The Boston Bruins are 10-7-0 on the season and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings. While the winning record is nice to see 17 games into the season, there still are glaring issues with the Black and Gold.
Boston dropped its Black Friday matinee to the New York Rangers at TD Garden after another third-period collapse. The game was within reach for the Bruins through the first 40 minutes, and they controlled much of the first. But a late goal in the final seconds of the frame by New York was deflating, as we’ve seen so many times this season.
It’s still early, yes, and the Bruins have been victims of bizarre scheduling that featuring two long layoffs already. But it’s becoming frustrating to see the same problems game after game, especially at the hands of marquee teams.
There always will be games where Boston loses games it probably should have won, while stealing games it had no business winning. But this season fans have seen the Bruins lose winnable games and let games get away from them in the third period.
Such was the case Friday when New York potted three unanswered goals in the final frame of its win. Friday’s loss dropped the Bruins to 1-6 against teams who are top-three in their division.
“You have to understand where you are in a game,” B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after the game. “There are going to be goals that are scored because guys are stronger than you or faster than you and they make plays. But you have to play winning hockey at the right time. That’s where we get away from our identity when we have those breakdowns that to me are pretty straightforward.”
The Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak often have carried the team, but they certainly can not rely on one line to get them through the season. Cassidy has hinted at maybe switching up the top line, but hasn’t committed to anything just yet.
The defense also at times has looked lackluster. Derek Forbort continues to be paired with Charlie McAvoy, and despite the 6-foot-4 defenseman showing flashes of what he could bring to a team — matching his career-high in goals against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 9 — he has yet to prove to be a top-pairing shutdown D-man.
Maybe it’s just a matter of the Bruins finding their identity and taking a little extra time to mesh with one another. After all, there are a slew of newcomers. Maybe they’re feeling the losses of David Krejci and Tuukka Rask more than they originally thought they would. Krejci was a longtime alternate captain who always knew how to set up plays and get the puck to his teammates and was a respected voice on the bench.
Rask is hopeful to return to the Bruins, maybe as early as January, and while Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark are doing a fine job between the pipes, they, like the Bruins, have struggled against stronger teams. Swayman is in his first full NHL season and gives up a lot of juicy rebounds and Ullmark is adjusting to a new team for the first time in his career, and one that is used to winning and making the playoffs.
It’s unclear what the future holds for Rask and a return to the Bruins is not guaranteed by any means, but maybe a goalie with a slew of experience would be beneficial for Boston, and one that is familiar with the system.
Hopefully some consistency in the schedule will help get this team on track. Hopefully Pastrnak shoots the puck when he has a chance at a scoring opportunity rather than pass.
The Bruins can get back in the win column Sunday night at TD Garden against the 6-13-2 Vancouver Canucks before continuing their week on the road against the Red Wings, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning.