It would appear that some Bruins fans are panicking just three games into the new season.
There’s this tweet and then, of course, this one too that represent some of the fear and loathing going on in Black and Gold nation right at this moment after two rough, back-to-back losses to last year’s NHL punch line, the Colorado Avalanche.
But it certainly is awfully premature to pull the plunger on a full-blown trip to Panic City after Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss for a number of different reasons.
First and most importantly the Bruins are missing some pretty important pieces out with injuries. Patrice Bergeron has missed the first three games of the season with a mysterious lower body injury and may end up missing even more based on the slowness of his recovery. David Backes is out a minimum of 2-3 weeks with diverticulitis, and that means the Bruins are missing his size, strength, toughness and willingness to mix it up in all of the dangerous areas of the ice.
Those two injuries alone wipes out two of the toughest and most battle-hardened players on the roster, and can’t be adequately replaced by Riley Nash playing up in the lineup or Matt Beleskey trying to fill the shoes of Backes. Add in the absence of hard-hitting Noel Acciari and the rust factor for Torey Krug (minus-4 in the two losses to Colorado) coming back from a fractured jaw, and injuries have wreaked havoc on the Bruins in the early going.
It’s not an excuse the Bruins are even acknowledging, but missing your best player is certainly going to leave a mark Tommy Boy-style.
The other big reason is the youth on this team, and the erratic nature of sporting so many rookies on an NHL roster. It’s great that the Bruins have waves of youthful, real talent coming and the future is indeed bright a couple of years into the future.
But even the brightest-eyed Bruins fan had to admit that there were likely to be high highs and low lows to this season with a pair of rookies in the top-6 up front, and a couple of youngsters in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy playing top-4 minutes. That doesn’t even count 21-year-old David Pastrnak, who is a team-worst minus-5 with just a single point in the first three games of the season after signing his hefty six year contract extension.
But the last couple of games haven’t pretty for the Bruins Youth.
Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk are a combined minus-10 with zero points, and Charlie McAvoy has seen his ice time drop in each of the first three games this season. He didn’t even top 18 minutes of ice time in Wednesday night’s loss and was skating in a pairing with Zdeno Chara in Colorado as it seems like the Kevan Miller partnership isn’t working well at this point.
Bjork has zero shots on goal in two of the three games out of the starting gate for the B’s, and DeBrusk hasn’t shown any of the offensive oomph in the Colorado games that did during a dazzling debut in front of his family.
But this was to be expected and something the Bruins were already prepared for when giving key roster spots to unproven rookies.
“I think we do have to have some patience, and some understanding that we’re going to go through some of those [rough] time periods,” said Don Sweeney. “We have a core group that’s going to pull us through those periods, and we have depth during those times when guys do stub their toes where we can withstand some of those times of struggles. But the results also take over from here, to tell you the truth. That’s what this league is and we have to be cognizant of that while balancing the patience part of it.”
If there’s one thing to be perplexed about in the early going it’s the B’s core veterans that have underperformed. Tuukka Rask has alternated between okay and dreadful in the first three games while coughing up 10 goals, and didn’t even give his team a chance to compete in Monday’s matinee after surrendering two bad goals right off the hop in the first period. He needs to be better immediately, or the Bruins are going nowhere fast.
The same goes for David Krejci and Brad Marchand until Bergeron can find his way back into the lineup. Krejci disappeared in the last two games after a strong opening night, and Marchand looked like he finally got untracked with a two-point game on Wednesday afternoon after managing just a measly single shot on net in each of the first two games.
Worse than the individual performances have been the D-zone coverage mistakes and the general disorganization on breakout plays. Things aren’t really going to improve for Boston until those areas are tightened up and forged by a little structure and discipline. There’s too much talent for the Bruins to truly slide off the rails and there are too many prideful veteran leaders to allow things to further devolve after two discouraging losses to the Avalanche.
Three games into the season the Bruins still have plenty of time to fix things, foster their identity and continue mixing in the youth with their established, experienced group. The bet here is that the Bruins will adhere to that old sports adage: The Bruins not as good as they looked in spanking Nashville on opening night, but not as good as they looked in getting consecutive spankings at the hands of the lowly Avalanche either.