BOSTON — The Bruins were the third-highest scoring team in the NHL last season, but that seems like a distant memory through the first three games of the 2014-15 campaign.
The B’s (1-2-0) lost 4-0 to the Washington Capitals (1-0-1) on Saturday night at TD Garden, keeping their scoring total on the season to just three goals.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all 29 shots directed his way to earn the 12th shutout of his career. He was outstanding, but Boston isn’t making goaltenders work hard enough this season. The Original Six club has averaged just 26.3 shots per game — 5.6 fewer than its 2013-14 mark. There were several times Saturday night when the Bruins had chances to shoot in the attacking zone, sometimes in the faceoff circle and other instances at the point, and they passed the puck instead.
“We did get some good shots, but still not enough traffic and second chances, and we made it way too easy for, I mean (Holtby) made some good stops, but we made it way too easy for them, and we’ve got to be a lot better,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said.
There are a couple of changes B’s head coach Claude Julien could make to turn things around.
He can change up the lines, but he’s done that quite a bit over the first three games and not much as worked outside of the Chris Kelly-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson line and the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith trio.
In fact, Soderberg’s line has been the most effective one for Boston. They are being aggressive on the forecheck, crashing the net, sustaining puck possession with a good cycle game and are out-shooting opponents (see table below).
|Oct. 11 (vs. WSH)||5-on-5|
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Part of the problem for the Bruins is that the bottom-six has been absent offensively. Most of this can be attributed to the young players — who have given a chance to impress because of injuries to veteran forwards — failing to provide scoring depth.
There are veterans not performing to expectations, too.
Brad Marchand is scoreless and averaging just two shots per game. Milan Lucic has zero points and only one shot in 45:21 of ice time. In fairness to Lucic, it’s a bit early to judge his performance. He’s still trying to find his game after offseason wrist surgery, and he’s not playing with David Krejci — his center on the top line for the last six seasons.
The Bruins also could make a few roster changes. Jordan Caron, who’s been a healthy scratch in every game, could enter the lineup to provide a spark after having a good preseason. David Pastrnak — Boston’s 2014 first-round pick — has posted three points (one goal, two assists) in his last two AHL games for the Providence Bruins. The 18-year-old right winger has the speed and offensive skill the Bruins are lacking at the moment. Veteran winger Simon Gagne, who came to training camp on a tryout deal, is another option for the Bruins, but they would need to sign him first.
Boston also hasn’t received much offense from the blue line. Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller have yet to tally a single point. The only D-man who’s found the scoresheet is Adam McQuaid — he assisted Kelly’s game-winning goal on opening night. These six defensemen combined for 150 points last season, and this level of scoring from the blue line played a huge role in Boston finishing third in goals scored and power-play success (21.7 percent).
Julien can change the lineup all he wants, but it’s up to the players to execute and give maximum effort.
“It’s a team-wide thing, it’s not just a few guys,” Kelly said. “You guys can see it just as much as we can. Like I said, it’s not a passing thing or a positioning thing, it’s a working thing. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with. You could play with two total strangers, and all you have to do is go out and work hard.”
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