The Boston Bruins put 35 shots on goal Sunday in their 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the opener of the Stanley Cup playoffs round-robin games. They also attempted 35 more shots that were either blocked missed the net.
So it might be somewhat surprising to hear head coach Bruce Cassidy lament how many times his team passed on shooting to, well, pass.
“We do need to, structurally with the puck, generate a little more, and some of that is just execution,” Cassidy said after the game. “The other half of that is decision-making and shooting the puck a little more as opposed to trying to make the extra pass. Right now, we’re still in a little bit of that summer hockey mode in that regard.
Boston out-attempted Philly 70-57, a fairly considerable margin for a team that looked asleep at the wheel for much of the 60 minutes.
“Some details with the puck, turnovers that came back to bite us, lack of a shot mentality, trying to make the extra pass,” Cassidy added. “Like I said before, there’s probably a bit of a carry-over probably from the previous two, three weeks. You’ve been off that long, you’re not in that keep-it-simple mode yet. That’s what cost us the hockey game. It wasn’t that we broke down all over the ice. We made some individual mistakes, and we’ll have to correct those.”
Or, put more succinctly: “We need to make a better friggin’ play with the puck, is what I’m thinking, in some of those situations that we’re capable of doing.”
Here are some more notes from Sunday’s Bruins-Flyers game:
— Cassidy had no postgame update on the status of Tuukka Rask. The Bruins goalie, expected to start the playoff opener, didn’t even dress Sunday. Rask missed practice Saturday because he wasn’t feeling well and apparently was ruled out Saturday night. Jaroslav Halak got the start instead, and Dan Vladar dressed as the backup.
— It wasn’t Halak’s best performance. The veteran netminder, who gave up five goals in his most recent game vs. the Flyers prior to Sunday, allowed four more on just 29 shots. It wasn’t all his fault, of course — Halak looked like he was screened by Boston defenseman Jeremy Lauzon on the second goal, and he was also put in a tough position on a couple of breakaways. Still, he’s been much better at times this season — and last.
“We needed more stops, obviously,” critiqued Cassidy. The breakdowns were all good goals, good shots, maybe the second one got through him — it looked like a screen from Lauzon. Other than that, they were good shots. But obviously, when we’re only putting up a goal ourselves, we needed more saves. … Did he give up bad goals? No. Did we need a few extra saves in this situation? Yes. At the end of the day, they were breakdowns that happened before the puck came to him.”
— The Bruins’ third line was, by far, their best unit. Boston might have something in the trio of Charlie Coyle, Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman, which carried the play most of the time it was on the ice. As a line, the three were able to generate 15 shot attempts, allowing just four. They were especially good early on, and the best chance to score came in the second period when Coyle set up Kuhlman in the slot for a one-timer that was stopped by Flyers goalie Carter Hart.
For a line that hasn’t skated much together, there was some clear chemistry and good jump. The next objective is keeping that up for 60 minutes.
“The biggest thing is our consistency throughout the whole game,” Bjork said. “Maybe we thought we were playing well and got a little comfortable, but that line is a hard-working energy line. We get a lot of chances off the forecheck and reloads. Our consistency wasn’t where we need it, so that’s something we’re definitely going to improve upon going forward.”
— Ice quality might be an issue, especially in the early rounds when there are multiple games throughout the day.
“It’s sloppy, but the first 5, 10 minutes are probably when you can make your plays,” defenseman Torey Krug said. “After that, it’s about putting the puck in the right spots, and putting the opposing D in a position to make plays with the puck and putting pressure on them. Both teams have to play on it and make plays when they’re there and be accountable and take care of the puck.”