BOSTON — The Bruins have most definitely hit a rut in their regular season schedule with just four wins in their last 15 games.
The B’s have put together a 4-5-6 record over the last month with a slew of overtime and shootout losses, but they tossed down an absolute stinker on Saturday afternoon with their 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden.
The Bruins are 10th in the league in offense this season averaging 3.31 goals per game, but they have averaged just 2.6 goals per game (39 goals in 15 games, which is helped by a seven -goal outburst against a disinterested Washington team headed into the Christmas break) over the last month while hitting the skids.
“I think right now we know the goals aren’t coming easily, so you know it’s gonna be, every goal matters. So, I think that’s in everybody’s head. It’s just the stretch we’re in right now,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “You go through the opposite where nothing seems to faze you, and we went through that and came back every night it seemed in this building for a stretch. Right now, we’ve got to find a balance where we get the lead and play the right way, protect the lead. I think that’s how we play our best hockey.”
In Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Oilers, the Bruins managed to score on a power play just a few minutes into the game with David Pastrnak’s 31st of the season, but that was it for a Boston team struggling to generate secondary offense and even strength goals.
Bruce Cassidy said the offensive slowdown is “in their heads” while embroiled in so many one-goal games as of late, and in particular he had some pointed words for the second-line pair of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.
DeBrusk was benched midway through Saturday’s game for the second time in a week when he coughed up a puck that led to Edmonton’s first goal, and eventually he was replaced by Anders Bjork on Krejci’s left side as things went along.
It might be that Cassidy is beginning to warm to the idea of trying somebody else as a long term left wing for Krejci, because DeBrusk has become a pretty one-dimensional player, only contributing goal-scoring, but not much else when he isn’t lighting the lamp.
“I don’t know. I’d say everything but I don’t know if that’s fair,” said Cassidy, when asked what’s gone awry with the chemistry between DeBrusk and Krejci. “Right now, they just haven’t connected for whatever reason. I don’t want to put it on one individual or the other. As a line they’re not [clicking]. Jake’s been in the league for 180-some-odd games? He should be able to look after himself too at this point on a nightly basis, and they should be feeding off of one another. We need to see a little bit more attack out of them.
“I just think they’ve been too quiet for how good they are. And I don’t have a great answer for what the reason is, it might just be a stretch of the season we look back and say, ‘Hey, we’re off.’ Or it might be something a little more. We pulled them apart today, we’ll see how it looks going forward.”
Over the 15-game stretch, Krejci has just two goals and seven points with a minus-4 rating and DeBrusk has five goals, eight points and a minus-8 that really stands out as problematic given some of the goals against he’s been on the ice for.
To be fair, nobody has really been lighting the lamp on the second or third line lately for the Bruins, and that includes Bjork, Charlie Coyle, Danton Heinen and anybody else they have been rotating into a top-9 role with the B’s.
But given that DeBrusk has now been shown the bench in-game twice during the last week, the Bruins' coaching staff is not seeing enough out of him on a regular basis.
“[DeBrusk’s] biggest asset is his foot speed, so he has to use that. [He needs to] be a little bit more tenacious on pucks and create some of his own shots, to take a basketball term. [He] doesn’t always need Krech [David Krejci] to get him the puck; go chase one down or win a foot race. We chipped a lot of pucks today, the puck was bouncing all over. [It] would have been a good night for [him to] find his own shot one-on-one.
“Edmonton had a couple of guys do that, beat us a couple times one-on-one. You have to try that a little bit of that stuff, be harder on it. I think that’s how Anders [Bjork] has turned the corner a little bit, that’s what Marchy [Brad Marchand] does, Pasta [David Pastrnak]. Little bit is on Jake to initiate, have some second effort on pucks and some will on it to create some offense.”
Cassidy left it very much wide open how much he’s going to tinker with the forward lines moving forward, but it seems pretty clear there are changes coming.
There’s only so much the B’s head coach can do unless they get an infusion of top-6 goal-scoring from somewhere given how little they are getting right now from a healthy selection of their forward group.
But it sure sounds like Cassidy might be looking to separate DeBrusk and Krejci moving forward after another fruitless game in a stretch where the Bruins need to squeeze more goals out of their roster.