Anders Bjork

NHL Highlights: Bruins shootout woes continue in hard-fought battle against Islanders

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USA Today Sports Images

NHL Highlights: Bruins shootout woes continue in hard-fought battle against Islanders

FINAL SCORE: Islanders 3, Bruins 2 (SO)

IN BRIEF: The Bruins rallied in the third period to tie the Islanders via a 5-on-3 goal from Torey Krug, but they were unable to emerge with the victory in the shootout. The Bruins are now 0-5 in shootouts on the season.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-8, 50 points (1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

BJORK BREAKS THE ICE OFF A FEED FROM COYLE

JOHNNY BOYCHUK SCORES AGAINST HIS FORMER TEAM

SEMYON VARLAMOV MAKES BEAUTIFUL GLOVE SAVE

BARZAL GIVES THE ISLANDERS THEIR FIRST LEAD

TOREY KRUG NETS ONE DURING B'S 5-ON-3

BARZAL'S SHOOTOUT WINNING GOAL

UP NEXT:
Vs. Nashville Predators, Saturday, 7 p.m., NESN 

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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Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 loss to Canadiens: Offside call the turning point

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Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 loss to Canadiens: Offside call the turning point

GOLD STAR: Victor Mete was a solid, solid player for the Habs in this one. He opened the scoring in the first period with a nice shot off a deflected puck in front of the Boston net, and then he closed out the second period with a goal that featured bodies flying all around Tuukka Rask in the crease. The goals were Mete’s second and third of the season, and acted as the cherry on top of the sundae on a night when he finished with five shots on net and seven shot attempts in 20:53 of ice time to go along with three blocked shots. Mete was strong at both ends of the ice for Montreal and is part of a Canadiens back end that’s helped the Habs step up their offensive attack this season.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask was not good in this one. It was his worst game of the year as he allowed all five goals on 31 shots and simply missed with his glove on the final Ben Chiarot shot from the face-off circle that he got a clear look at. He was similarly beaten in the first period for a pair of goals within 31 seconds of each other after David Pastrnak scored to tie up the game, and got sucked into some contact in front of the net at the end of the second period instead of battling to try and stop a Victor Mete goal as well. For a guy that’s been pretty much invincible this season between the pipes, Rask finally showed cracks and did it as the well-rested guy behind a team that battled their way to a comeback over Pittsburgh 24 hours earlier. Rask simply didn’t give the B’s a chance to win in Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The turning point was very clearly the third period when Zach Senyshyn fed Charlie Coyle for a goal that would have put the Bruins ahead 5-4 in the third period, and would have finally given them a foothold in a game they were chasing all night. Instead, Coyle was perhaps offside depending upon the interpretation of the rule and it took three minutes for the officials to decide whether or not to overturn the play. Once the goal was taken off the board, the Habs got one more soft goal past Tuukka Rask and that was all it took for the Canadiens to hold on in the third period at a raucous Bell Centre. Afterward, the Bruins were understandably miffed about a questionable challenge review costing them an important divisional game, but then again they also allowed five goals. So they didn’t exactly deserve to win either.

HONORABLE MENTION: Anders Bjork had a hell of a night for the Bruins. He scored his second goal of the season, was in the middle of the third period score that got overturned and led the Bruins with six shots on net in the game. He also a plus-3 in just 12:07 of ice time and was part of a third line with Charlie Coyle and Zach Senyshyn that Bruce Cassidy said was his best line all night in the Tuesday night showdown with the Habs. That is very good news for Bjork as he’d seemed to quiet down a little bit in the last couple of games, and it was natural to wonder if he was regressing a little after an adrenaline-filled start to his stint in Boston. Nope. He played with speed and aggressiveness and scored his goal by getting his nose dirty around the net for a rebound goal. That’s something he was not doing in the last two seasons when he was in Boston.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of goals in 15 games this season for David Pastrnak, the fastest a Bruins player has gotten to the 15-goal mark since Peter McNab did it for the B’s way back in 1976-77.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The rule was specifically put in place for egregious [examples]. They were over there for 3 minutes. You think 'What's the purpose of this rule?' Either you find something or you don't...3 minutes. So now you're looking for something to be offsides.” –Bruce Cassidy, not a fan of the coach’s challenge for being offside that overturned a Charlie Coyle goal in the third period that ended up being the difference in the game.

WATCH: Controversial offsides call erases Coyle goal>>>

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