Mistakes costly in round-robin loss to Flyers
As expected, these first two days back to meaningful hockey has been a bit sloppy at times as teams inch back to where their game was back in March when the regular season came to a premature end.
Sloppy is a nice way to describe the Bruins effort in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia in their first of three round-robin games.
We saw some unusual plays from the Bruins as things like a forced extra pass, fanning on shots and poor puck management were prominent in their game.
“I’m thinking we better make a better friggin’ play with the puck, is what I’m thinking.” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We need to make better plays on the puck, be stronger on it, take care of it, more urgency. You can use any adjective you want. That to me was the difference.”
The Bruins issues with the puck, especially on the offensive side of things began with their top line, a trio that was nonexistent in the loss.
Five-on-five the trio spent 8:19 together, allowed two goals against, had a 37.46 Corsi For rating and a 44.07 Expected Goals For rating.
Although they’re arguably the top line in hockey, and a bad night at the office will happen, sometimes keeping things simple is the easy road to take.
“I think they should keep it simple until they find their game. That’s kind of the message. 'I know you’re creative. You’re one of the best lines in the National Hockey League for a reason',” said Cassidy. “So I can’t sit there and tell them they have to make this play in this situation. I’d just like to see the whole team have a shot mentality. They weren’t the only ones.”
The Bruins got the majority of their offensive punch from their bottom-six. The third line of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman brought the most energy of their four forward lines and it was fourth line winger Chris Wagner who had the Bruins lone goal.
But even with more energy from his bottom-six, Cassidy still felt his team’s decision making with the puck was a team-wide issue.
“It was a bit of a team-wide problem. I saw a bit of it against Columbus. We’ll probably see a little more of it Wednesday,” said Cassidy. “But we have to get it out of our system here quickly where if we get a good look at the net, we take that shot. I’ve always felt that once that starts happening, the plays that are there will open up. You’ll see them. We’ve got good players.”
Jaroslav Halak got the nod between the pipes for the Bruins, a day after Tuukka Rask missed practice and was ultimately deemed unfit to participate on Sunday. While Rask did not dress for the loss, Cassidy expects Rask to be in net Wednesday against the Lightning.
"We expect and hope that he'll be back in the net Wednesday. Let's see if he's on the ice [on Monday], probably give you a better idea then of how he's feeling. And we'll go from there with Tuukka,” said Cassidy "Obviously, he's an important part of our team. My understanding is that he is feeling better, but I've been at the rink all day, so I obviously haven't talked to him."
While the loss was in no way all Halak’s fault, Cassidy would have liked to see Halak make a save when the team needed one.
"We needed more stops, obviously. The breakdowns, they were all good goals, good shots. Maybe the second one got through him, I don't know. It looked like a screen from [Jeremy] Lauzon. Other than that, they were good shots. But obviously when we're only putting up one goal ourselves, we needed more saves,” said Cassidy.
"Usually you look at a goalie, did he give up bad goals? No. Did we need a few extra saves in this situation today? Yes. At the end of the day, they were breakdowns that happened well before the puck came to him. Again, I thought he was fine. If we were going to win, we needed a few extra saves."
It's one of three for the Bruins before things really kick into gear and losses like the Bruins had on Sunday become more magnified and more frustrating.
With their lone exhibition game and now Sunday’s contest behind them, the Bruins hope they’ve had enough time to shake off the rust.
Although these round-robin games are not as important as the games being played in the qualifying round, Torey Krug knows these games are important in terms of using them to build their game towards the way they want to play, and a way that they know makes them successful.
“Until you reach that perfect game, you're always striving for it. Right now, we have to change some things. We've got to get a little bit greasier and raise our compete level. Manage the time and score. It's playoff hockey. Just because it doesn't start for us in a series, we've got to start building our game in the right way,” said Krug.
"If we don't, we'll be showing up to Game 1 of the first series not feeling comfortable. We have some things to pick up and fix and you can count on this group to do that."