Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at the Honda Center:
1) The Bruins can’t afford to be the comeback kids anymore
At least not until the cavalry arrives with some more reserves. The B’s have done a good job of battling to stay in games and have even engineered some pretty solid comebacks to salvage points along the way, but they are so undermanned and outgunned due to injuries that they can’t dig their way out of early deficits. They simply don’t have the offensive firepower five-on-five. They aren’t functioning normally on the power play with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner out and they are being forced to work extremely hard for any offense they’re getting. Playing from behind and chasing the game just exacerbates all of these things and creates a pattern where the B’s are constantly climbing uphill. So, the Bruins allowing the first goal in 11 of their 17 games isn’t a good sign for a team that’s having trouble finishing plays and ideally employs a style where they’re playing with a lead. Instead, there are too many games such as Wednesday night where it feels like a Herculean effort to just to get things back to even and every little mistake turns into a death sentence.
2) The Bruins can’t afford mental mistakes and focus problems from veterans
They certainly can’t survive them. Zdeno Chara has been very good this season and he’s had to be, given how many bodies the Bruins are missing. Wednesday night was one of the bad nights for the 40-year-old captain. To make matters worse on a night where he was a minus-3 overall, Chara had an uncharacteristic mental error at the worst possible time when he stopped playing to protest a call after he was getting a delayed penalty call on a Corey Perry drive to the net. Chara broke it up but was going to get called for a stick infraction, but instead, he lost focus to look at the ref for an instant and exactly at that time Josh Manson fired a puck off his skate directly in front of the net. That was Anaheim’s go-ahead goal after the Bruins had worked hard to tie it and the B’s started losing control of the game at that point. So, on the first night of a back-to-back on the West Coast, the Bruins played Chara a whopping 25:33 of ice time for a minus-3 performance where he clearly wasn’t at his best. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of hope that it’s going to be any better on Thursday night in Los Angeles. That doesn’t bode well for a Bruins team struggling to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot.
3) Danton Heinen should be in Boston to stay
He’s still not exactly what he’s going to be when he’s fully developed as a player, but the crafty, skilled winger knows how to make plays in the NHL no matter who he’s playing with. Even better, he’s also showing some of the grit and battle that even skill players are going to need in order to create offense. On the goal he scored, Heinen won a couple of battles to extend the possession of the puck in the offensive zone and then took it straight to the middle of the net. Heinen waited out John Gibson, then lifted a backhanded bid after the Anaheim goalie impatiently dropped to the ice. Heinen, 22, is sixth on the Bruins in points (eight) despite starting the season in Providence and is showing the kind of talent that made him a top prospect coming out of the University of Denver. Heinen is on pace for 18 goals and 48 points and those are the kind of numbers they would gladly take from a young player in their time of need. Now, the Bruins just need Heinen to get even more dominant in terms of getting the puck on his stick and making things happen offensively.
*Noel Acciari was a beast for the Bruins scoring a late goal, leading all players with 10 registered hits and blocking three shots despite having just returned from a broken finger.
*Heinen finished with the goal and three shot attempts in 14:26 of ice time and was one of the few Bruins players able to break through for some offense and create their own scoring chance that was a little closer to the net.
*Congrats to the Northeastern University hockey program for creating a pair of players, Kevin Roy and Josh Manson, who both scored for the Ducks. It was Roy’s first as an NHL player. For the Bruins, who covet American college hockey players, it had to burn them to watch the Ducks using that formula to beat them.
*Zdeno Chara finished a minus-3 and had a distracted play in the second period where he was complaining about a penalty call, and allowed Manson to fire a puck off his skate when he stood right in front of the Boston net. It was not the B’s captain’s best night by a long stretch.
*Frank Vatrano finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and didn’t play with the same spirit, physicality and energy that he showed at home coming off being a healthy scratch. Vatrano needs to play every night the way he played last weekend at TD Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
*Riley Nash had a fairly strong game, but he also had a pair of golden scoring chances where he was stopped by Gibson both tries including a double-stacked pad beauty in the second period and a clean breakaway in the third period. With so many players out, the Bruins need Nash to step up and finish some of those plays.