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David Pastrnak's hat trick leads Boston Bruins to 8-2 rout of Detroit Red Wings

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David Pastrnak's hat trick leads Boston Bruins to 8-2 rout of Detroit Red Wings

BOSTON -- The talking points from the Bruins' 8-2 win over the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden:

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak ended with a hat trick and once again sparked the Bruins offense with a highlight-reel move in the first period. Pastrnak took the puck down low, carried it all the way up the ice through a Detroit defense that totally backed off him, and then fired a laser beam to the far top corner of the net for an electrifying goal. It didn’t end there, obviously, as Pastrnak scored two more goals and finished with three goals and a plus-3 in 13:34 of ice time. The second goal was just as pretty as Patrice Bergeron threw Pastrnak a no-look, cross-ice pass and the 22-year-old right winger didn’t miss a beat in rifling a one-timer to the top corner of the net. In all Pastrnak has seven goals and nine points in five games to start the season, and has essentially done all of that damage in the last four games following the opening night debacle against Washington.

BLACK EYE: Boy, was it a tough night for young Detroit defenseman Joe Hicketts. Not only did he get dismissively slapped away like a little child by Zdeno Chara during a first-period scuffle between the Bruins and Red Wings players, but he also finished with a game-worst minus-3 on the evening. Hicketts actually had 23:59 of ice time for the Red Wings in an impressive workhorse amount, and threw five hits while trying to play a physical style. But Hicketts clearly isn’t ready to shut down players the caliber of Boston’s lineup at this early point in his career, and he should think two, three or even four times before tangling with Chara anytime soon. Like a lot of his young Detroit teammates, Hicketts is probably going to take his lumps this season.

TURNING POINT: While many, this humble hockey writer included, would point to the Pastrnak first-period thing of beauty as the event that energized the Bruins, the players ibeg to differ. They instead pointed to Noel Acciari getting into it with Dylan Larkin a little bit earlier in the period after the two had collided violently in the neutral zone. Larkin came back and gave Acciari a couple of shoves to the head area, and Acciari finally responded by dropping the gloves ready to handle it the honorable way. At that point Larkin backed down and gave the Bruins a power play when he was slapped with a double-minor for roughing at the end of the incident. The Bruins players said that exchange woke them up from a bit of a sleepy first period, and got them going for the rest of the game.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Finishing up behind Pastrnak was Jake DeBrusk with two goals of his own on the night. It was the first two goals of the season for the second-year winger and finally might allow him to relax a little bit after pressing following a scoreless first four games of the season. The first goal was a great play with David Krejci intercepting a puck in the neutral zone and then feeding DeBrusk behind the Red Wings defense for a breakaway chance. DeBrusk went for a five hole bid that pin-balled around Jonathan Bernier’s pads before trickling over the goal line, and extending Boston’s lead in the second period. DeBrusk scored later in a redirected shot while attacking the net as well, and finished with two goals and seven shot attempts with a plus-2 rating in 13:50 of ice time. Even better it looks like DeBrusk might be adjusting to playing on the right wing, which could open up some possibilities for either Danton Heinen or Ryan Donato on the left side with them.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 22-6 – the amount that the Bruins have outscored the Sabres, Senators, Oilers and Red Wings over the last four games after losing the humiliating 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on opening night.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t really think about it. I just go out there and play hockey, and enjoy every moment on the ice. Trying to get better every practice and every game, and just, you know, having fun. I love the game and I’m not focusing on if I’m going to score a goal or three.” – David Pastrnak, on whether he’s trying to bulk up his goal-scoring totals this season with seven goals in five games to start the year. 

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Losing streak revealing a Bruins flaw that could be fatal if not addressed

Losing streak revealing a Bruins flaw that could be fatal if not addressed

TAMPA  – The problems are many when a team has lost five in a row as the Bruins have.

It wasn’t a desperate Bruins dressing room in the aftermath of their 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night at Amalie Arena, nor should it be. The B’s still hold an eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division despite being in the throes of their first losing streak of the season.

As Tuukka Rask said succinctly afterward, “We hate to lose, but we’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that [Brett] Ritchie said.”

A strong, winning effort against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night would salvage a rough trip and get the Bruins spinning in the right direction in short order.

That’s not really the problem.

The issue with the Bruins is the same old problems that cropped up against the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final and two years ago in the second-round series against Tampa Bay. The flaws are springing up again with a series of heavy, intense playoff-style games against quality opponents.

When the Bruins go up against opponents such as Colorado, Washington and Tampa Bay, the offense gets one-dimensional and the effort to score becomes challenging if the special teams are playing at a dominant clip. 

Bruce Cassidy sounded the alarm about it after watching another loss to Tampa Bay where the Bruins scored just enough to lose. There wasn’t enough going on offensively aside from the "Perfection Line" accounting for a first-period lead and a late, desperate goal from John Moore.

“The top line again was creating. We’re just not getting anything from the middle of the lineup in terms of offense,” lamented Cassidy. “You need four lines to produce for you in this league on a regular basis. It might not be [on Thursday]. It might be Saturday, but you need some offense to sort of balance things out. We need some guys to get going here a little bit. [They need] to at least find their opportunities and then they’ll go in. I’m not sure they’re even finding their opportunities yet, so that’s step one that they are chasing.”

Can Cassidy put his finger on what the issue is with the middle lines?

“Some of it is inside. You start playing some good teams that are fast, Colorado, Washington and Tampa Bay. It’s almost like playoff hockey in December. A lot of those guys in that room have lived it and they know what it’s about,” said Cassidy. “Make a decision, do you want to play that way or not? Then some of it is self-inflicted where we won neutral zone face-offs, and harmless kind of plays where it doesn’t get in, we turn it over and then take penalties against a potent power play. Is it the PK? Well, it’s a great power play and we really didn’t help ourselves in those situations.”

Cassidy is spot-on about not enough from the supporting players in the kind of games the B’s will be in the postseason. Jake DeBrusk finished with zero points and had zero shots on net in two of the three games against Colorado, Washington and Tampa. Danton Heinen had zero points and a minus-4 in those three games with five shots on net. Anders Bjork picked up an assist in the loss to Tampa Bay, but managed just two shots on net in the three games against the Avs, Capitals and Lightning. Brett Ritchie has zero points and a minus-2 in the three games since coming back from injury. Even David Krejci has no points, a minus-1 rating and just two shots on net in those three games.

The dilemma facing the Bruins is this: Is this just a preview of what’s going to eventually doom them in the postseason if nothing is done about it?

Certainly, the Bruins weren’t playing their best in the loss to Colorado, but the efforts against Washington and Tampa Bay were more focused and had the kind of urgency that Boston has played with most of the season. And it still wasn’t enough when push came to shove and underlying flaws came forward for a team that’s a little small, a little short on real scoring depth against quality teams and beatable going up against big, deep teams with a physical defensemen corps. 

One would hope that Don Sweeney and Cam Neely were watching closely the past week and took these losses for what they are. The Bruins are showing that they are going to need some help when things get tough in the postseason and that they could use at least one more viable source of offense among their top-six forwards.

They have a bunch of talented kids up front who have shown a propensity to disappear when things get tough against the hard teams and that isn’t going to help the Bruins much this spring. There’s enough of a sample size now to predict that isn’t going to change when it comes to DeBrusk, Bjork, Heinen and Ritchie. The Bruins need to do something about it ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

Whether it’s kicking the tires on Taylor Hall, or a more realistic target such as Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli, the Bruins have shown the past few games that they need some outsource things for help up front if they want to finish what they started last spring.

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Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

TAMPA BAY – The Bruins have dropped five games in a row for the first time this season, including four straight regulation losses, as their lead in the Atlantic Division has shrunk to single digits for the first time in weeks.

The latest setback was a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday night that gives them losses in three of the first four games on a road trip ending this weekend against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning scored a pair of power play goals and once again, it looked like the B’s just didn’t have enough to get over the hump in the third period after they’d come up just a little short against Washington the previous night.

The offense has slowed with just 20 goals over the last nine games since blowing up for eight scores at the Bell Centre, and the power play has been a shadow of its former self while injuries forced the Bruins to tinker with the personnel. The penalty kill was the problem against the Lightning with Tampa Bay scoring on two of their three power play opportunities. Meanwhile, the B’s are getting very little offense from anybody aside from their top line once again.

The Bruins have enough veterans that they aren’t going to hit the panic button particularly given where they are in the standings, but some results are becoming necessary soon before it spirals out of control.

“It sucks to lose. We hate to lose here. But we’ve played decent. You’re not going to win them all. Obviously, you’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that [Brett] Ritchie said,” said Tuukka Rask, who allowed three goals on 31 shots in defeat. “You don’t want to lose too many games in a row and you’ve got to put a stop to it. It’s been a tough road trip, but we’ve got one more game left and hopefully we can finish it off on a high note.

“We have experience and we’ve been through a lot. We recognize when we suck and when we don’t. I don’t think we’ve sucked. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of bounces, getting a lead and then playing with it. For the most part it’s just playing the right way and then you lose some of these tight games.”

The good news is that the Bruins have played much better against better opponents in Washington and Tampa Bay over the last couple of games after playing down to competition like Ottawa and Chicago in the games prior to that. But the losses aren’t going to turn into wins until they execute with a little more precision in certain instances where penalties, special teams play and a lack of secondary offense hurt them in a big way.

“We gave up two goals tonight where we’d won neutral zone face-offs. Harmless kind of plays where the puck doesn’t get in, we turn it over and then we take penalties against a potent power play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We didn’t help ourselves in those situations. These are instances where guys need to be better, make the right play and execute.

“Even late in the game we have a chance to tie it up on a backdoor pass and we don’t execute. The power play was disappointing. We don’t execute. Some of it is that we’re playing to what we’re capable of, or what we think we’re capable of.”

Given that Florida is one of the teams most closely chasing them in the division and their Atlantic lead has almost been halved over the course of this current road trip, one would expect the Bruins are going to dig deep for a winning effort against the Panthers on Saturday. If not, then this continues to become the worst losing streak the B’s have experienced in a couple of seasons where they’ve previously managed to steer clear of the extended losing stretches.

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