Who’s To Blame For Bruins’ Lackluster Start To 2021-22 NHL Season?

The Bruins are 6-5-0 through 11 games

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The Boston Bruins were a period away from sealing a win over the first-place Edmonton Oilers, but an ugly third that included defensive miscues and avoidable goals led to the 5-3 loss at TD Garden.

Edmonton potted three goals in the final 20 minutes to end Boston’s perfect streak at home this season.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy shouldered some blame, saying the coaching staff needs to better prepare the Bruins, while Brandon Carlo and David Pastrnak also took responsibility.

“The mistakes we made, line changes … the team beats itself, that’s on us as a staff,” Cassidy told reporters after the game. “We’ve got to do a better job getting them ready to play.”

The defense was sloppy Thursday night at TD Garden, but Pastrnak — as has been the case all season — missed some shots he’d normally make, including an open-net chance Thursday. The Bruins were a bit pass-happy and didn’t want to take shots on net.

“You’re so used to burying these chances,” Pastrnak told reporters. “It could have tied the game. … I’m used to getting one chance and burying it. I’ve got to be a little more patient.”

The Bruins are 6-5-0 through their first 11 games. All of their losses have been by at most three goals, so those losses certainly have been within reach.

So, who’s to blame for the lackluster start? Well, there’s plenty to go around.

Opponents seem to respond quickly when the Bruins score, and a B’s lead never seems to be safe.

Newcomer goalie Linus Ullmark is adjusting to a new team after spending his first six NHL seasons with the lowly Buffalo Sabres. But it’s hard for him to make saves when the defense leaves him out to try. Jeremy Swayman, despite looking solid, is in his first full season and has faced some learning curves.

Secondary scoring, which has been an issue for the Bruins for a few seasons now, continues to struggle. In Boston’s last six games, Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have combined for nine goals while the rest of the team has six. Four of those have come from the defense, and Charlie Coyle and Taylor Hall have the other two.

The Bruins cannot expect results if they continue to be a one-line team, especially after they spent a lot of money in the offseason acquiring help for the third and fourth line.

Cassidy already has called out new blueliner Derek Forbort but insists on keeping him paired with Charlie McAvoy. Connor Clifton had trouble clearing up front Thursday and lifted the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty against an Oilers team whose power play was completing nearly 50% of their attempts.

Maybe it’s just a matter of finding their chemistry with so many newcomers. Maybe it’s trying to navigate the losses of Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. Maybe it’s as simple as the Bruins just haven’t found their identity yet.

It’s just 11 games into the season, and the Bruins have a chance to right the ship this weekend against the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens.

One thing is for certain, though, they need to be able to finish their chances, not be afraid to shoot the puck and play solid defense if they want to stop hovering around .500.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Boston Bruins center Tomas Nosek
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