of that forecheck.
“It is what it is, you know. The schedule is the same for for everyone. We have to rest when we do have that time [off]. But I think tonight was one of those nights where the energy wasn’t the greatest. Hopefully we can have a few days here to to regroup and recharge.”
The other piece of good news for the Bruins? They’ll have three full days of rest before their next head-to-head with the Islanders, currently scheduled for Feb. 25 at the Coliseum.
More thoughts and notes from a 4-2 loss on Long Island…
John Moore makes season debut while B’s lose Jakub Zboril to injury
Out of action as either a healthy scratch or somewhat healthy scratch for the first 13 games of the 2021 season, and beginning the year as the Bruins’ No. 8 defenseman yet again, John Moore was back on the ice for his first appearance of the 2021 season Saturday night against the Isles.
Moore’s debut came at the expense of Connor Clifton, who had played well in place of the injured Matt Grzelcyk, but it wasn’t hard to understand the B’s thought process behind the move. With the season a month old, Moore and taxi squader Greg McKegg began the afternoon as the only B’s mainstays yet to find themselves in a game. And with a five-day layoff on deck after Saturday’s contest, keeping Moore on the sidelines would’ve only further added to rust that’s accumulated with Moore not having played in a real NHL game since Aug. 26, 2020.
The Bruins essentially knew that Moore needed to get into a game to keep his head where it needs to be for this team.
On Boston’s second pairing opposite Brandon Carlo, the 6-foot-2 Moore finished Saturday’s contest with two shots and two hits in 23:45 total time on ice.
That 23:45 was probably a bit higher than the Bruins initially anticipated (it was actually Moore’s most ice-time since he played almost 27 minutes in a blowout win over the Capitals back on Dec. 23, 2019), and came as a result of the Bruins losing Jakub Zboril to injury after the first period.
Knocked out of play with an apparent upper-body injury, Zboril’s exit came one night after the Rangers’ Jacob Trouba tagged him with a heavy hit upstairs at center ice in the second period of a 1-0 victory. But the injuries were not related, at least according to Cassidy.
“He was healthy tonight going into the game,” Cassidy noted, dispelling the notion of a potential carryover ailment. “That’s what our medical staff told me. So, I’m not sure. They just told me he wasn’t coming back; upper-body injury. I haven’t got any further [information] on it.”
Zboril has two assists and a plus-2 rating in 14 games this season.
Bruins need more from Charlie Coyle
Held to zeroes for the seventh straight game, third-line center Charlie Coyle, in the first year of a $31.5 million extension, is completely entrenched in his worst drought since coming to the Bruins.
Now, this isn’t Coyle’s first time going through such a dry spell. In fact, he had two extended droughts in 2019-20, including a seven-game donut from Dec. 5 through Dec. 17, 2019.
But Saturday felt like his true bottoming out in the sense that he really wasn’t much of a factor in regards to anything the Bruins did or tried to do at five-on-five. In over 11 minutes of five-on-five play, Coyle had zero shots on zero attempts, two giveaways, and just one hit. (Only linemates Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and the injured Zboril saw less five-on-five action than Coyle did in this one.)
Now, I do think that it’s fair to say that Coyle’s been hurt by having his linemates plucked off his line to plug other holes in the Boston lineup; Nick Ritchie has been moved to David Krejci’s wing on a seemingly full-time basis, and Craig Smith joined them a few games ago. And even Trent Frederic is now back on Boston’s fourth line with Jake DeBrusk back in action.
That said, Coyle, who has just two goals and two assists on the year, can give them more even on his own. Hell, he’s done it before. And it feels like both Coyle — and his linemates, both of whom have been feast or famine for too long — were among those subtly called out by Cassidy after the loss.
“It’s closer to playoff hockey and some guys have to realize to chip in offensively — the secondary scoring — we’ve been through it. Some of the guys in this room have been through what it takes to to score,” Cassidy acknowledged. “I’m talking about some guys that have been here; young, old, some of the guys in between. [They need to know] it’s hard to score and what it takes, and that it requires getting inside, requires a shot mentality, and recovering a puck with a team scrambling. Things like that that I think some of our offensive guys have not bought into yet, at least not enough of.
“We’ll keep harping away on it, get our goals, and go from there.”