Already on their first losing streak of the season after finding themselves on the wrong end of a 7-4 decision in New York last Saturday, things went from bad to worse for the Boston Bruins on Monday night, as the Bruins absorbed a 5-2 beatdown from the Blue Jackets.
Losses against teams like the Red Wings and Rangers are acceptable, and practically an inevitability. But losing — and in undeniably ugly fashion — to a team like the Jackets? Even with the understanding that there’s parity in this league and that anybody can take it to you on any given night if you’re not ready? Woof, that’s a tough one to swallow. And that was once again the problem, as Jim Montgomery’s Bruins failed to look like a team ready to set the tone themselves.
Down 1-0 through 20 minutes of action, a wrister from Ivan Provorov put Columbus up by two, and surprisingly put an end to the night for Jeremy Swayman
, who was yanked by Montgomery after allowing two goals on 19 shots faced. It was the first in-game goalie switch of the season for the Bruins, and seemed like a ‘wake up’ pull more than anything that Swayman did wrong.
Speaking after the loss, Montgomery admitted that it was a move made in an attempt to spark his team. This is a relatively common practice by Montgomery of late. He called a timeout early in last Saturday’s loss to the Rangers, he’s put his team through some physical practices, and he’s basically emptied the bag as much as one reasonably can through the first quarter of the season.
But the move to Linus Ullmark failed to spark the Bruins.
A brutal misplay by Matt Grzelcyk just inside the Columbus blue line helped spring Yegor Chinakhov for a breakaway strike at the 16:42 mark of the second period, and Kirill Marchenko scored a power-play goal 4:51 into the third period to put the Bruins to bed at 4-0.
Matt Poitras would put the Bruins on the board with 11:36 remaining in the game, and Johnny Beecher would add a garbage-time goal to make it a three-goal loss for the B’s, but this one simply wasn’t close after the Blue Jackets scored the game’s first goal.
When it comes to the Bruins’ slump, it feels clear that the team is officially in the ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ phase. Boston’s decisions — or indecisions at times — in the defensive zone are absolutely killing them. And when you’re not getting superhuman goaltending (the Bruins have allowed 17 goals during this three-game skid), they’re going to be absolutely glaring issues.
Now, the good news is that the issues seem 100 percent correctable. The Bruins are less than a week removed from what was arguably their best defensive performance of the season, as they straight-up suffocated the Panthers for the second half of their win on Sunrise ice. It’s not as if the Bruins have gone through any sort of significant personnel changes since then. Actually, you can make the case that their defensive acumen has improved with Grzelcyk now up in place of the still-way-too-green Mason Lohrei
(opponents were averaging over four goals per 60 with Lohrei out there).
And while this slump may be the hockey version of food poisoning, meaning the Bruins may have to fully puke this out before they’ll get better, it’s clear that it’ll start in the defensive zone.
I’m not a barbarian, but…
As much as it may pain everyone (especially those of us in Boston) to accept this, the fact of the matter is that the days of ‘Old Time Hockey’ are over. We still have some of that stinkin’ root beer, but the reality is that nobody’s settling scores like they were even 10 years ago. The league often shuts that crap down before it even happens most nights. But that doesn’t mean that you’re completely incapable of defending yourself or your teammates when the situation calls for it.
And there’s my current issue developing with the Bruins.
When the Panthers targeted Charlie McAvoy
at will last Wednesday in an attempt to avenge Oliver Ekman-Larsson, it wasn’t until McAvoy himself dropped the gloves and tried to get Nick Cousins to fight that the nonsense stopped. Later in that game, Derek Forbort fought with the Panthers’ Jonah Gadjovich, and that really
seemed to get the Panthers to stop running around.
But last Saturday, the Rangers’ Jacob Trouba did his best Aaron Judge impression on Trent Frederic’s head. Frederic’s head would’ve landed in the upper deck of that glorified Little League stadium in the Bronx, too, had it not been for his neck workouts, I imagine. The Bruins didn’t do anything, nor did the league. Well, unless you count $5,000 fines for players making $8 million as something. (I don’t.)
On Monday, Spencer Martin decided to slash David Pastrnak in the chest on a two-on-one. Pastrnak was pissed off and threw a shot back at Martin to basically ask what the hell that was about. And then the Jackets’ Erik Gudbranson came over and got in Pastrnak’s face. It took way
too long for a Bruin to come into the picture and try to prevent that from escalating. And moments later, McAvoy was absolutely rammed into the boards on what was deemed an interference.
It’s officially getting a little uncomfortable when it comes to teams taking liberties on the Bruins.
There’s also no denying the elephant in the room that this seems to be on the rise with Milan Lucic
no longer in the picture for the Bruins. Lucic was not a one-man army that would stop teams from trying to set the tone, of course, but he was a legitimate fighting threat. That’s not Forbort’s game, McAvoy is too important to make that a staple of his game, and Frederic’s only fight of the season to date came with a pre-faceoff agreement to drop ‘em.
The Bruins need to send a message that they’re not going to tolerate more of this before it becomes a legitimate trend. And it needs to be a mindset adopted by Skater 1 through 18.
The Bruins and Patrick Kane?
Dealing with a flat cap this past summer and with most contending teams operating at the salary cap ceiling or LTIR pool as a result, it’s awfully difficult — or by all means impossible — for almost any team to make a high-impact trade right now.
Free agency, however, is a different story, and with Patrick Kane still available after undergoing offseason hip surgery, teams are beginning to line up to see what they can and can’t offer to entice the three-time Stanley Cup winner to come to their team for the stretch run. And that group may or may not include Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins, according to the latest update from the league’s top insider.
“There’s a couple teams out there who suspect that Boston might be another team that’s poked around on ]Kane],” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman told Jeff Marek in the latest ’32 Thoughts’ podcast. “It’s all circumstantial evidence, but it makes sense because the thing about Boston is they’re a good team, they could win. I don’t know if they could do more than one year. I am not sure that makes any sense for them. But they are the kind of organization that would look at Kane and say, ‘Does this help us?’ or in a good year, ‘What could we add to make us better?’
“If you look at last year, they went for it. They lost in the first round, they gave up a lot of capital, but it was a go for it year for them. And they’re good again. I just thought I would mention it, because it does kind of fit with Boston’s DNA of ‘We’re good, what can we add at what cost?’ And this makes sense to me.”
Friedman noted that it’s difficult to get a read on this because Kane’s camp does not want to deal with any sort of leaks throughout this process, and Friedman even went as far as to say that he’s fully prepared to be on ‘freezing cold takes’ if the Kane sweepstakes do not play out the way he believes as of this moment. But he did say that the info he’s been given is from people with batting averages above the ever-important “Mendoza Line.”
That’s a real
interesting thought here.
Given the Bruins’ lack of trade assets (namely in the draft pick department), it’s easy to envision the Bruins going with the free agency route over the trade market and its always exorbitant prices. You could also make the case that the Bruins are the exact kind of team that could afford to take a chance on Kane, even if he’s best utilized as a power-play specialist at this point in his career.
But given their cap situation — as well as the fact that Kane cannot sign a bonus-laden contract because he did not turn 35 before June 30 and because he didn’t spend enough time on the LTIR last year — the only way this happens is if Kane wants
to be a Bruin and is willing to sign for pennies.
Read more about that here
: The Bruins will return home for a Thursday night showdown with the league-worst Sharks.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, HockeyBuzz.com or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter/X: @_TyAnderson.