What we learned from Bruins' 2-1 loss to Devils
What We Learned from 2-1 Bruins loss
By Joe Haggerty
Here’s What We Learned from the Bruins 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night that heightened the frustration for the Black and Gold, but also saw them stick around in a playoff spot when it was all said and done.
1) The finishing touch to the Bruins is killing the team. On a night when the Bruins were facing a struggling backup goaltender in Keith Kinkaid and dominated the Devils to the tune of a 40-15 shot advantage, they managed to score just one highlight reel goal from Brad Marchand. That’s completely in sync with the storyline from the Bruins’ recently concluded five-game losing streak where their consistently strong offense has deserted them at the worst possible time. Early in the first period Matt Beleskey was stuffed on a breakaway, and linemates David Pastrnak and David Krejci were also both stopped in scoring chances during an 11-shot onslaught in the opening 20 minutes. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron really picked it up in the final 40 minutes of the game as well. The domination continued throughout the 60-minute game where Boston amassed 40 shots on net and controlled puck possession, but couldn’t pounce on any of the rebounds Kinkaid was letting up throughout the game. Beleskey, Bergeron, Marchand and Torey Krug all had upwards of six shot attempts, and had the requisite urgency needed for these late season games. But they just couldn’t close enough to the net to either redirect a puck or slam home a rebound, and that needs to change in the remaining five games if they want more goals. The Bruins won’t beat anybody scoring 1.6 goals per game as they’ve done over the last 10 games while going 3-6-1 in that span.
2) While the Bruins have lost games and struggled to score goals, they’re still in a playoff spot as the third team in from the Atlantic Division. According to the Sports Club Stats website, they still have a 76.7 percent chance for the postseason. It’s looking more and more like both wild cards will be coming from the Metro Division, and that there will be only one spot open for either the Bruins or the Red Wings from the Atlantic Division once the playoffs open. The B’s are still in a playoff spot because the Wings are even worse than the Bruins, and blew a third-period lead against the Montreal Canadiens while pulling goalie Petr Mrazek midway through the game in favor of the equally struggling Jimmy Howard. Tuesday night was further proof that there isn’t an Ottawa Senators team this season that’s going to take it away from the Bruins as the Sens did winning 6-of-7 games to close out the season last year. Instead the Red Wings are an equally, if not more, flawed team than the Bruins with a rookie head coach behind their bench, and it doesn’t look like either team is going to separate from the other one. In fact, there is perhaps even more pressure on the Wings to make the postseason with a string of 24 consecutive playoff seasons at stake in Motown. Instead it appears more and more as if the April 7 penultimate game of the regular season between the Bruins and Red Wings at TD Garden will be the deciding game for the postseason. The “playoff for the playoffs”, if you will.
3) The special teams need to start getting special again. The Bruins went through another game on Tuesday night where the power play did nothing for them, and their penalty kill betrayed them with a couple of goals allowed in a New Jersey loss that should have been a win. If the Bruins want to anything down the stretch and into the playoffs, then they need to start regaining some confidence and execution on their special teams unit. For the month of March, the Bruins are 6-for-36 (16.7 percent) on a power play that’s significantly down over the last few weeks, and 37-for-45 on the PK that’s extinguishing only 82.2 percent of the power plays faced. While the PK is essentially where the Bruins have been this season in an up-and-down performance, the power play is down and has scored in only five of 14 games this month. That’s not enough consistent production for a team that relied on the power play for game-winning momentum in the opening months of the season. Claude Julien appeared to find some success switching out Ryan Spooner for Loui Eriksson on the half-wall, and installing Matt Beleskey at the front of the net on the top PP unit. But how about putting the team’s leading goal-scorer, Brad Marchand, on the top PP unit with the Bruins needing an offensive spark at this point? That might be worth a try.
*Give Keith Kinkaid credit for a career-high 39 saves coming off a couple of bad performances for the Devils, but the Bruins also aren’t finishing off typical scoring chances to usually wind up in the back of the net right now. They couldn’t get to rebounds in front and didn’t enjoy any puck luck along the way against a very average New Jersey goalie at best.
*Brad Marchand scored a beauty of a goal on a backhanded top shelf strike in the second period that snapped an eight game goal-scoring drought, and gave Marchand 35 goals on the season. It also gives the Bruins their first 35-goal scorer since Phil Kessel hit that mark in 2008-09 during his final season with the Black and Gold.
*Travis Zajac stepped up as the only performer for the Devils that truly hurt the Bruins. He scored all alone in the slot for the Devils’ first PP goal, and then fed Reid Boucher for the game-winning PP strike in the second period. He stepped up offensively in a way that nobody on the Bruins did on Tuesday night.
*Jimmy Hayes put up another invisible performance in a crunch time game against the Devils. I remember one shift where he was battling along the walls and showing some good urgency, but he finished with no shots on net and one hit in 14:26 of ice time. Not even close to enough in an important game from a 6-foot-6 forward where they needed net-front presence.
*Bruins penalty kill let the Bruins down in a game they dominated while outshooting the Devils by a 40-15 margin. The first PP goal allowed where Zdeno Chara stumbled and fell out of the play with Travis Zajac wide open in the slot was tough to watch. It was just a total breakdown there allowing New Jersey’s best offensive player to do some damage.
*A season-low 14:47 of ice time for Dennis Seidenberg as the Bruins look for more offensive answers from everybody in the Bruins lineup, and it’s become more and more apparent that Seidenberg is a bottom pairing D-man these days.