The Boston Bruins entered round robin play as the co-betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but they sure didn't look like a championship contender against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon.
The Bruins were out-played in just about every facet of the game in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers in the Toronto bubble. Jaroslav Halak was called on to start in net for Boston after No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask (illness) was ruled out, and he allowed four goals on 29 shots.
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Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins-Flyers and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).
1. Bruins won't earn the No. 1 seed
The Bruins have their work cut out for them after dropping their first round robin game, but they still have a chance to earn the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. For starters, they have to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday to give themselves a real chance. An overtime or shootout loss to Tampa Bay would put the B's in very real danger of earning the No. 3 or No. 4 seed after ending the regular season with the league's best record. Luckily for Boston, any ties in the round robin standings after three games will be decided by regular season points, and the Bruins would win those tiebreakers as the Presidents' Trophy winners.
So, while there's still a chance for the Bruins, their next two games will be pretty tough. The Lightning have already beaten the Bruins three times this season, and the Capitals have won 16 of the last 18 meetings with Boston dating back to 2014. Having a full, healthy lineup is most important for the Bruins, but seeding is vital as well, especially in this unique playoff setting where the league will re-seed after every round instead of using a traditional postseason bracket.
2. Anders Bjork belongs in the lineup
Verdict: Not an overreaction
Bjork, who played primarily on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, was among the few bright spots in Sunday's defeat. The B's enjoyed a 15-4 edge in shot attempts and a 9-4 scoring chance advantage when the 23-year-old forward was on the ice during 5-on-5 action. He also drew two penalties on offensive zone entries, although Boston was unable to score on either power play. Bjork played with the type of aggressiveness and confidence you don't often see from a young player with no previous playoff experience. It was a very encouraging performance from a player who the Bruins envision being a dependable second or third line player for the foreseeable future.
3. Lack of production from top players is concerning
The "Perfection Line" didn't live up to its name Sunday, but it's still way too early to worry about what's arguably the best trio in the league. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all failed to score a goal or tally an assist, and together they combined for just two scoring chances and zero high-danger shot attempts during 5-on-5 play. Four shots on goal in 8:19 of 5-on-5 ice time for the Bruins' best line isn't going to get the job done, either. The Flyers' top line, anchored by defensive stalwart and Selke Trophy finalist Sean Couturier, decisively won its matchup against the Bergeron line.
Boston's top trio totaled 47 percent of the team's goals during the regular season, and the Bruins' playoff run in the bubble won't last long if Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak aren't producing offensively.
David Krejci also didn't play well. The veteran center was held scoreless, took one penalty and tallied three shots. He won only one of his nine faceoffs. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara failed to deliver as well. The B's captain was on the ice for only six of Boston's shot attempts and 20 of Philly's shot attempts at 5-on-5. His turnover in the neutral zone late in the second period paved the way for the Flyers' third goal, which came only eight seconds after the Bruins scored to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Boston's veteran core knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, and this group's wealth of experience will ensure it doesn't panic ahead of Wednesday night.