Bruins

Two-goal night for Pastrnak not enough for Bruins in 4-2 loss to Avalanche

Two-goal night for Pastrnak not enough for Bruins in 4-2 loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – Some nights are emotional, come-from-behind efforts full of hope and energy that the Bruins have turned a corner, and then others are like Thursday night’s slog against the Colorado Avalanche. 

The majority of the Bruins simply didn’t show up to start the game, and most of them never really fully showed up in a 4-2 loss to the Avalanche at TD Garden that snapped a 4-0-2 stretch of games with points for the Black and Gold. 

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It all started with 4-on-4 play during the first period when Matt Duchene was allowed way too much time and space in the offensive zone, and hammered a shot past Anton Khudobin while all alone in the slot. Seven minutes later the Bruins power play was leaking oil all over the ice, and Torey Krug laid out for a puck at the blue line while he couldn’t keep possession. Instead Nathan MacKinnon beat him in a race down the ice and buried a shot past Khudobin to give Colorado a commanding, early 2-0 lead over Boston. 

A John Mitchell score on a short side wrist shot off the rush to makes it a 3-0 advantage, and that’s when things turned into the David Pastrnak Show. 

The 20-year-old scored a pair of goals to get the Bruins back into the game, electrify the crowd and give Pastrnak an amazing 18 goals scored in 23 games this season. The first was a breakaway after a long stretch pass from Tim Schaller connected with the dangerous Pastrnak, and the second was a bazooka one-timer off a Brad Marchand feed from the corner. 

Unfortunately the Bruins couldn’t hold onto that momentum while playing at their lollygagging pace for the night, and allowed a late Carl Soderberg score late in the second period that wiped out all of their momentum.

It was a rough night all-around, and that goes for Khudobin as well while allowing four goals on 20 shots that dropped his record to 1-4-0 on the season. 

Now's the perfect time for Bruins to get aggressive to solve top-heavy offense

Now's the perfect time for Bruins to get aggressive to solve top-heavy offense

TORONTO – Outside of the Bruins top trio of prolific, perfect forwards (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak), the Bruins have exactly one other forward on the roster who has scored more than one point this season.

That would be fourth-line center Sean Kuraly, who has two points in seven games played for the Black and Gold.

“Right now we haven’t gotten the results and it’s obviously a small sample size. We’ve addressed it and we’re trying to work on it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “With David Krejci out, he’s a driver of a line. He got hurt late in camp and he really hasn’t been himself, and I think he helps [Jake] DeBrusk a lot. So that’s been an issue for us. But I think they’re going to get it going. I think they have a lot of pride, those guys.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey by any stretch. Our record is probably a product of really good special teams, some timely scoring and really good goaltending. We’ve some areas we need to address and I think that’s normal whether you’re the last place team, or the Cup finalist, or the winner. There are always going to be holes.”

Clearly, there are some industrial-sized holes on this Bruins roster, however, when you look at the right side of the ice behind scoring machine David Pastrnak. Karson Kuhlman is a minus-2 with zero points in his seven games played alternating between the second and third lines, and Brett Ritchie has gone scoreless in five games since potting a goal opening night against his former Dallas Stars team.

Given a chance to bring up AHL reinforcements ahead of Saturday night’s tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs with Kuhlman, Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Par Lindholm essentially playing a zero-sum offensive game, Cassidy said the Bruins are going to instead patiently stick with the guys already on the Boston roster instead of giving red-hot Anders Bjork another NHL shot.

“Our guys are healthy so we’re going to go with what we got,” said Cassidy. “It’s two reasons. We want to reward the guys that are here and we’re not disappointed with anybody. I just said that about [David] Backes, who we wanted to get back into the lineup. Providence has three or four guys playing well, but we’re going to go with the guys here first and see where that leads us.”

So, where will it lead them?

Maybe it’s time for the Bruins to get out ahead of the NHL curve and take advantage of a couple of situations brewing in other NHL destinations. With so many second and third line-types shooting blanks right now, why not kick the tires on Josh Ho-Sang with the Islanders, or with Jesse Puljujarvi in Edmonton?

Ho-Sang, 23 was a first-round pick, plays right wing and is being held out by the Islanders right now after demanding a trade from the organization. Ho-Sang has seven goals and 24 points in 53 games for the Islanders the past three seasons and clearly has offensive skill based on the flashes he’s shown.

Still, he’s also never scored more than 10 goals or 43 points in an AHL season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and clearly has never realized his potential while becoming something of a problem child for the Islanders. Ho-Sang also cleared through waivers without any teams, including the Bruins, making a claim on him, so it wouldn’t cost much at all to bring in a player that might give them some offensive pop in the top-six.

At this point, he can’t be any more ineffective than what Kuhlman and Ritchie have been over the first few weeks of the season.

Then there is Jesse Puljujarvi, 21, who was a No. 4 overall pick and is playing for Karpat in Finland right now because he similarly wants to be dealt away from the Oilers organization. Puljujarvi has six goals and 12 points in 12 games, and the 6-foot-4, 201-pound right winger checks plenty of boxes for Boston’s top-six needs with skill, size and youth on his side.

He also has a contract in Finland that would allow him to return to North America if/when he’s dealt away from Edmonton to another NHL team.

Puljujarvi has 17 goals and 37 points in 139 games the past few seasons, but it’s difficult to judge his numbers based on the dumpster fire that the Oil organization was until cleaning house ahead of this season.

Similar to Ho-Sang, Puljujarvi has never really put up big numbers in the minors with 12 goals and 28 points as his AHL career-highs with the Bakersfield Condors, but both are classic “change of scenery” talents that could blossom in the structured, leadership-laden and offense-friendly system running in Boston.

The Oilers are reportedly looking for a top-nine forward prospect and a draft pick in exchange for Puljujarvi, and that is something the Bruins have an abundance of whether it’s Danton Heinen in the NHL or Bjork, Oskar Steen, Peter Cehlarik and Trent Frederic at the AHL level.

Some fans may instead daydream about the Bruins pulling off a deal for an established NHL talent such as Taylor Hall, Alex Tuch or Mike Hoffman that would immediately add pizzazz to their top-six group and make them much tougher to defend in the long run.

But the Bruins would be wise to take a page out of the Patriots book, buy low on projects Ho-Sang or Puljujarvi who could turn into big-time offensive talents with the players around them in Boston and start really doing something to address the top-heavy offense problem that’s been going on for two years running.

 

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David Backes will return to Bruins lineup tonight in Toronto

David Backes will return to Bruins lineup tonight in Toronto

TORONTO – It hasn’t been easy for David Backes to sit out for four of the Bruins' first seven games this season while they struggled to generate offense, but the 35-year-old will get his chance for Boston on Saturday night.

With Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) out for this weekend and David Krejci already missing from the lineup with an injury, Backes will draw back in after last playing in the Oct. 10 loss to the Colorado Avs on the season-opening West Coast swing.

Backes has eight shots on goal and a plus-1 in the three games that he has played and he’s looking forward to his chance to bring some energy and emotion while skating with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly on the B’s energy line.

“These opportunities present themselves and what I can do with it? That’s up to me tonight,” said Backes. “If we can get pucks top the net and crash it and find some loose change, some garbage, that’s probably our best opportunity. It’s getting back to the basics of what makes that line very effective.

“This early in the year knowing I was really ready for the season and getting the pause button pushed when you really want to get into a rhythm [is challenging]. You want the team to win first and foremost and then you want to be a part of it and contributing to those wins. Everybody wants to feel that. We’ve been looking for more sources of offense as everyone has been talking about, and it’s tough to do that sitting on the ninth floor with [the media].”

Other than Backes getting back into the lineup with the Bruins eschewing any call-ups from Providence, the other news item was Patrice Bergeron staying in the lineup after sitting out Friday’s practice with a lower-body injury. Jaroslav Halak gets the start in net for the Black and Gold as Bruce Cassidy continues to go with a straight goaltending rotation to start the season.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for Saturday night’s game based on morning skate at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Coyle-Kuhlman

Heinen-Lindholm-Ritchie

Wagner-Kuraly-Backes

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

 

Halak


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