Searching for consistent efforts
It’s been a frustrating start to the Bruins season, one filled with inconsistent efforts. Or, if you will, a lack of 60-minute efforts.
“We’ve got to create our identity where we’re hard to play against for 60 minutes. Not 30, 20, 40, whatever it is,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “For us, I think we've got to play a little bit more puck possession in the O-zone, harder to play against in our end.”
Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto was the perfect example of the Bruins failing to put together a 60-minute effort, instead, showing pockets of life throughout the game.
The Bruins best push came after John Tavares extended the Leafs’ lead to three, 2:53 into the third period, his second of the night. Their push resulted in a David Pastrnak—much needed on many counts—tally to cut the lead in half and a flurry of scoring chances, all pushed away by Jack Campbell.
Mitch Marner’s empty-net goal, however, would close the book on another ugly Bruins loss.
"Even the last goal [scored on Linus Ullmark], we just get outworked right in front of our goaltender by Tavares," said Cassidy. "We've got to work harder to keep the puck out of our net in this league. We've had the identity of being that team and we've got to reclaim it."
After the Bruins jumped out to the 1-0 lead on a Taylor Hall power play goal, the wheels fell of the Bruins bus, letting the Maple Leafs dictate the pace of the game, playing the run-and-gun style of hockey that makes them such a dangerous offensive team.
“That’s playing into their hands, they’re a skilled team,” Hall said. “They make plays off the rush. Their D are active. The counter to that is playing in their end.”
As well as Toronto played Saturday night, the Bruins certainly did themselves no favors.
Derek Forbort’s weak clearing attempt on Auston Matthews’ first of two second period power play strikes is one that Cassidy was not happy about. A lazy one-handed attempt to clear the puck by Forbort quickly resulted in a goal allowed.
An ugly play all-around.
"You just can't do that. You've got to be hard in those areas. A lot of talent on the other side. Any time you play against, you can't clear pucks with one hand on your stick,” said Cassidy. “The entry was just soft in the middle of the ice. I mean, one hand on the stick.”
The strangest play of the night occurred in the first period after Patrice Bergeron knocked Tavares into the post behind Ullmark, knocking the net off its moorings, the puck crossing the goal line seconds after. The call on the ice was a good goal, with a lengthy review confirming the call on the ice.
"They use the rule that we knocked the net off which is actually incorrect. We didn't knock the net off. Tavares knocked the net off, he's the one that went into it," said Cassidy.
"I think they were looking to see if the puck actually crossed the line. I couldn't tell. I never saw a replay. I assume it did, hard to challenge when they tell you the puck crossed the line, and we knocked the net off.”
Games like Saturday are ones that’ll give coaches fits. Too many preventable errors in the game.
Although Toronto dictated the pace and played their game, and the Bruins were sloppy in many ways, they had a chance to get themselves back in the game. Their efforts on both sides of the special teams puck didn’t help.
“Everyone was scratching their head,” Cassidy said after seeing his team convert on one of four power play tries, and allowing Toronto to score on two of their four. “At the end of the day, we have to be better in the special teams department.”
The Bruins were off Sunday and will return to practice Monday morning before hosting the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden Tuesday night.