BOSTON – Much may have changed with the Bruins since last year but some things have stayed the same, for instance the Metro Division is still a heck of a lot better than the Atlantic within the Eastern Conference power structure. The Bruins have dropped two in a row to traditional Metro Division power teams with losses to Washington and the 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers on Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins are an average 4-3-2 against Metro Division teams this season, but they have yet to beat three of the divisions' best teams (Blue Jackets, Rangers and Capitals) with a 0-3-2 record against them. Bruins have a chance to improve this record on Monday against Columbus.
A win on Monday would be important, because the Bruins haven't looked "Metro ready" in any way, shape or form yet.
It feels like Washington is just NHL kryptonite to the Bruins at this point, the struggles against the metal of the Metro Division this season shows Bruce Cassidy that his team still has a lot to iron out before being considered true contenders. In back-to-back games against Washington and New York, the Bruins were chasing for the entire duration of both contests despite getting more shots on net.
They are still too young in key areas, mistake-prone at key moments, and still getting pushed too much to be considered a threat to any of the Monsters of the Metro.
David Pastrnak wasn’t in much of a reflective mood when asked about it after the loss to the Rangers, but the mention of salvaging a point while coming back from two goals down was going to have to be good enough against the Blueshirts this time around.
“I think it’s just that we are just people. I don’t know, you know, we just need to sit down a minute. We have a tough week ahead of us so we got a point, it’s better than nothing,” said Pastrnak. “The Rangers is a good team and always play good against us. It’s good that we came back and, you know, we got the point. Obviously we could have finished stronger, and it shows how it is. We are going to get better from our mistakes.”
The good news is that the Bruins have improved vastly and are playing like a team who could make the postseason. They hold a pretty comfortable three point lead over the Habs for the Atlantic’s third spot with a whopping three games in hand. They can’t allow slippage in the standings given that it looks like a lock that five playoff teams proceed out of the Metro Division.
Much of this is idle talk, however, with the Bruins not even at the half-way point of the season. Clearly the team still has plenty of work still to be done after watching the power play embody a dumpster fire on Saturday night. There’s also the lingering doubt that despite their improvements, the B’s just aren’t yet strong enough to fight off teams with size and skill like you’d expect from a division that produced the last two Stanley Cup champs.
“I think we’ve been pretty good [defensively]. It’s been mostly power play breakaways really, but I think we’ve been jumping and making plays when the defense has been jumping in the rush. I don’t think there has been too many turnovers off that,” said Tuukka Rask. “But I think when you play teams like Washington and the Rangers, they are pretty heavy and they battle in front of the net. So you’ve really got to get your nose dirty and battle in front of the net to get rewarded. That’s something that we need to pay attention to, I guess.”
The positive take away is that any losses to teams from the Metro will serve as another key chapter in the learning experience for the Bruins rookie group, and it also serves as a good gauge letting the Bruins know that they still have some serious improvement to come. They’ll get another immediate crack at one of their Metro Division big brothers when the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town on Monday.
The Bruins will get a chance to show that they've learned this past week after breaking down against the Capitals and Rangers, and perhaps buck the trend against a Blue Jackets team cut from the same mold. The B's believe they’re improving as the season wears on, but it’s time to prove it improvement in the all-important won-loss category against one of the Metro Division heavyweights.