What we learned: Back to earth for Cassidy's crew
What we learned in Bruins' 5-3 loss to Ducks: Back to earth for Cassidy's crew
What we learned in the Bruins' 5-3 loss to the Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Wednesday night:
1) The good times had to end at some point
The Bruins weren’t going to finish winning out in the final 27 games of the season under Bruce Cassidy, so a loss was bound to happen. It makes sense that it happened in an building where the B’s have struggled over the years, and where they don’t necessarily much up that well anymore against a big, strong, deep Anaheim team still capable of pushing the B’s around. Still, this time it was more about some of the weaknesses coming out for the B’s all at once instead of the Ducks really hammering them. Self-inflicted defensive mistakes, a subpar effort from Tuukka Rask, including kicking the puck into his own goal, and the Bruins third line's worst effort under Cassidy since taking over for Claude Julien added up to a loss. It was a good reminder that this team is still flawed, still not good enough to go on a long playoff run and still going to have work hard to get into the playoffs. Right now, they’re on the outside of the playoff structure behind the Panthers and Islanders by virtue of games in hand and they need to rebound from the loss quickly.
2) The D-men continue to pour on the offense
Despite the Bruins showing a new-found desire to attack down low rather than constantly force the puck back to the points time after time in the offensive zone, the B’s back end continues to find ways to produce goals. In both cases on Wednesday night it was David Backes working the puck down low to the points high, then watching as Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara fired home shots from the outside that beat Jonathan Bernier. The Bruins now have six goals from their defensemen in five games under Cassidy. It doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down amid the aggressive, risk-taking offense in place. Carlo’s five goals on the season are impressive considering his shutdown role and the fact he hasn’t been given any power-play time in his rookie season focused on his D-zone work. There is still upward potential there for Carlo offensively as he gains in experience and confidence.
3) Peter Cehlarik looked like a 21-year-old rookie playing in his fourth NHL game
Ryan Spooner was a minus-3 and 1-for-6 in the face-off circle, while his third line was picked on by the Ducks throughout the night, and they didn’t have the goods offensively as they usually do. Jimmy Hayes was a complete non-factor in 10 minutes that was a flashback to the first half-seasons of his career in Boston. The B’s gave up a goal in the final minutes of the game that kept them from even salvaging a point and getting the Black and Gold into overtime at a point in the season where one point can make all the difference. The Bruins confidence was riding high going into the Ducks game on a four-game winning streak. It seemed they’d found a style and system with Cassidy that was pulling more out of them as a group. They regressed against the Ducks and didn’t get the result they were looking for. Now, it’s up to Cassidy and the B's to rebound and show their confidence isn’t shaken by one “meh” game, and that they'll continue to play at their winning streak level for the majority of the season’s final few months.
*David Backes had a couple of sweet passes to the point to set up Carlo and Chara for goals and finished a plus-3, along with a team-high five registered hits, in 16:25 of ice time. The Bruins needed this level of intensity from more guys up and down the roster. They definitely didn’t get it against the Ducks.
*Rickard Rakell scored a pair of goals, including a tying strike in the second period that ended with Rask kicking the puck in his own net, then he potted another blue-collar score for the game-winner on a loose puck in front. He’s having a career year with 24 goals and showed why he’s been so valuable against the Bruins on Wednesday night.
*Bernier had an up-and-down night, but he stopped 26 shots and robbed the Bruins on a couple of occasions that turned out to be difference-makers in his duel with Rask. The diving stop on Patrice Bergeron on a backdoor pass from Brad Marchand was a five-star effort and ended up being the deciding factor in a one-goal game late in the third period.
*Spooner was a minus-3 with a 1-for-6 in the faceoff circle and the B’s third-line center was caught puck-watching far too much in the defensive zone for a player looking to play with speed and aggression in the offensive zone.
*Rask allowed four goals on 24 shots and kicked a puck into his own net for a tying goal in the second period. The Bruins need Rask to be at his absolute best on a nightly basis if they’re going to be a playoff team, He was far from that against the Ducks. The whole team was far from that against the Ducks.
*The referees missed a massive offsides call on the Ducks go-ahead goal in the second period and the David Pastrnak PP goal they waved off for goalie interference was iffy at best. Bernier had a stick wrapped around the leg of Brad Marchand at the top of the crease and it’s hard to see how that was Marchand’s fault in any way resulting in an overturned goal. Tough night for Tim Peel’s crew in this writer’s opinion.