BOSTON – The Bruins are drifting into a dangerous pattern over the last few weeks.
It’s now two straight games where the Bruins have sleepwalked through the first 30-40 minutes of the game before eventually finding their game in the third period on the way to a victory over a beatable opponent. On Wednesday night, it was the lowly Ottawa Senators. And on Friday afternoon, it was a 3-2 overtime victory against an improving but still not totally ready for prime time New York Rangers squad at TD Garden.
Some of it is normal fatigue during the regular season as the Bruins were playing their third game in four days with a Friday matinee making for quick turnaround time, and some of it might be the Bruins missing their best two-way forward in Patrice Bergeron out with a lower-body injury.
But some of it was simply about the presence of “passengers” in the Bruins attack, which is something that head coach Bruce Cassidy acted on during the comeback win on Black Friday against the Blueshirts. It was something Cassidy alluded to before the game even started when he pointed toward younger players like Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and others that could provide the Bruins with some much-needed energy.
“I know our team is always going to eventually find their game. I want them to find it sooner, and eventually we did get to our game and play our type of game. I think lately, we’ve found ways to win because we’ve got good players; we’re a good team, but we’re not playing our…we’re trying to get to that 60-minute game like everyone else in the National Hockey League. As a coach, that’s what you’re always looking at a little bit, the result but also the process for us,” said Cassidy. “You always want to win, but I think for us, we’re trying to build that process to get where we want to go, and that’s equally important.
"[It’s] great to get the two points. I thought we certainly pushed in the third and overtime to do that. I’d just like to see it happen a little sooner.”
As Cassidy alluded, the B's elite goaltending and the epic offensive tear that David Pastrnak is on will erase a lot of blemishes, and they helped do that again on Friday against the Blueshirts.
The lineup juggling actually led to the B’s first goal in the second period as Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly and 20-year-old Jack Studnicka were lumped together on a line with the usual center Studnicka playing the wing for the Black and Gold.
It was a time in the game where Danton Heinen was on the bench after a lazy second period turnover off the side boards that led to New York’s second goal, and was an easily diagnosable part of the “passenger” problem.
“I just didn’t think we had it as a group. There were some guys…we had some passengers, not a trait of our team, but [on Friday afternoon] we did. So, we mixed it [up]. I thought Jack [Studnicka] could give us some energy. He wants to prove he can play at this level, so you’re going to get the effort no matter what; we’ll fix the mistakes along the way. The effort was there on that goal,” said Cassidy. “So he ended up on the wing. I know he’s played there a little bit. It’s not what we want to do going into it. We will do it if we have to.
“Don’t expect him to start on the wing his next game. We want him to work the middle of the ice, but we’ll always have a conversation what’s best for the group. We want him to be a center and learn to play center first.”
The Cassidy mixing and matching led to Studnicka beating a delayed icing call to keep a play alive toward the end of the second period, and Sean Kuraly eventually redirecting a long Jake DeBrusk wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist for signs of offensive life from the Bruins.
It was that goal that gave the Bruins momentum headed into the second intermission and led to a much better third period and explosive overtime for the two points.
It all started, however, with Cassidy diagnosing a problem that’s been present for the Bruins for the last few games, and may continue to require adjustments on the fly from the head coach before the team rights its game completely.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.