The Boston Bruins got off to a hot start to the 2023-24 season, but the Anaheim Ducks gave them a little dose of reality on Thursday night.
As the B’s blew a late two-goal lead to the Ducks before losing in overtime, underlying concerns bubbled to the surface. It’s a good time to take stock of those and other problems, because they have a gauntlet on deck during their current homestand.
First, the Bruins get the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. Detroit will be coming off two straight losses, but they’re still 5-2-1 and boast the NHL’s hottest offense in the early-going. Next Monday and Thursday, they take on the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Those matchups can speak for themselves. So, the Bruins have some things they’ll want to try to clean up before they enter the first really challenging stretch of the season this weekend…
Let’s start with the most immediate, glaring issue: clearing the puck from the defensive zone in crunch time. Pavel Zacha had two unsuccessful clear attempts just seconds before the Ducks scored their second goal with 1:55 left in regulation. Then, during the sequence that led to the Ducks’ tying goal, Zacha, David Pastrnak, Trent Frederic, and Hampus Lindholm all whiffed.
Head coach Jim Montgomery believes the problem on Thursday night was that they tried too hard to go for empty-net goals, when in that situation, lofting the puck out of the zone and bleeding the clock down was the optimal option. Next time the Bruins have to protect a lead and run out the clock, we’ll see if they learned their lesson.
“I thought the game was over twice [if] we put it in an empty net; guys whiffing on pucks and guys trying to go for the open net instead of using the walls as an indirect to clear and get off the ice,” Montgomery said after the game. “That was mostly it.”