Bruins

Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

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Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

BOSTON – While the Bruins once again showed a gutsy effort Monday night with a rag-tag group in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild despite all the injuries, there were also some lessons to be learned from the game.

Perhaps none was bigger than the way the Bruins played in the third period with a big lead, and specifically, the way David Pastrnak was managing the puck with the Bruins rolling and the Wild teetering on the edge of waving the white flag. The 21-year-old made some high-risk choices with the puck that allowed the Wild to gather confidence, hope and draw a little closer in the final 20 minutes with a couple of goals.

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One was a pass back through the middle of the ice in the defensive zone when he was already at the blue line in the D-zone, and the other was an inability to make a play to hold onto the puck at the offensive blue line that led to Eric Staal’s shorthanded goal. The Staal goal was also on Danton Heinen for throwing a pass back to him that kind of handcuffed Pastrnak while under some pressure. It was something Bruce Cassidy was thinking about postgame.

“We have to manage the puck on an entry on the power play. I think we made a poor decision. We didn’t manage it well in the offensive zone and all of a sudden they are coming back at us. But again, as a coach, I’ll look at who was on the ice, the time and score situation, have to examine that from my end,” said Cassidy. “From the players' end, they have to understand time and score as well, manage the puck. You want to score obviously when you’re on the power play, but not at all costs.

“You have to understand where you’re at in the game. That’s essentially what happened. We had a turnover, ended up in our net. We had three of those the other night against Washington, so that’s obviously an area of concern. But a lot of teams do have turnovers. We just have to make sure we minimize ours and that that’s what happened in the third I think to lead to their chances.”

The negative plays late in the game were in stark contrast to some really nice plays that Pastrnak made in the first 40 minutes to help the Bruins build a big lead, and he did finish with an assist in 18:27 of ice time. The Bruins outshot Minnesota. 15-4 in the second period in perhaps their most dominant stretch this season, but it led the way to some sloppiness and unnecessary fanciness in the final 20 minutes.

But there was a lot of truth in a Pastrnak box score that finished with him at a minus-1, and with as many giveaways (three) as shots on net (three) while getting careless at a time when the Bruins should have kept it simple. It’s all part of the learning process for a still-young player, of course, and it’s a conversation that Cassidy was planning on having with his young star winger.

“It’s a tough job right there. It’s a good question,” said Cassidy, when asked how he’d handle that kind of situation with Pastrnak. “Sometimes you’re going to give him some rope. Hopefully, he doesn’t hang himself with it. Other times you are going to pull back. That’s just a feel...sometimes it matters how the rest of the group is going. Who else is in the lineup? Are you putting a better player out there in that position? Sometimes you just send a hard message and it doesn’t matter who's there. Hey, [sometimes] enough is enough.

“There’s different ways to do it in game. [The next day], there are conversations. Hey, do you want to be a leader? You’re getting into that phase of your career. Is that how leaders play? Kind of see what he thinks of the whole situation. He might have a different answer, so those are the challenges that coach’s face trying to grow his game without shutting him right off. So that’s what we’ll do [at the next day’s practice].”

The good news is that the Bruins won and Pastrnak has rebounded nicely before from previously adventurous games with the puck, so the upcoming two-game trip through New York and Toronto should feature renewed efforts to manage the puck situationally. 
 

Bruins vs. Lightning Talking Points: Chris Wagner bringing offense, energy for B's

Bruins vs. Lightning Talking Points: Chris Wagner bringing offense, energy for B's

GOLD STAR: The Bruins are going to continue to have trouble against the deeper teams in the league, and that means struggles against the second and third lines on quality hockey clubs.

That’s what happened against the Lightning on Wednesday afternoon with guys like Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn doing the damage for the Bolts. Johnson scored the game-winner with less than two minutes to go in the third period when he slammed home the rebound of a Yanni Gourde blast after the Lightning began tilting the ice in their favor toward the end of the game.

Johnson finished with a goal and two points, a plus-1 and four shot attempts in 12:53 of ice time for Tampa Bay while using his speed and creativity to manufacture offensive chances against different B’s lines.

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BLACK EYE: He was better in the first half of the game than the second half, but Zdeno Chara didn’t look all that good against the fast, skilled and deep Lightning group. He looked a step behind in the early going when the Bruins allowed a number of odd-man rushes leading up to the first goal, and then he and Charlie McAvoy both had a mental error on a too many men on the ice penalty that led to Tampa’s second goal.

Chara settled in as things went along and finished with an assist on a Chris Wagner goal that tied things up, so it wasn’t a total loss for the 43-year-old captain. But many are going to be looking at him to see how his skating legs respond to the long layoff from hockey over the last five months, and he had definite troubles in pockets of Wednesday’s game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins got the ice tilted on them in the third period when the Lightning outshot the B’s by a 16-9 margin and really laid it on in the final few minutes of the game before notching the winning goal.

It was a Bruins turnover from Brandon Carlo in the final few minutes as they were breaking the puck out that developed into Tampa counter-attacking and putting heavy pressure on the Bruins defense. Ultimately, the Tampa attack broke in all alone for the Tyler Johnson rebound goal after an initial Yanni Gourde blast. Carlo was another player that didn’t have a particularly strong game in 16:43 of ice time and probably needs to step up his game a little bit with the real Stanley Cup Playoffs less than a week away.  

HONORABLE MENTION: The best Bruins player through the first two games of the round robin has been fourth line winger Chris Wagner. The B’s forward has scored goals in each of the first two games and potted the game-tying score in the second period when he whacked home the rebound of a Zdeno Chara point blast.

Wagner finished with two shots on net, four total shot attempts, a team-high six hits and a pair of blocked shots in just 10:55 of ice time. If some of the other Bruins forwards were playing with the same level of energy, spirit and relentlessness right now, the Bruins would be in much better shape than facing a possible No. 4 seed to start the four rounds of the postseason. Wagner is bringing it right now.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the top seed is no longer achievable for the Bruins after losing both of the first two round robin games in regulation, and now they’ll need to play for final placement in the Sunday game against Washington. A loss could pit them against the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought it was a good effort. I thought we took it to them [after a tough start] and had some pretty good looks, some chances and tied the game up. Obviously, you want to give yourself a better chance and go into overtime and find a way. Not the result that you want but definitely felt more like [a good effort] tonight.” –Patrice Bergeron, on a loss to Tampa that started to feel a lot more like a typical Bruins game after two sluggish losses in the Toronto bubble.

Bruins vs. Lightning Overreactions: Jake DeBrusk's struggles are concerning

Bruins vs. Lightning Overreactions: Jake DeBrusk's struggles are concerning

It's hard to find much to like about the Boston Bruins' performance through two NHL round robin games.

The Bruins lost Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers and again Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a result, the B's cannot finish any higher than third in the round robin standings, which means they won't be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs despite winning the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season.

Outside of a few impressive individual performances, there are plenty of areas for concern involving this Bruins team. The Bruins' top line -- arguably the best trio in the league -- has one point in these two games. Patrice Bergeron earned an assist on Charlie McAvoy's second-period goal against Tampa Bay. His linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have been held scoreless to this point. The second line has played even worse. David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk have generated almost nothing offensively. 

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Time is running out for the Bruins to analyze their play and make the needed corrections. Sunday's round robin finale versus the Washington Capitals is Boston's final game before the first round of the playoffs. 

Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins-Lightning and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1. Jake DeBrusk's play is a concern
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Bruins won't advance very far in the playoffs if their secondary scoring doesn't show up. One player who's relied on to provide this offensive production is DeBrusk, but he's been totally invisible through two round robin games. DeBrusk has zero goals and zero assists in two games, and after tallying two shots against the Flyers last weekend, he posted zero shots versus the Lightning.  The Bruins were out shot 11-4 during 5-on-5 action when DeBrusk was on the ice Wednesday.

DeBrusk scored a career-high 27 goals in 68 games last season, and he was unable to match that scoring rate this season with 19 goals in 65 games. The 23-year-old left winger scored only one goal in the last 14 games of the regular season, so his struggles in the Toronto bubble are not exactly new. DeBrusk is at his best when he's driving hard to the net and being aggressive, and we haven't seen enough of that in the round robin.

Let's not forget DeBrusk will be a restricted free agent in the offseason. He's playing for his first sizable contract, so he certainly doesn't need any more motivation to improve.

2. Bruins will have a really tough Round 1 opponent
Verdict: Not an overreaction

One of the consequences of the B's playing so poorly in the round robin is they will earn themselves a difficult first-round matchup. If the B's finish as the No. 4 seed, which is pretty likely at the moment, they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Penguins are upset by the Montreal Canadiens in their qualifying round series, Boston would take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 1.

The Penguins would be the worst possible first-round opponent for the B's. Pittsburgh is loaded with veterans, many of whom were part of the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the best players of their generation, and they both have scored at better than a point-per-game pace in their playoff careers. The Hurricanes are a well-balanced team that ranked 11th in goals scored, eighth in power play percentage and fourth in penalty killing during the regular season. Carolina also is an elite puck possession team (fourth-best shot attempt percentage at 5-on-5) and gave up the third-fewest scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the regular season.

The Bruins' lack of results in the round robin has made their path back to the Stanley Cup Final a lot harder than it needed to be. It's a tough break for a team that won the Presidents' Trophy, but the B's knew the importance of the round robin and have still played terribly. 

3. Tuukka Rask will struggle to begin the playoffs
Verdict: Overreaction

Rask gave up a somewhat soft goal in the first period when the Lightning opened the scoring. The B's goaltender lost track of the puck and Lightning center Brayden Point was able to capitalize in front of the net. The Lightning scored again later in the first period on a double deflection that Rask didn't deserve much blame on. After that, Rask settled in and gave the Bruins a chance to get back into the game, and they responded by tying the score with goals from McAvoy and Chris Wagner.

Rask played his best in the third period with several important saves on quality Lightning scoring chances, including this one to deny Point.

Rask did give up the winning goal when Tyler Johnson pounced on a juicy rebound and scored to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 1:27 remaining. But overall, Boston's No. 1 netminder played well enough for fans to be optimistic that he'll be ready to perform at a high level when Round 1 of the playoffs begins. 

Wednesday's matchup was only Rask's second game since the season was paused in March. He was the league's best goaltender during the regular season and is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. There's no reason to panic over his playoff readiness at this time.

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