Bruins

Bruins are again Exhibit A of why the offside coach's challenge needs revamping

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Bruins are again Exhibit A of why the offside coach's challenge needs revamping

BRIGHTON, Mass – Have you had enough of the NHL Coach’s Challenge yet?

Most teams across the NHL have been burned by the vague, fickle nature of the coach’s challenge system set up by the league, and it goes doubly so for the offside challenge that so often seems to have nothing to do with the good goal in question.

That was the case Tuesday night in the Bruins' 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal as a Charlie Coyle apparent go-ahead goal scored in the third period was wiped out by an offside challenge that was two-pronged in its complete irrelevance to the score. Coyle was in control of the puck between his legs as he entered the offensive zone, so by the letter of the law he was actually, legally on-side based on being in control of the puck as he entered the zone with his skates slightly ahead of the puck.

It took the on-ice officials upwards of three minutes chatting with the Situation Room in Toronto before they came up with a decision to overturn the good goal called on the ice, so it was clear from the beginning that it wasn’t an egregious, clear-cut offside play.

Which is exactly what the coach’s challenge was intended for in the first place.  

All of the above was something that NHL leading scorer David Pastrnak picked up on when asked about it after the fact.

“When you have the puck under your control, you can skate backward with the puck [entering the zone], right? You can be out of the zone and still not be offside. We’re NHL players, so when you have the puck on your skates it’s pretty much under your control. It’s a tough call,” said Pastrnak, who has 15 goals in 15 games to start the season. “We are not referees...but this is the NHL. We are all skilled players here. Once you have the puck on your skate, it’s pretty much under your control and it doesn’t matter if the puck is behind the blue line first or not. I think it wasn’t offside, but it’s just a tough call and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Then there’s the fact that, as has happened already on two other occasions with the Bruins this season, the goal was scored a significant amount of time following the actual zone entry. It wasn’t as long a gap as the two previous occasions, at Colorado and at home against Ottawa, when the goal was scored 30 seconds or more after the offside play in question that had absolutely zero to do with the actual goal.

Instead, it was 10 seconds or so following the zone entry, but again it had nothing to do with the goal being scored. At that point, the Bruins had the puck in the offensive zone, had time to lose possession down low briefly and then Zach Senyshyn recovered the puck and wheeled around before finding Coyle in the slot for the prime scoring chance.

"Some are going to go your way and some are not. Ours are not going our way lately, but I assume they’re going to straighten out over the course of time. The rule was specifically put in place for egregious [examples],” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “They were over there for three minutes. You think 'What's the purpose of this rule?' Either you find something or you don't...three minutes. So, now you're looking for something to be offsides.

“You know it’s going to go the other way and it did. That’s where my beef comes from, the intent of the rule. You always want them to get it right, but there was kind of a change this summer punishing the coaches if they got it wrong for this reason. They didn’t want three-minute reviews. Anyway, it was a big part of the game and it didn’t go our way.”

The bottom line is that the coach’s challenge for offside was put into place for obvious offside plays rather than gray area instances like Coyle’s play in Montreal. Some of it is certainly the law of unintended consequences coming into play with the advent of instant replay turning every little play into an agonizing Zapruder film study where nobody quite knows what is truly legal or illegal anymore, including the officials on the ice.

The truth is that the NHL wants offense. They want goal-scoring. They want exciting end-to-end action that highlights the skill of the players on the ice, and they have no problem with high-scoring games such as the B's-Hab's nine-goal outburst in Montreal.

So, they shouldn’t be looking for reasons to take good goals off the board as they did when they wiped out Boston’s apparent go-ahead score in the third period and effectively changed the outcome of the game. Put a time limit on when an offside can be challenged, and outlaw challenging a play where the goal was scored 15 seconds after the zone entry.

Furthermore, get the officials together and decide, once and for all, that a puck in between the skates of an NHL player is a puck that the player is actually in control of, and can legally enter the offensive zone as Coyle did.

The NHL is a great league full of great players, but it’s even better when the league gets out of the way of itself. It’s pretty hard to do that with the nonsensical way that the offside coach’s challenge is currently set up. Anybody that follows the Bruins knows there are easy fixes that could make the challenge system so much better than it is right now.

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

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Bruins' Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie trending toward return vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins should get at least a couple of pieces of their team back from injuries for Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) both skated without restrictions in Monday morning’s practice at Warrior Arena, and it sounded like they would play against the Devils barring any setbacks following practice. For DeBrusk, it will be a welcome return after a five-game absence and he’ll hope to pick up where he left off with goals in each of the two games before he got hurt early in the first period against the Canadiens on November 5.

“I’m feeling good,” said DeBrusk, who has three goals and six points in 15 games this season. “I’ve obviously been missing the game, so it was great skating with the boys today. I scored in back-to-back games before Montreal, so I used the time [out with injury] to reflect on things and rejuvenate myself in a way. It was different things that were getting to me a little bit. I used the time to be more mature with my approach [to the game] coming back whenever that is going to be.”

Patrice Bergeron (lower body) didn’t skate with the Bruins on Monday and will be a game-time decision against the Devils while planning to travel with the team to New Jersey. Torey Krug (upper body) skated ahead of practice on Monday and could be nearing a return to the lineup as well, but he won’t be playing against the Devils.

 

“Ritchie and DeBrusk both skated and no residual effects right now, so we anticipate they’re going to play,” said Cassidy. “We’ll put them as game-time decisions. “Krug skated. He’s not available [against the Devils] so he’ll be available a little later as well.”

As far as other injured Bruins are concerned, Kevan Miller has had a couple of days off the ice, “won’t play this week” but is looking at a possible return to game action next week after he was not on the ice with the team on Monday morning. John Moore (shoulder surgery) did skate with the main group and continues to make progress in his recovery from offseason surgery.

Tuukka Rask will get the start against the Devils on Tuesday night, and both Brendan Gaunce and Urho Vaakanainen were called up to the Bruins ahead of Tuesday’s trip to New Jersey. It didn’t look like Gaunce will be playing against the Devils, however, unless somebody expected to play isn’t able to at game time.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Tuesday night’s game vs. the Devils based on practice:

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand David Krejci David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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Bruins getting frustrated with shootout futility: 'Usually shootouts are 50/50, right now it feels like it's 20/80'

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Bruins getting frustrated with shootout futility: 'Usually shootouts are 50/50, right now it feels like it's 20/80'

BOSTON – Boston, we have a problem.

One of the big bugaboos for the Black and Gold this entire season has been the shootout, and their complete futility at what’s essentially a skills challenge to determine a winner and loser in NHL regular season game. It cropped up again in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at TD Garden where the Bruins let a one-goal lead slip away in the final minute of the third period and watched as another team waited them out in overtime and the shootout for the two points.

For the second straight time, Charlie Coyle finally scored a goal for the Bruins during the shootout making him the only effective player in that arena this season. And Jaroslav Halak kept them in it with some acrobatic saves in the extra session.

But in the end, the B’s best available players didn’t come through in the shootout session and the Bruins dropped to 0-4 this season when it comes to the shootout.

“I think so,” admitted Pastrnak, when asked if the shootout problems have become a bit of a mental issue at this point. “We know it hasn’t been our strength and we haven’t been able to pull a win out of the shootouts. It sucks obviously. Usually shootouts are 50/50, but for us right now it feels like it’s about 20/80.”

Or 0/100 actually at this point.

Part of the issue for the Bruins is their inability to beat teams in overtime and the other part is a complete inability to even be competitive in the shootout.

“In our group, now, at some point, the conversation becomes ‘do you sell out in overtime because we struggle in shootouts, right?’ But, at the end of the day, I thought we’ve made strides in overtime,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We lost a lot of [overtime games] early, at least we’re getting our opportunities to win in overtime, so we’d like to be able to close one of those out. But that’s a bit of the, maybe, what’s happened in the shootout, right?

“When you get in all alone [at the net on breakaway chances], we’re more of a volume team, even though we have high-end skill, it would seem in the short sample size. It’s now growing into a larger sample size, so it’s something we’re looking at. But we’re not going to overanalyze. Every day, it’s been so much time in practice [so] we [can’t] forget about the rest of the game that I feel is more important for us down the road, but we do need to address it. We have, but maybe we need a little bit more time on that.”

Part of the problem is that Boston’s goaltending becomes less than elite in the shootout, and it’s a noted area of the NHL game that Rask has never particularly liked, or felt comfortable with, during his NHL career. Halak gave the Bruins a fighting chance with diving saves in Saturday night’s loss, so that wasn’t the issue at all.

Instead it’s a Bruins team that’s 2-for-16 overall in the four losses in the shootout this season, and Boston’s big offensive guns in Marchand (0-for-4) and Pastrnak (0-for-3) are a combined 0-for-7 this season. Pastrnak is now 3-for-20 over his career with a very middling 15 percent success rate in the shootout, but Marchand is a bit better with nine goals in 41 career attempts for a 21.9 percent success rate.

Strangely enough, Patrice Bergeron is one of the most accomplished shootout guys on the Bruins roster with 28 goals in 89 attempts for a 28.1 percent success rate, but he was never tapped in any of Boston’s first three shootouts before being unavailable due to injury on Saturday.

The Bruins tried something different by giving fourth line winger Chris Wagner shootout attempts in each of the last couple of games after showing some decent moves within his breakaway chances.

But Wagner is 0-for-2 as well and at this point doesn’t really merit any more looks ahead of more offensively accomplished players on the Bruins roster.

So what can the Bruins do at this point given the shootout futility where their best players aren’t getting it done?

Part of it involves sticking with guys like Pastrnak and Marchand that have the goods to eventually succeed in the shootout, and part of it might be practicing it a little more often than the Bruins do in their hectic practice schedule during the regular season.

The other part?

It’s probably time to use some younger guys like Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen that don’t have a book on them already around the NHL when it comes to shootout tendencies, and perhaps grooming one of them to be a shootout specialist with a varying degree of moves. They may never be the shootout weapon that TJ Oshie is with his career success rate of over 50 percent in the shootout, but they might actually pick up the extra point once in a while.

That is something the Bruins aren’t doing right now and it’s already cost them four very valuable points this season.

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