Consistently inconsistent might be the norm for now
1) In the spirit of Halloween, it’s going to be a wild ride with these B's for the foreseeable future
Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 4-3 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at Nationwide Arena:
We’ve been the Bruins look horrendous in some of their losses this season. We’ve seen some pretty impressive wins - such as one so over Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose. We've also seen a team that can swing within those extremes in the same game as they did against Columbus on Monday night. The B’s were horrible in the first period and a half when they came with zero jump or urgency. They were excellent in the game’s second part when they picked up the attack and managed to push things into the extra session. These wild mood swings from the Black and Gold are one of the hallmarks of a young, inexperienced team that’s still finding their footing and partly due to the inconsistency from veterans who are supposed to pull the young players along. David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask were MIA in the opening minutes when the Bruins went down 3-0, but all three players factored strongly into the comeback that eventually earned the Bruins a point. It can be a little hard to watch the kind of extreme inconsistency that the Bruins are experiencing, but it may take some time before it’s completely sorted out and stabilized. The good news is that the Bruins are getting their share of points while smoothing out the inconsistencies and also amassing some valuable experience for the young players who will get better and more consistent as time marches on in the season.
2) It appears Kenny Agostino has missed his shot with the Bruins
While Agostino has the AHL pedigree and should have enough pro experience to be playing at his highest level possible right now, he really didn’t make much of a dent in the shot he was given the past few weeks. He was red-hot in Providence at the time of his recall, and managed one assist in five games along with a minus-1 rating while simply not making enough of a splash on the ice. Agostino and Frank Vatrano were both benched for parts of the second and third period Monday, but then the 25-year-old former Yale standout was given a chance to make a play as one of the three players tapped for the shootout. It was a controversial decision, with either David Pastrnak or Patrice Bergeron pushed out of the top three shooters once Agostino was given the nod, and Brad Marchand was selected as the other shooter that also didn’t score in his five-hole bid. Perhaps it was a gut feeling from Bruce Cassidy, or maybe Agostino has had a good shootout track record in the AHL, but whatever it was it didn’t matter when he couldn’t come through in a big spot. Agostino wasn’t able to beat Sergei Bobrovsky in the eventual shootout loss. That might be his last act in Boston. Agostino was sent back to Providence following the loss and it remains to be seen what the Bruins are going to do with the roster spot. They may just carry 12 forwards with Matt Beleskey drawing back into the lineup, or perhaps the Bruins are going to finally sign energy winger Ryan White to an NHL deal that will give them a little more toughness and energy in their bottom six.
3) One win in six starts for Tuukka Rask to start this season
That’s just not good enough from your No. 1 goaltender. He was, like the rest of the team, sloppy and ineffective in the first half of the game, and a much better, more focused individual once crunch time rolled around in the second half. The second goal allowed to Boone Jenner when Rask couldn’t hold the post was bad technique and sloppy play in his own crease. It's the kind of soft goal that you can’t allow against a hard-nosed team like Columbus. Credit Rask later on for stoning Artemi Panarin on a breakaway that preserved the OT point for the Black and Gold. In general, he was much better in the second half of the game. But the Bruins need Rask to be at his best when the rest of the team is figuring things out, and he absolutely wasn’t that when he was needed to stand tall at the spiritless start of the game. Rask talked about hitting the reset button when he missed time with the concussion, but he’s been the same “meh” goalie in the past two games that he was before he got hurt. The 2.93 goals-against average and .896 save percentage aren’t even close to good enough. That's reflected in the poor record thus far for Boston’s franchise goalie. Rask needs to step it up for a team still finding its footing, but he hasn’t done that the first month of the season.
*Patrice Bergeron finished with a goal and two points in a whopping 22:08 of ice time, finished with four shots on net and won just about half of his 27 draws on an extremely busy night. It was Bergeron that started breathing life back into the B’s with his PP strike in the second period, and his sweet, no-look centering pass to Brad Marchand tied it in the third period. Bergeron has been solid since coming back from his early-season injury.
*Zdeno Chara may be 4, but he still knows when to pick his spots as the Bruins' leader. It was Chara that stepped up and blasted Josh Anderson with a tone-setting hit at the start of the second period, then bloodied the big-bodied Columbus forward with a fight that was meant as signal to the B’s to get it in gear. The rest of the Bruins did just that in scoring three goals to come back and salvage a point after the awful start.
*It wasn’t his best game, but Charlie McAvoy played a whopping 29:19 of ice time against a heavy, bruising Blue Jackets bunch while logging four shot attempts, four hits, a couple of blocked shots and some workhorse duty that the B’s desperately needed. McAvoy has been very impressive in the first month and the feeling is that it’s just getting started for him.
*Kenny Agostino managed little more than five minutes of ice time, had a single shot on net and couldn’t come through for the Bruins in the shootout when given his big chance. It probably wasn’t a comprehensive opportunity for a skill guy such as Agostino, but players like him need to make a big splash if they’re going to stick in the NHL. He wasn’t able to do that the past few weeks.
*After a couple of good games, Frank Vatrano played just 3:45 in a 65-minute overtime game, didn’t have a shot on net and took a minor penalty while riding the bench for most of the game. Vatrano has too many games where he’s invisible and that’s not very encouraging for his long-term future in Boston.
*Still trying to figure out how the refs missed Markus Hannikainen driving Paul Postma’s head into the dasher with a nasty elbow on a hit behind the Boston net and why it didn’t result in any penalties for the Blue Jackets. Postma ended up playing just 9:49 in the game after a rough start for him and it remains to be seen if there is any residual injury from a hit that certainly looked like it was targeting the Bruins defenseman’s head.