Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 27: Head coach Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins speaks to the media following his teams 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on May 27, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes needed just three minutes and 44 seconds to fade all the warm and fuzzies of last Saturday’s victory over the Predators. And they needed just 11:26, and just 13 seconds after Patrice Bergeron tried to give the team some life with a power-play goal, to make that win feel like it came a thousand years ago.

On Willie O’Ree Night, a seven-goal night saw the Canes play the role of ultimate party crasher like their record told you they could, and left Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy with a sour taste in his mouth.

“We had nothing,” a frustrated Cassidy said after the defeat, which put an end to the team’s five-game winning streak. “They were clearly better than us in every area. So this is less about the opponent, more about where we’re at. Obviously, they forecheck hard and some of the things they do well, some of the top teams do well [is be] hard on pucks, get on top of you, get to the front of the net. We weren’t nearly good enough and we wouldn’t have been good enough against the worst team in the league tonight. We just weren’t competitive and we paid the price.

“We just didn’t have it tonight, and they were clearly much better than us. I mean, anybody watching the game could tell that they were more competitive in every area of the ice.”

The Bruins’ problems were as obvious as they were painful.

On Carolina’s first goal, Derek Forbort cuts to his right in an attempt to deny a Seth Jarvis offensive-zone entry. It doesn’t work, and Carolina gets a two-on-one out of it. They don’t score in time, but they recover the puck with ease, and Jaccob Slavin sends a pass through the slot for an easy one-time bomb from Teuvo Teravainen. There was almost no resistance at all from the five Boston skaters on the ice, and it was a particularly ugly sequence from Forbort.

Then, on Carolina’s second goal, Tuukka Rask punches a Carolina shot to the corner and what he hopes is out of harm’s way. But it’s recovered by the Hurricanes, and there’s not a skater within five feet of the Hurricanes’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi parked right in front of Rask’s net for his rebound putaway to make it 2-0.

Back within one after the Bergeron goal that ended a 35-straight kill streak for the Hurricanes, the Bruins gave it right back with some more own-zone ugliness, this time with a Brandon Carlo pass that went right to Derek Stepan, who sent it to Slavin for a bomb and a Kotkaniemi tip to put Carolina back up by a pair before you could even hear the Boston goal read back over the PA. This goal sent Cassidy into a pure F-bomb mode, as captured by NESN’s crew.

“We put guys on the ice that are defensive minded players, and that was a big letdown for us,” Cassidy said of Carolina’s third goal. “And the guys that are used to being relied on to keep the puck out of the net and be good, solid defensive players [and] some of the D that are relied on for that just didn’t get it done tonight.”

But it got worse.

Down by two, Urho Vaakanainen sent a backhand to no man’s land between Connor Clifton and Oskar Steen just over the Boston blue line. It’s scooped up by Jarvis. The 19-year-old veteran of 27 NHL games then stormed towards the Boston net with minimal resistance from Clifton, who did absolutely nothing to slow him down, and without a stop by Rask on the Jarvis bid, this game was effectively put to bed just 16 minutes into puck drop.

“We got beat one-on-one again and they got to the interior ice,” Cassidy offered. “I think that’s a save you want.”

The Bruins made a mercy pull on Rask after the first period of play, which ended his night after five goals on 12 shots faced, and saw more than enough to know that this wasn’t on any poor soul who got thrown in the Boston crease.

“I don’t think we did anything in front of Tuukka to help him out tonight,” Cassidy noted. “It would have been one of those nights we would have needed an unbelievable effort from him to get any points at all. And that’s an unfair ask.”

In a night full of (understandable) negativity from the Boston bench boss, the one thing Cassidy wasn’t ready to do? Make a definitive statement on his team’s ability (or inability) to hang with the upper echelon of the conference.

“Well, it’s problematic against anybody, to be honest with you,” Cassidy said when asked about coming up short against one of the East’s elite. “But I mean, it’s game whatever 36, so measuring stick, I don’t know. We’re building our game.

“We’ve been playing well lately, much better than the start of the year, [but] obviously not tonight.”

Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 7-1 loss at TD Garden

  • BOSTON, MA – JANUARY 18: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins and Tony DeAngelo #77 of the Carolina Hurricanes exchange words during the first period at the TD Garden on January 18, 2022. (Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

    Power play would have benefitted from more selfish approach

    Probably a bit weird to complain about the power play when it was the only thing that worked for the Bruins to get on the board tonight, but man, was this a frustrating night for the Boston man advantage.

    Held to a 1-for-5 mark by the night’s end, the Bruins actually had a glorious chance to effectively power play their way back into this game when gifted a five-on-three for 1:08 in the middle period. But the Bruins settled for low-angle looks and were guilty of overpassing. A deferral from David Pastrnak was the most infuriating of all, to be honest, with Pastrnak all alone between the circles only to dish to Brad Marchand instead.

    I know. Easy for me to second guess from six floors up and enjoying some Twizzlers. (Great addition to the TD Garden press box, not gonna lie.) If that pass connects, Marchand may very well have a goal and we’re sitting here talking about this unit’s ability to zip the puck around like no other.

    But as a general rule of thumb, when the former Rocket Richard winner has a shot from that prime real estate and in a game where you’re struggling to score, I kinda wanna see him rip it. Especially when we’re talking about a penalty kill as relentless and genius-brained as the one the Hurricanes ice.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 15: Mike Reilly #6 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the New York Islanders at TD Garden on April 15, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Mike Reilly lands on COVID list

    The defensive shuffle rolled on for the Bruins on Tuesday night, with both Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk back in action after stints on the COVID list and Mike Reilly placed in COVID protocols.

    The latter actually kept the Bruins’ Urho Vaakanainen in action, and continued to give the Bruins an extended look at what they may have in the 2017 first-round pick. It almost goes without saying that it wasn’t a super encouraging night for Vaakainanen (it’s kind of hard to find anybody who looked good in this game), but this feels a bit like 2021 Jakub Zboril in the sense that the Bruins are clearly giving the 23-year-old defender his longest look yet in an attempt to figure out his place in the season goals of the Bruins.

    On the ice for a game-high 20:23, Vaakanainen finished with one hit, a blocked shot, and a minus-2 rating. The 6-foot-1 left shot also played the majority of his night with Brandon Carlo, and the pairing actually finished as a plus in on-ice shots at five-on-five (8-7).

    If he’s able to iron out the kinks and mesh with Carlo, that can go a long way for this year’s team, which has struggled to find a compatible partner for Carlo outside of Reilly.

    But Vaak’s best chance at sticking on this roster may come down to his ability to move to the right, honestly, as Clifton has simply been unable to lock down his hold on the right side of the third pairing this year.

  • Jan 18, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) congratulates goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) after defeating the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    One, two, Freddie’s coming for you

    Well, if we’re learning one thing, it’s that this ain’t Toronto Freddie Andersen.

    Through two head-to-heads with the Bruins this year, the 32-year-old has stopped all but one of the 65 shots the Bruins have thrown at him. And the one he missed got redirected by a skate. That’s good for a .985 save percentage. (Ninety-eight fiiiiiiiiive THE SPORTSSSSSSSSS HUB. Remember that sound effect? Anyway.)

    The obvious difference is that Andersen is no longer playing behind a Toronto defense built like a particle board skate ramp behind your local middle school.

    What’s kind of hilarious about this from the whole Toronto schadenfreude aspect is that this is actually what Andersen did against the B’s during his three-year tenure as a Duck from 2013 through 2016. In Anaheim, Andersen was a long distance Bruins Killer, with a 4-0-0 record and .956 save percentage against Boston.

    That’s a 6-0-0 record and .966 save percentage against Boston outside of Toronto, compared to a 14-10 record and .912 save percentage in 25 total games (regular season and postseason) against Boston during his time with the Maple Leafs.

    The Bruins will get another chance to crack Anderson’s non-Toronto goose egg sometime in February.

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