Everything you need to know from the Bruins' loss to the Maple Leafs Saturday night at TD Garden
Head scratcher: The Bruins produced one of their better efforts of the season from start to finish, but they lacked execution in certain areas and they came up short for the third game in a row, including back-to-back losses to the Maple Leafs. Boston was getting contributions throughout the lineup. The team's identity was on display. There weren't many passengers and the physical game was there too.
"We talked in between periods that we liked our game, we liked the X's and O's part of it and we were competing really hard," said Torey Krug. "We were battling in front of our net and we trying to create more traffic in front of their net. It's tough to feel good about your game when you're not getting the results, but we've got to keep going here. We can't feel sorry for ourselves because then we'll start falling behind."
The Bruins aren't about to make excuses because so many key players remain sidelined with injuries, but Saturday was a perfect example that this team can't win on effort alone.
Need more power: The Bruins went 0-for-4 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 for 1:07. Earlier this season, the power play was crucial and it lead to victories for Boston. During Friday's 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto, the Bruins scored a power play to give them a 2-1 lead late in the game. On Saturday, down by one goal the Bruins had a golden opportunity with a two-man advantage but couldn't capitalize. They were looking for the one great quality chance. They need to shoot more. However, the Maple Leafs stifled any chance for Boston with a solid penalty kill. Toronto was aggressive and kept the Bruins mostly on the perimeter during the 5-on-3.
"We had a few looks where we’re mishandling the puck," said Patrice Bergeron. "It was more that than looking for the perfect play. We just weren’t making the passes that were there and the lanes were there, we just didn’t connect. We definitely needed to have more shots but I think it was more just not taking care of the puck more than trying to force plays."
Since the Bruins haven't been scoring a lot of even-strength goals, this is when the power play needs to be better and convert on its chances, especially the top unit. It has to be a difference maker when a team is struggling to score.
Finding his mojo: Krug is starting to produce at both ends of the ice on a consistent basis. Offensively, he has nine points in the last season games. More importantly, he's shooting the puck, which is something the Bruins have lacked of late from the blue line. He registered nine shots against the Maple Leafs. He was shooting with a purpose and that's exactly what this team needs more of right now.
Frankie Va-boom: Frank Vatrano played his best game of the season. Not only did he score Boston's lone goal, he was physical and he was engaged with an intense style of play at both ends of the ice. He's been inconsistent this season and has been watching games from the press box as a healthy scratch. Now that injured players are starting to get healthy, the internal competition is beginning to heat up again, which it should.
"He was good. Bounce back game for him," Cassidy said. "He kind of showed us, and everyone, I assume, that he wants to be in the lineup every night. He’s certainly a guy that’s had success in this league. We need him to play a certain way, and I thought he did. He scores a goal we obviously needed him to, but he finished some checks, he blocked some shots. We want a 200-foot game, and if that’s what it entails from night to night, then that’s what we need out of him. But he was definitely a positive."
His performance also came on a night when rookie Jake DeBrusk was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Just bad luck: Brandon Carlo has had it rough the last two games. The second-year defenseman is struggling to stay out of the box and has made costly turnovers. He needs to manage the puck better, especially on breakouts.
"I had a bad night," Carlo said. "I don’t know really what to say about that. I just tried to make plays and they didn’t really work out. Ended up in the back of the net. Those things can’t really happen all the time."
Cassidy said he's not worried and expects a bounce-back game from Carlo on Wednesday in Anaheim. The coach thinks Carlo is being too hard on himself for the mistakes he's made the last couple of games.
"He’s a good kid, he cares, he’ll continue to play hard, he’ll have to play himself out of it. It’s that simple, because he’s a good player for us," Cassidy said.
This play could go a bit unnoticed, but it was a huge moment in the game. With the Maple Leafs holding a 1-0 lead at 14:09 of the first period, Toronto had an offensive zone faceoff. The Leafs' Tyler Bozak won the draw against Tim Schaller, but the puck went into the seats. The ensuing faceoff should have been at center ice, and the linesman signaled that it was, but the referee waved off that decision, so the Maple Leafs had another O-zone draw. Bozak won the faceoff again and six seconds later Toronto scored its second goal of the game.
Yes, the team is dealing with injuries to key players. Yes, the Bruins are struggling to score. So, you really can't blame Cassidy for loading up his top line with Brad Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak. However, the amount of time they've been spending on the ice is becoming a bit concerning. They're averaging over 20 minutes per game and it's evident at times late that they're gassed. Other lines need to produce more.
"It’s a little high for what we like," Cassidy said of his top line's ice time of late. "Given the circumstances, we are forced to play them in more situations than if we were completely healthy. We are trying to win every night and trying to balance that so we aren’t taxing them for the long haul. It’s a challenge. Hopefully there will be nights where we get a lead and extend the lead and don’t allow team back in the lead and they can relax, or we can get to the point where all four lines are trustworthy doing their job and we find that balance. Yes, we are concerned, but not to the point yet where we are going to pull back just to pull back."
The Bruins head to the west coast for three games against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. Boston will have the day off on Sunday and travel to Anaheim on Monday. The team will practice on Tuesday.