Bruins

Bruins hitting "a bit of adversity" after long stretch of success

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Bruins hitting "a bit of adversity" after long stretch of success

BUFFALO – It would appear that it’s all starting to catch up with the Bruins just a little bit.

The Bruins never held a lead before falling to the lowly Buffalo Sabres by a 4-1 score on Sunday night at the KeyBank Center, and looked low on energy, short on fight and sloppy in the execution category along the way. It was a little more competitive on Saturday night when they lost to the Maple Leafs in the final two minutes of the game, but the end result is that the Bruins dropped back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since the middle of November.

It wasn’t so much individual mistakes on Sunday against the Sabres as the Bruins had breakdowns in the normally dependable penalty kill, saw many of their young guys seem some slack in their games aside from goal-scorer Charlie McAvoy and didn’t have anything in the way of a true push around the Sabres net.

Danton Heinen had a key offensive zone turnover that led directly to Buffalo’s killer third goal in the second period, and Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid both struggled together as a pairing with Brandon Carlo watching from the press box as a healthy scratch. They weren’t the only ones to struggle, however, as pretty much everybody outside of new guy Rick Nash really didn’t look like they were bringing their best to the table.  

Even their best are getting beaten up as Patrice Bergeron was a game time decision on Sunday with an injured right foot, and then for his efforts took a high stick in the first period that pulverized one of his bottom front teeth.

The Bruins have done a good job of defying the odds in games that most would chalk up as a “scheduled loss” before the puck was dropped, but they couldn’t escape that fate against Buffalo playing their second game in less than 24 hours.

“Obviously these last two games weren’t good enough. We didn’t put our game out there long enough to give ourselves a great chance to win games the way we did for such a long, extended streak,” said David Backes. “But ready or not we’re going to be playing every other day almost for the rest of the year, and there’s no time to get out of rhythm. We just need to find our pace and take the rest when we can get, but bring it to the rink when we’re playing for keeps.”

Instead it was a game where the Bruins skated with tired legs at the end of a long five game road trip, and will see more of the same with 24 games in 44 days to close out the season starting with the two games this past weekend. The B’s don’t want to use it as an excuse, but understand that it’s something they will need to push through.

“I thought we looked slow today. They looked fast in our end and closing [off plays]. We’ve been good back-to-back, so that was a little surprising that we didn’t have more juice. We found it in the second [period], but you can’t get behind consistently and expect to fight back. We just need to be better early, and find a way to stay in the game,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had things going our way pretty well, so now it’s a bit of adversity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. We went through it at the start of the year and it us a better hockey club going through that stretch.

“Now we’re going through a bit of it now, and the hope is it will make us a better hockey club down the road. It isn’t getting easier with our schedule going forward, so that’s going to be on us to get mentally dialed more back in there.”

Clearly losing back-to-back regulation games for the first time in three plus months isn’t exactly a cause for panic, and the Bruins prepared for some choppy waters with the way they piled up points in game after game when things were going well. But the easy prediction for this Bruins team was that things would get very difficult for them in the last couple of months of the regular season, and that rough road has already begun with a five game road trip where they lost three out of the five games, including losses to bad teams in Vancouver and Buffalo.

The Bruins will get Monday completely away from the rink to rest and recharge at home coming off their longest road trip of the season, but then it will be right back into the grind with another game on Tuesday. It’s the new reality for the Black and Gold for the rest of the season, so they’d better find a way to get used to it.

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Bruins grind their way to a win in Arizona

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AP Photo

Bruins grind their way to a win in Arizona

Here are some talking points from the Bruins' 2-1 win over the Coyotes on Saturday night. . .

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk ended up getting the game-winning goal in the first period when he and Brad Marchand played the two-man game on a rush up the ice. Marchand was able to crash the net and get the first shot on Darcy Kuemper. The Arizona goalie made the initial save, but then DeBrusk crashed the net and fired home the rebound for his eighth goal of the season. DeBrusk has been red hot recently with five goals and seven points in his last seven games, and most of that offense has been generated by being active around the front of the net. DeBrusk finished with five shot attempts and two hits in 15:20 of ice time and has really taken it up another notch when the B’s needed him to over the last few weeks.

BLACK EYE: On the good side, Oliver Ekman-Larsson played 26:20 of ice time and generated some offensive chances for the Coyotes. On the bad side, Ekman-Larsson was on the ice for both of the goals that the Bruins scored in a 2-1 game and he took a really bad interference penalty on Jake DeBrusk at one point during the game. While it’s clear that Ekman-Larsson has talent and he’s now the captain of the Desert Dogs, he just has too many wrinkles and flaws in his game that take away from the puck-moving abilities and offensive things he brings to the ice. It’s probably why he’s a career minus-71 despite his talent level at the NHL level.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins looked like they were shot out of a cannon early in the game as they scored a pair of goals in the first three minutes of the game, and did exactly what you’d hope to do with a depleted roster playing the third game in four days on the road. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored the game’s first goal and then 90 seconds later Jake DeBrusk chipped in with his own goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. The Bruins simply hung on for dear life after that and managed to survive a second period where they put together just three shots on net, and packed things in defensively with a roster missing so many of their best players. It was a great blueprint to win a road hockey game and that’s exactly what the Bruins did.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jaroslav Halak didn’t play very well in the 6-3 loss to Colorado at the start of the road trip, and that was a second subpar outing in the last few weeks after he was pulled in the blowout home loss to Vancouver as well. So it was important for the veteran netminder to step up and play well, and that’s exactly what he did in a one-goal win over the Arizona Coyotes where there was really no margin for error. Halak stopped 31-of-32 shots including 11 saves in the third period with the B’s closely guarding a 2-1 lead and didn’t buckle even as a hungry Coyotes bunch tried to at least push things to overtime with a lively third-period effort. The Bruins are going to need near flawless goaltending from Halak and Tuukka Rask as they navigate through the schedule with an undermanned roster, and that’s what they got in Arizona.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of goals for Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in his NHL career after picking up a rebound score in front just a couple of minutes into an eventual win in Arizona. Given the high hopes for JFK within the Bruins organization, they hope it’s the first of many.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we persevered. The second period got away from us, and we had a conversation about Colorado and not letting things get away from us. I thought we didn’t do that.” –Bruce Cassidy, to NESN on the gritty 2-1 win over the Coyotes.  

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Highlights from the Bruins' 2-1 win over Coyotes

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AP Photo

Highlights from the Bruins' 2-1 win over Coyotes

FINAL SCORE:  Bruins 2, Coyotes 1

FROM JOE HAGGERTY

1. Nice bounce-back from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson on Saturday as the rookie center scored the game’s first goal after crashing the net and popping him the rebound of a Noel Acciari wraparound shot. JFK had been quiet in the last couple of games while still centering the kid line with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen, but he was energized after getting matched with the hard-hitting Acciari on his line. It’s the first career NHL game for the rookie as he’s still trying to lock down the third line center job with the Bruins.

2. Jake DeBrusk scored again on Saturday night in Arizona, and now has five goals and seven points in the last seven games. The second-year forward is another winger that looks energized by the new line combination while playing early in the game with Brad Marchand and Joakim Nordstrom in a truly new-look forward line due to the Patrice Bergeron injury. One good thing for DeBrusk is that he’s been able to produce and score no matter where he’s been put in the lineup and we’re seeing that now.  

3. The Bruins managed just three shots on net and maybe one or two scoring chances for the entire second period. Bruins fans better get used to it because the B’s coaching staff clearly couldn’t just roll out lines as they’ve done in the past because they’re missing their entire top-4 defensemen pairings and missing their two best defenders in Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Instead, it’s more of a “[Proceed with Caution] with all the injuries it’s about scrapping for goals early, locking things down offensively while playing a conservative shutdown mode and then hanging on for dear life while generating little offense. 

BOX SCORE.

BRUINS RECORD: 11-6-3

HIGHLIGHTS:

JFK'S FIRST CAREER GOAL 

DEBRUSK MAKES IT 2-0

COYOTES RESPOND

UP NEXT

WEDNESDAY: at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (NESN)

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