Bruce Cassidy says Bruins need to be 'better defensively' to snap losing streak

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins need to be 'better defensively' to snap losing streak

TORONTO — The Bruins aren’t necessarily going to change anything with their offensive philosophies based on the major amount of injuries that have hit their roster over the last few weeks. But the influx of Providence players combined with the offensive firepower of Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk missing for the lineup has taken a toll on Boston’s goal-scoring capabilities, and that can hurt when the Bruins defense has allowed 15 goals (3.75 goals per game) over their current four-game losing stretch.

Certainly, that’s less of a problem with all of their offensive weapons healthy and operational, but it’s still something they were doing much better in October when it comes to defending and stopping pucks at the net.

It’s about fewer risky offensive chances for their defensemen trying to join the rush, and it’s about a better penalty kill after that special teams unit sprung a leak over the last week. That doesn’t mention the goaltending, but that could also stand to be much, much better with Rask starting vs. the Leafs and struggling through the month of November to this point.

“We just become less of a threat with that third line where it’s just ‘go out and check well and hopefully you get rewarded.’ We’ll see how [Trent Frederic] fits in there. We try not to change too much, but what we do need to do is be better defensively,” said Bruce Cassidy, who was acknowledging that the third line probably isn’t going to be a big offensive threat right now with Frederic, Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen filling it out. “We were for 40 minutes the other night [against Florida] until it completely fell apart. So that will be our goal tonight. We’re missing some guys that could typically help us at one end and so that’s our approach in that regard [on defense].”

Patrice Bergeron didn’t see it as a change of mindset for the B’s to get more conservative while missing their top-goal scorer behind the Perfection Line, and missing their top offensive defenseman in Krug. Instead it’s simply a return to the style of play that brought them tremendous success in the first month of the season, and what they did in allowing just 12 shots on net through the first 40 minutes against Florida before there were soft goals aplenty in the third period.

“It always comes back to playing the right way, having good defensive layers and a good forecheck. When you start moving forward and playing north/south, that’s when you get the most success and that’s when things open up to make the tougher plays,” said Bergeron. “Even when everybody is in the lineup, I think that is how we’re successful.

“We’ve been at our best when we don’t force things and let the play come to us, and have layers defensively. Then you can go back on the attack and do the damage. Obviously when you’re missing key guys it’s about everybody bringing it, being ready to play and our depth, and how important it is to rely on everybody in this locker room.”

Now would be the best time for the Bruins to snap back into place defensively as they travel to Toronto for a Friday night showdown with the rival Maple Leafs, and play more like the team that still ranks fourth in the NHL averaging just 2.50 goals per game allowed this season.

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

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BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

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HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.


BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)






vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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