BOSTON – That sound you heard on Monday afternoon was the Good Ship Bruins crashing back down to Earth.
After an opening night where everything went swimmingly and the Bruins rookies all looked like difference-makers, the B’s barely showed up and looked completely disengaged in a 4-0 shutout loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. The rookies made some commonplace mistakes in the defensive zone while not kicking in any offense, and the core group of Bruins appeared for the first time like they were missing a couple of high-impact players in Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.
Worst of all, Tuukka Rask allowed goals on two of the first five shots he faced and really never gave the Bruins a fighting chance at two points.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he saw the warning signs in the practices over the weekend after getting three off days following their big win, and it sure sounds like the B’s players thought they were going to waltz to a win over the Avs.
“I’ll be honest. I didn’t like our couple of practices this [past] weekend. I thought our execution was off, and we were a little. . . but it’s early and you’re kind of giving them the benefit of the doubt. So that goes to preparation. We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be, and it showed tonight in the start. They were just better than us,” said Cassidy. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We looked like we were going to get it, then we’d mismanage pucks, and I thought that was the problem.
“We didn’t take advantage of a team that could have some issues breaking pucks out if you [use a] heavy fore-check, like we did to Nashville with a very good defense. We just didn’t play the same game. That was everybody. Getting back to the first year guys, I think they are good bounce-back guys. They are high character, and they’ll keep coming. But tonight it just didn’t work out.”
Perhaps just as disappointing as the game’s start was the unwillingness for the Bruins to fight and scrap their way back into the contest. Sure Sean Kuraly had a couple of chances at the doorstep that Semyon Varlamov was able to smother in the first period, and the Avs goalie made his best save of the game in the second when he shut down a David Pastrnak speed drive to the net.
But that was pretty much it from the Bruins, who got poor games from Brad Marchand (one shot on net and three giveaways along with a stick fired like a javelin down the runway behind the B’s bench during a fit of pique in the second period) and David Krejci (a minus-2 and one shot on net in 18:24), who have to better when the Bruins are plagued with the injury bug. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork both finished with minus-3 performances, and at times DeBrusk was dropped to the fourth line as Cassidy played mad tinkerer with the forward combos.
Add all of it up and this game was the ultimate B’s crap sandwich served up to a team that should have been an easy victim. The Bruins showed that there will be some learning curve moments early with the young lineup, and that they still can’t afford to ease up or take an easygoing approach to any of the games on their schedule.
“We needed that one [goal] and we never got it, and it was one of those games we never really had the drive to make a push. Then obviously it was two-nothing in the third and then I made a mistake to make it three-nothing. That kind of deflated us even more. But, you know, one of those games we never got anything going,” said Tuukka Rask, who finished with three goals allowed on 22 shots in a performance that was probably even worse than the numbers would indicate.
“I don’t think we necessarily played as good as we did in the first game. It’s something that it’s a process. We have to go out as a team as we move along here and we just have to develop the certain style of hockey that we want to play. I think the first game was more of an example of what we want to look like out there than today. Obviously, it’s early in the season and still trying to put the pieces together.”
Rask is absolutely correct that it’s early with just a couple of games played into the regular season, and there will be some pronounced peaks and valleys with a number of young players in the nightly Bruins lineup. But lax preparation and an unfocused approach to any one of the 82 games during the regular season is a poor habit to begin adopting early into the season. That’s something the Bruins need to address ASAP with a three-game trip out West staring them in the face.