Chicken Little Time for the Boston Bruins?
For the first time under new head coach Bruce Cassidy, the Boston Bruins are in the midst of a three game losing streak. As Rear Admiral of Barstool Sports and WEEI has pointed out, this is “Chicken Little” time for Bruins fans:
“The Sky Is Falling” Bruins Twitter is here!
— Rear Admiral (@RearAdBsBlog) March 22, 2017
Is this an overreaction to a three game losing streak? Probably. Is this also the worst time to have a three game losing streak? Yeah, definitely. Both can be true. Sometimes it is just raining, but sometimes you happen to be standing below a cliff when a rock slide is occurring. The Boston Bruins are back to basic when it comes to a late season swoon, but it can be halted with a couple of quick fixes.
(Click below for the newest “Bagoon’s Barrage”)
Pasta Needs to Get Back to Serving Dishes
Despite Brad Marchand’s attack on the Hart Trophy, the most offensively talented player on the Boston Bruins is David Pastrnak. When “Pasta” is rolling so too are the Bruins. Pastrnak has already doubled his career high in goals with 31 (last year he had 15), but it has been his ability to dish out assists (a career high 32, almost double his previous high of 17 two years ago) that has really propelled him in his breakout season. From February 26 to March 3rd, Pastrnak tallied at least one assist in six of seven games and the bruins won five of those seven games.
Pastrnak though has failed to record a single point in his last two games and is starting to visibly press (yes, agreed small sample size, but this is a three game losing streak). During a power play last night against the Senators the Bruins had sustained presence in the attacking zone for almost a minute when Pastrnak, with time, botched a pass out to the point, which was stolen and sent down the river. Multiple times in the third period he tried to skate his way through defenders (something he is capable of doing), only to turn the puck over at inopportune times. He tried a between the legs dangle south of the goal line instead of tossing a puck towards net with a Bruin on the doorstep. Also, in the waning moments of the game he completely duffed a one-timer seam pass from Marchand that he normally buries into the cage.
These are normal growing pains for a young star and remember, he only turns 21 on May 25th. Even after the miss-hit on the one-timer, he came back and returned a similar pass to Marchand that the pesky winger almost turned into a tie game, but instead hit the outside of the twine. For every mistake Pastrnak has made in this mini-losing streak, he has shown a propensity to get right back to it and try to make another play. However, the Bruins need him to get going and start scoring some five-on-five goals, something he has not done since the Edmonton game. This though is not a problem for Pastrnak alone.
Five-on-Five Needs to Get Better
This is a simple one, but when the majority of the game is played five-on-five and you have not scored a five-on-five goal in almost six periods, it needs to be addressed (not counting Dominic Moore’s at the end of the Leafs loss). In their 3-2 loss to the Senators last night, the Bruins only potted goals with a man advantage (one a five-on-four, the other a four-on-three). The Bruins are not a good five-on-five team. By percentage, they are currently 18th in the league in the category scoring 48.7% of their goals at five-on-five. That is simply not going to cut it. Their special teams (10th on the power play, and fourth on the penalty kill) has kept them going, but they need old fashioned even strength goals.
Right now they have a player in Brad Marchand who is playing out of his mind. Every time he gets the puck in space it seems like the Bruins are bound to score. The David Backes goal he set up in the first period against the Leafs was one of the sweetest goals of the season in a campaign of numerous highlight reel tallies. The Bruins have one line that is scoring right now five-on-five (Patrice Bergeron-Marchand-Backes line), but the rest are lacking.
What made the Bruins such a dangerous team at the start of Bruce Cassidy’s stint was the defensemen jumping up into the fray and finishing off a couple of plays. Lately that has not been the case. The last goal for the Bruins that came from a defenseman five-on-five was Brandon Carlo’s on March 4th against the New Jersey Devils. His goal was a perfect example of the Bruce Cassidy offensive defenseman system; Carlo read the stop at the half-boards for help, jumped on the loose puck and squeaked a glorious backhand through Cory Scneider’s five-hole. The Bruins need everybody pitching in to get their scoring back on track, and that includes the defensemen.
Keep Playing Their Game
The dirty secret during this three game losing streak is the Bruins have actually played some decent hockey. Notwithstanding their no-show against the Edmonton Oilers that started this slide, the Bruins and Leafs played a great game during loss No. 2 that was decided on a “that man is too strong” interference penalty. The Moore interference is one of the more egregious calls in a long time and while it is almost never acceptable to blame the refs for a loss, you would have a pretty hefty limb to stand on if you wanted to say the stripes were at fault for at least stealing a point from the Bruins.
The last two games have had a definite playoff feel to them and the men with the orange stripes around their arms should start to swallow their whistles a little more heading into the final nine games of the year for the Bruins. This benefits the boys in black and gold. They are a tough team that is riding a three game losing streak after rattling off four straight wins. The first goal allowed against the Senators was a double deflection that Tuukka Rask had no chance of stopping. The second goal was a result of another horrendous penalty call before the Senators put together a wickedly impressive shift for their third goal with the Bruins out of shape following a penalty kill. These things happen when puck luck is not in your favor. But, just like the Carlo goal above, when things are going right the puck finds the five-hole. When things are going poorly a high slot deflection knuckler finds its way past Tuukka and onto the top shelf.
The Bruins are one point ahead of the Leafs FOR THE THIRD SPOT IN THE ATLANTIC (Leafs do have two games in hand). Even looking at the final wild card spot, the Bs are four points up on the New York Islanders (Islanders have two games in hand) and five points up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (who have one game in hand). The Bruins, if they get back to playing their type of hockey, still have the inside road to the playoffs. With nine games left, the Bruins have five seemingly easy games, two 50/50 battles, and two games where they should be the underdog. Bruins fans right now think the sky is falling, but all they really need is a sturdy umbrella and the sun should shine through for the first time in three years.