Bruins

Plenty of encouraging developments for Bruins in OT loss to Maple Leafs

Plenty of encouraging developments for Bruins in OT loss to Maple Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins ended up on the losing side of Saturday night’s Atlantic Division showdown even if they picked up the overtime point.

There’s some consolation they didn’t come away empty-handed in a showdown with the Maple Leafs and have come away with points in each of the last two games against Toronto and Tampa Bay though they haven’t won either of them.

But it’s also a clear indicator the Bruins have some things to work on that may have been masked a bit by their 5-1-0 start to the regular season when they didn’t face anybody of consequence outside of a road game in Las Vegas. The scoring imbalance, the looseness defensively and the inconsistency in focus, execution and effort from period to period have been problematic at times even as the B’s have jumped out to a pretty good start.

The good news in all of this is that they are starting to trend in the right direction. After mulling AHL call-ups and going through a six-game stretch where nobody outside of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins, the B’s finally received some secondary scoring outside of their Perfection Line.

Pastrnak still came up with the big goal late in the third period that pushed things to OT against Toronto in the 4-3 loss, and we could spend an entire column on the right-winger currently being on pace for 93 goals and 154 points this season.

But the Bruins also got goals from a couple of young forwards they need more from offensively in Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, and that’s a development that will make the B’s a far better hockey club in the long run.

“It was nice. You don’t want to rely on the top guys every night. Obviously they’ve been on fire, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to chip in,” admitted Heinen, who scored his second goal of the season and his first since opening night in Dallas. “It was nice, but it would have been even better if it would have been a win.”

Even better, Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner and Brett Ritchie dented the score sheet for the Black and Gold as well and the B’s got offense from second and third lines that have been MIA this season.

“We definitely had more focus in those aspects,” said DeBrusk, of getting secondary scoring, improving their second-period play and getting more quality five-on-five play against Toronto. “It was talked about and everything wanted to pitch in. I think we put over 40 shots on them, so give their goaltender credit. He gave them a chance to win, but I definitely thought it was a better 5-on-5 game from our side compared to Tampa Bay.”

Other notable players like Charlie McAvoy and Karson Kuhlman still haven’t caught fire, and the B’s fourth line really struggled on Saturday night, but the hope is that things will turn for them as they did for DeBrusk against the Leafs.

The signs of offensive life will quell the talk of making a trade or promoting red-hot Anders Bjork at least in the short term, but it’s a trend that’s going to need to continue with the Bruins.

Another piece of encouragement from the overtime loss?

The Bruins played arguably their best second period on the young season after struggling for the middle 20 minutes for much of the year. The Bruins outshot the Leafs 15-3, controlled play and missed on two separate, wide-open scoring chances on the backdoor when both DeBrusk and Bergeron simply missed the net.

That essentially turned out to be the difference in a one-goal loss in overtime, but the improvement in an area that’s dogged them all year was pretty notable.

“I didn’t like that stretch [in the first period] where we just weren’t competitive enough,” admitted Cassidy. “We were trading chances a bit and it wasn’t going our way, so we need to be harder on the puck. In the O-zone I thought we were one and done, but then as the game went along in the second and third period I thought we were harder on it. It started with Coyle’s play [setting up the DeBrusk goal] where he controlled possession.”

On its face, the Bruins have lost two games in a row and come up a wee bit short in their measuring stick games against their immediate divisional rivals.

But there are arguably more things to be encouraged about in Saturday night’s loss to the Maple Leafs than during many of the empty calorie wins that the Bruins piled up in the season’s first couple of weeks against some of the NHL’s tomato cans.

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Haggerty's Talking Points: Torey Krug's offense shines, David Pastrnak enduring first rough patch

Haggerty's Talking Points: Torey Krug's offense shines, David Pastrnak enduring first rough patch

GOLD STAR: Jonathan Toews hasn’t had a great season as evidenced by just five goals on his ledger for the year, but he had a nice little throwback performance against the Bruins on Thursday night. Toews stripped David Pastrnak of the puck in overtime and then scored on a breakaway at the other end of the ice for the game-winner in a neat little dispatching of the B’s in the extra session.

Toews finished with three shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits, a couple of takeaways and a couple blocked shots to go along with 17-of-28 face-off wins in 19:37 of ice time for the Blackhawks. It was a vintage Toews performance for Chicago in a win for the Blackhawks and it’s something that hasn’t happened nearly enough for him this season.

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak is going through his first tough stretch of the season. He finished with more giveaways (three) than shots on net (two) and also took a pair of minor penalties while pretty clearly getting frustrated with the rough treatment he’s getting from opponents.

It was Pastrnak that went down in overtime with the puck – either by a trip from Jonathan Toews or a flop looking for a call depending on who you are talking to – and created the game-winning goal for Toews at the other end of the ice. Pastrnak has now gone two games without a goal for just the third time all season and is now falling off his 70-goal pace for the season while seemingly getting frustrated by being targeted by the other teams.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was the ends and beginnings of periods where they lost their focus and lost the game. The Bruins allowed two goals in 37 seconds in the closing minutes of the first period to dig themselves a considerable hole against the Blackhawks, and then they coughed up another goal to Chicago in the first 17 seconds of the third period to go down by a 3-0 score.

People will want to talk about the play in overtime that lost it for the Bruins, but it was their wandering focus at points in regulation that ended up saddling them with the loss when it was all said and done. The Bruins eventually lost in OT, and they really deserved to lose based on the way they played for the first 45 or so minutes of the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug scored the game-tying goal for the Bruins in the closing minutes of the third period and deserves the credit for stepping up offensively when the team needed a big play.

Krug finished with the goal along with a team-high seven shots on net and nine shot attempts in 21:28 of ice time. Krug also threw a hit and had a couple of takeaways while generating secondary offense for the Bruins, given that both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have slowed down a little bit in recent days.

It’s going to be interesting to see where Krug is at offensively by the end of the season based on a pretty decent start compared to the very, very slow ones he’s had in recent seasons while coming back from injuries.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12-0-5 – the Bruins continue to have gone without a regulation loss on the home ice at TD Garden after dropping another overtime decision, this time to the Blackhawks after crawling back from a 3-0 hole in the third period.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Complacency? I would say no. Lack of urgency some nights? I would say yes. We’re not pushing as hard as we need to to get to our level. Is that because of where we are [in the Atlantic Division standings], is that because of last year, is that because we feel like we’re a good enough team that we can flip a switch? Probably bits and pieces of all those things, I’m not going to deny it. Our job is to make sure we don’t get complacent. I don’t think we have been, to be honest with you. I think it would show in our record if we were.” –Bruce Cassidy, when asked if he needs to guard against complacency setting in with the Bruins based on their huge lead in the Atlantic Division.

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NHL Highlights: Torey Krug ties it to finish comeback but Bruins fall in OT

NHL Highlights: Torey Krug ties it to finish comeback but Bruins fall in OT

FINAL SCORE: Blackhawks 4, Bruins 3

IN BRIEF: The Bruins mounted a furious three-goal comeback in the third period to take the Blackhawks to overtime. Torey Krug notched the game-tying goal shortly after Chris Wagner cut the Blackhawks lead to one. The Blackhawks would win shortly into overtime, but the Bruins salvaged a point from the game and ensured their home point streak would stay alive.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 20-3-6 (46 points)

HIGHLIGHTS

RYAN CARPENTER STRIKES FIRST SHORTHANDED

DYLAN STROME MAKE IT 2-0 ON A CHICAGO POWER-PLAY

ALEX DEBRINCAT EXTENDS THE LEAD TO THREE

JOAKIM NORDSTROM TIPS HOME BRUINS FIRST GOAL

CHRIS WAGNER CUTS THE LEAD IN HALF

TOREY KRUG WITH THE IMPROBABLE GAME-TYING GOAL

JONATHAN TOEWS ENDS IT IN OVERTIME

UP NEXT:
Vs. Colorado Avalanche, Saturday, 7 p.m., NESN

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