What we learned in B's ugly shootout loss to Wings
What we learned in B's ugly shootout loss to Wings
It’s time for Claude Julien. It remains to be seen if the Bruins are ready to go through with the move, or perhaps they need to see more with a couple of natural schedule breaks coming up at the NHL All-Star weekend and the team’s bye week in February. But the Bruins collapsed again on Wednesday night blowing a pair of three-goal leads in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Red Wings just two days after they no-showed their way through a shutout loss to the New York Islanders. In essence the Bruins managed to get just one out of four points against two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, and did it while facing the Blackhawks, Penguins and others just ahead of them on the schedule. Julien is the best coaching in the history of the Bruins, but he’s not getting the best out of his players this season throughout the lineup. Worse than that, the players are talking about “not being ready” to play opponents, or “not being ready” for the pushback from a team like the Red Wings on Wednesday. It certainly sounds like the players are subtly calling for a change as well, and it’s altogether clear that many Bruins veterans are far too comfortable at a time when urgency is the top requirement from the Black and Gold. It feels like the Bruins need a butt-kicker to come in and rattle cages of many of the players on this team, and that would be a benefit even if it’s a short term boost for this season’s playoffs while they look for a long term solution behind the bench. The Bruins showed in the five games prior to the Isles/Red Wings losses that they’re capable of playing at a higher level, and have the talent on the roster to be held to a higher standard than some Julien apologists would have you believe. Some are going so far as to call the Bruins roster “garbage”, and that’s just nonsense given that Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask are at the base core of this team with young players like Frank Vatrano and Brandon Carlo breaking through. The talent is there to make the playoffs for the Bruins, and it feels like it’s slipping through their fingers for the third straight season with Julien at the helm. They need to make a move with the coach before they do something impetuous with the roster, and trade away a young player or two that will come back to bite them in a big way.
Rask falls apart
What exactly was Tuukka Rask doing in those final two shootout attempts against Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen? Granted Nielsen is one of the best shootout performers in NHL history, but it certainly looked like Rask wasn’t properly focused as that shootout went on in short order. He never moved an inch on Thomas Vanek firing a wrist shot over his glove hand for the first shootout goal, and then he flopped forward in an odd-looking, all-or-nothing poke check at Nielsen while the Red Wings skater was still high up in the slot area just starting to make his move to the net. It allowed Nielsen plenty of time to calmly lift the puck over Rask while he was flopped on his stomach and score the game-winning shootout strike for Detroit in the crazy game. Combine that with the game-tying goal from the Red Wings in the third period where Rask was nowhere near the front of the net during a scramble in front, and it feels pretty apparent the Bruins No. 1 goaltender was nowhere near his best at a time when his team, and his coach, really needed him to perform. That sounds and feels eerily familiar to the end of the last year, doesn’t it?
Vatrano could be an answer
Frank Vatrano is breaking through, and giving the Bruins a top-6 scoring option that makes a move for a forward less dire. The Bruins didn’t lose on Wednesday night because they couldn’t finish off offensive plays. They scored five goals, which should have been more than enough to win after they gave their defense and goaltender a pair of three-goal leads to work with in the first period. Vatrano had two of those goals, and came this close to having a hat trick in the first period when his third scoring chance banged off the post on another great one-timer set up in the scoring area. In the 14 games since Vatrano returned to the lineup, the Bruins have scored a whopping 43 goals (3.07 goals per game) and the power play has been at its best during this entire season. The five goals and eight points in 14 games are great production for the 22-year-old, and show ample evidence that he’s ready to turn that shot/release combo into a consistent scoring threat for the Bruins. Was the two-goal performance a statement from the Massachusetts kid that the Bruins don’t need Gabriel Landeskog? Maybe so, but it would have been a much more impactful statement if it had come in a two-point victory for the Bruins on a day when they really needed it.
Plus: Frank Vatrano
Frank Vatrano had two goals and could have had a hat trick in the first period if his scorched one-timer hadn’t clanged off the post after he’d lit the lamp a couple of times. Vatrano had six shots on net in 13:40 of ice time, but he also unfortunately had some defensive lapses that left him a minus-1 when it was all said and done as well.
Plus: Tomas Tatar
Tomas Tatar finished with a goal and three points along with a plus-4 rating, and scored a crushing breakaway goal after Zdeno Chara pinched too aggressively and Brandon Carlo fell down at the offensive blue line. The Bruins had a hard time dealing with the speed of Tatar and Dylan Larking throughout the game for the Red Wings.
Plus: Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron was strong with a goal and three points along with four shot attempts and won 19-of-25 face-offs, and led the charge in the first period after telling NBCSN that Claude Julien was his guy in a pregame interview. It was good to see No. 37 answer vs. Detroit after a bad performance vs. the Isles, but it would have been better in a win.
Minus: David Backes
David Backes had a rough night at center returning to that position for the first time since the beginning of the season. He finished a minus-3 and had plenty of coverage issues in the D-zone along with Ryan Spooner, and was at the heart of Detroit’s ability to come back in the second period. Backes looked slow and rusty, and needed to be better if he was going to move back into the middle.
Minus: Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask looked horrendous in the shootout against Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen, and had some shaky moments down the stretch along with the rest of the team as they blew the big leads built up in the first period. Five goals allowed on 33 shots isn’t up to the task for Rask.
Minus: Ryan Spooner
Ryan Spooner was a minus-3 with zero shots on net and some very rough spots in the defensive zone when they couldn’t handle the Tomas Tatar/Dylan Larkin combo, and really wasn’t good with Backes manning the middle next to him.