The Boston Bruins had more than enough chances to take control of their Black Friday matinee game against the New York Rangers at TD Garden.
The B's had a plus-19 edge in shot attempts and a plus-7 advantage in scoring chances during 5-on-5 action. Boston also had several odd man rushes that didn't produce a goal.
The Bruins' failure to capitalize on these scoring opportunities, in addition to some lackluster defense, resulted in a 5-2 loss to the rival Rangers.
Next up for the B's is a Sunday night matchup versus the struggling Vancouver Canucks on home ice.
Here are three takeaways from Bruins-Rangers.
1) Bruins' defense disappointing again
The Bruins have been hurt by way too many defensive breakdowns this season, and this problem reared its ugly head again versus the Rangers.
The Rangers created way too many quality scoring chances, evidenced by their nine high-danger attempts in all situations, per Natural Stat Trick. They would have scored six goals if Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman didn't make diving stick saves in the first and second periods.
New York's last two non-empty goals highlighted the issues in Boston's defense.
The go-ahead tally was scored by Rangers winger Artemi Panarin, who beat Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo to the front of net and deflected a puck past Swayman to put his team up 3-2 with 8:15 remaining in the third period.
The amount of times the Bruins have been beaten to the front of the net on goals this season is astounding. They have not shown enough resistance in that area of the ice. Carlo cannot get beaten that easily in a dangerous area, especially against an elite scorer like Panarin.
The Rangers' fourth goal was set up by a power move from Julien Gauthier, who fought through Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril with ease before feeding Alexis Lafreniere for the goal.
The Bruins are not going to be a legit contender this season if these breakdowns in their own zone are not fixed soon.
2) Bruins still lacking statement win
The Bruins had a glorious opportunity to make a statement Friday against a good Rangers team in front of a national television audience on ABC, and they blew it.
The B's still lack a signature win this season. After losing to the Rangers, the Bruins are now 1-6-0 versus opponents currently in a playoff spot. The only victory in those seven games was a shootout win over the Florida Panthers last month.
Boston has been outscored 28-10 in these seven games. They haven't even been competitive in several of these losses.
The Bruins need to improve versus quality opponents ASAP because their upcoming schedule is full of these games. Six of Boston's next nine matchups are against teams in a postseason spot right now and/or reached the playoffs last season.
Luckily for the Bruins, they have two very winnable games against inferior opponents in the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings over the next four days before the toughest part of that nine-game stretch really begins.
3) Craig Smith is finding his groove
The Bruins are a much better and more dangerous team offensively when Craig Smith is healthy and being aggressive in the attacking zone.
After battling an upper body injury over the first month of the season, the veteran right winger is starting to find his game again.
Smith scored in the first period against the Rangers. He capitalized on a turnover by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba and beat goaltender Igor Shesterkin to give Boston a 1-0 lead.
Smith has tallied three points (two goals, one assist) in his last four games. He was held without a single point in his first eight games of the season. Not only is Smith finding the scoresheet more often, he's shooting the puck with more frequency. He's tallied 17 shots on net over the last four games, compared to just 18 shots over his first eight games.
Secondary scoring has been a weakness for the Bruins throughout the 2021-22 campaign. One of the best ways to improve this issue would be players such as Smith providing consistent offense on the second and third lines.
His recent resurgence is a very encouraging sign for the B's.