Aside from the play of Tuukka Rask, who was once again excellent behind enemy lines, not much went right for the Bruins in their Game 4 loss to the Islanders.
And perhaps we should’ve known that was going to be the case when David Pastrnak had a wide open net and clanged a shot off the right post to keep the Bruins off the board through the opening 20 minutes of play. The Bruins did strike first behind a David Krejci power-play tally, of course, but there was undeniably sinking feeling that the look Pastrnak buries into the yawning cage 999 times out of a 1,000 was going to loom large over this game. That’s exactly what happened, too, and thanks to what felt like a 1-in-1,000 bouncing-puck, baseball-style game-winner from Mat Barzal.
Just the worst luck imaginable.
But the Bruins also failed to make anything even resembling their own luck.
Gifted a power-play opportunity after Islanders head coach Barry Trotz lost his challenge on David Krejci’s power-play goal, the Bruins built on their lead on a power-play opportunity that featured a grand total of zero shots. Actually, to truly highlight how bad of a power play that was for the Bruins, let’s note that the Bruins didn’t even attempt a shot during their two-minute man advantage. It’s almost impossible to wrap your mind around the very idea.
“The second unit… I was disappointed,” Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “They don’t get a lot of time, obviously, behind the first unit, but it was an opportunity for them to step up. No one wanted to shoot the puck. I mean, they still practice a lot. And we have certain people we want to run it through, but every one of them refused to shoot the puck. I mean, we had it in the slot, we turned down a shot. Down the elbow, up top. So it just kills your momentum. And now you go into your own end and you’ve got guys that aren’t really playing together. That could have helped us a lot just to even just keep the momentum.”
It was the exact kind of kill the Islanders needed to pump some life back into their skates, and Kyle Palmieri found the back of the net a mere 41 seconds after the penalty expired and on just the Islanders’ second shot after the Krejci goal.
“And our coverage on the goal, we’ve got a D standing behind the net covering someone,” said Cassidy. “I mean, it’s just some breakdowns, you know, the lack of urgency to get a puck to the net, I think it was a bit of a formula tonight in general.”
But it actually, somehow got even worse for the Black and Gold’s offensive attack.
Held to just eight shots in the third period, the Bruins actually failed to land a shot on Semyon Varlamov after Connor Clifton’s 52-foot slapper with 6:18 remaining in the third period.
That means that the Bruins had just one shot once they fell behind on Barzal’s circus goal. Now, you can obviously credit New York’s stout defense for having a hand in that, but this was a mess of the highest order. The Bruins were outworked on every 50-50 puck and play, they couldn’t generate a breakout out of their own zone to pull Rask and get the extra attacker out there, and you even saw the fourth line out there with two and a half minutes left in the third period and with the Bruins hunting for the game-tying goal.
“We weren’t willing to shoot enough, I thought, at least to sort of get some opportunities to get to their goaltender,” Cassidy offered. “And we paid the price for it. That’s why we didn’t score five-on-five. Just turned down way too many shots.”
“I thought we were in it still until the end,” Krejci noted. “It just wasn’t our night tonight.”
This extends to just about everyone on the Boston roster, especially at five-on-five, as the Bruins had just three skaters finish this contest with multiple shots at five-on-five. The first line? Nope. Well, then it must have been the second line? Nah. Instead, your ‘big three’ shooters in this loss? Jake DeBrusk and Chris Wagner, who each finished with two shots on goal at five-on-five, which was one behind Connor Clifton and his team-leading three five-on-five shots by the night’s end.
And it, fittingly, all started with the post-shot that had zero resistance yet counted for zero goals and zero shots.
The Bruins and Islanders are tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoff series. What does Boston need to do to get back control of the series in Game 5?
If you ask Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson of the SideLines podcast at 98.5 The Sports Hub, it’s a shakeup on the bottom-six forward lines. And even then, they still desperately need Brandon Carlo back on defense. But will we see either of those things on Monday night?
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.