Bruins not built to battle through nights like Sunday
With the way this Bruins team is built, it’s hard for them to win games when they dig themselves into early holes or don’t quite execute nearly close to the way they want to.
Both were the case on Sunday when the Calgary Flames came into town, shutting out the Bruins 4-0 in the last leg of a grueling seven-game road trip.
“I think it was all execution tonight. A lot of it was on us, not making the plays, not executing,” said Patrice Bergeron. “When it’s going to be a game like that, I think you have to simplify, and I don’t think we did that.”
The Flames quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead 1:29 into the contest. A soft chip along the boards by Derek Forbort found the stick of Matthew Tkachuk which led to Johnny Gaudreau smashing home a long rebound off the pads of Jeremy Swayman.
From there, the Bruins failed to force former Bruin Daniel Vladar to make many difficult saves, cruising to his second shutout of the season, Calgary’s league leading seventh shutout of the season.
He made 27 saves in total.
"I just came here with the mindset to get a [win]," said Vladar. "I was just fighting for our team; I was really trying to focus on my game and on our game. The shutout, if you would have told me that yesterday, I wouldn't have believed it.”
The lack of execution was Sunday’s glaring issue, but a no-show from the Bruins top line, trickling down to both power play units was troubling as well.
"They got outworked. We had a game plan on how to get in the zone. Calgary's PK is excellent. They defend the blue line well. There's certain ways you can get in. You've got to play behind it or try to, in the first pass, get into the middle so that you can kick it out. We didn't do it,” Cassidy said of his top power play unit.
"That top group, they were stubborn tonight. Very stubborn in their approach. Sometimes it works out for them because they're elite players, and tonight, it didn't against a good kill. It hurt us."
Andrew Mangiapane delivered the fatal blow with his second period shorthanded tally as the Bruins were searching to get on the board for the first time and cut the Flames’ lead in half.
With poor puck management in the offensive zone by the Bruins, the Flames were able to race in on a 2-on-0. Swayman stopped the initial shot, followed by the rebound shot, but the third attempt had a different fate, finding the back of the net.
“I think the power power play really hurt us,” Cassidy said. “We didn’t generate any momentum on them. If anything, it generated momentum for them.”
Through 15 games there seems to be more questions than answers. The Bruins will tell you they’ve found their identity, but to me, the jury is still out on that one.
"I think we have an identity, but we're still working on it to be that team every single night. Some of that is turnover,” said Cassidy. “Don't forget, we brought in three guys at the deadline last year that you're just putting in your lineup and say, 'Let's go, get ready for the playoffs.' Now we're doing a little more teaching.”
The Bruins have done a good job at beating the teams they should. But it’s the way they struggled in losses to teams such as the Maple Leafs, Flames, Hurricanes, Panthers and Oilers that is a bit concerning.
Bergeron and the Bruins believe they’re still a premier team in the National Hockey League. But I think it’s fair to ask for more consistency from them, especially against the better teams inside the NHL, before anyone puts the Bruins in that top tier.
“We’ve played 15 games this year. The belief is there. We’ve been in this position many times also. I think we know what it takes to [get there]. We have a lot of things to work on and there’s plenty of hockey left in front of us,” said Bergeron.
“That’s good news, but obviously, we have to rectify and be better and roll up our sleeves, and go back to our identity and play our game.”