Well, this one was more fun, I suppose. Coming off 4-2 and 6-2 losses, the Boston Bruins really needed a good performance. And there were parts of this one that are quite good. They had the majority of the shots, netted three Power Play Goals--just typing this about a Bruins team is enough to make my eyebrows raise--against Ben Bishop ad a solid Tampa Bay Lightning defense, and generally looked like they had come to play. Professionals are always ready to play on game day, but it's fair to say that Boston looked as if they had an easier time feeling their way into today's Columbus Day early start time.
The problem is the defensemen. The problem is the defensemen. The problem is the defensemen. I cannot type that enough. And it's not "the Bruins are not playing good defense or adhering to Julien's system," though it's probably is that a bit (since to my knowledge, Claude's system is now "skate around and watch the other team score...I think), it's "this defensive corps, even with Zdeno Chara back, is not strong enough to turn in a consistently good performance." You can add an exclamation point to that sentence when it comes to facing very good teams such as Tampa Bay. The defending Eastern Conference champs have had their struggles at TD Garden, last winning on (insert date here), but they woke up pretty quickly.
Okay, so happily enough for those of us wanting to write this summary without spending their entire day re-hashing this game, it's sort of natural here to start with the good. Thanks for making that decision for me, Bruins--it's one of the few instances today where I can think of the Bruins defense making a quick decision, even by proxy! Regardless of how this ended, the Bruins came out flying, and whatever it was, Tampa looked like they were watching the Bruins skate for the first eleven minute or so.
David Krejci scored a Power Play goal to open the tallies, so that was nice. Loui Eriksson scored a 2nd PGG 11:02 into the game, off a truly magical feed from Torey Krug. If the game ended at this point, it would've been a good game. If the story of Christopher Columbus ended at "he went exploring and met some new people!" it would be a good holiday. As it is, this was, well, a loss, and Columbus Day is, well, just a day I'm happy to have off actual work.
So it was 2-0 Bruins. You know, the forwards weren't really to blame in this one. They took some bad penalties (looking at you, Patrice)--though Ben Bishop's penalty-drawing wizardry was notable in this game--but generally 3 goals against a team that can roll a Hedman-Stralman pairing is a good showing. Unfortunately, it was going to take more than "good." One would hope that someone with some sense of mercy had already informed Krejci and his forward-mates of the Sisphysian struggle that being a 2015-16 Bruins forward is going to be, because if Krejci and Co. came into this year expecting to have score less than a bajillion goals a game (slight exaggeration) to compensate for a defensive corps that no longer has a second pairing that can be on the ice with other team's forwards without falling over, they were sadly mistaken.
The floodgates began to leak on what can only be described as a truly awful shift by the fourth line and miserable defensive coverage by them and the Krug pairing. Brian Boyle found himself wide open in the slot despite the Bruins easily having numbers in the zone, and he pigeonholed a wrister. 2-1, and suddenly things felt a little--
No, I'm sorry. I misremembered. We didn't even have time to feel nervous before it was tied. The best you could say was that you had a chance to throw up your hands and exclaim a series of your favorite expletives. Before the accompanying dread, frustration, or fear of your own inevitable mortality could fall into place, Patrice Bergeron had been called for goaltender interference, Tampa had gone on the Power Play, and Ondrej Palat had tipped a weird effort between Tuukka Rask's right arm and body, and the score was 2-2. That was the way the first period ended. The Bruins, despite having the better of the play, had allowed
Lightning to strike twice, er, a funnier joke, no screw it Lightning to strike twice.
The third strike came from Brian Boyle's second of the afternoon, where he knocked down an errant David Pastranak pass and took it the other way. Pastrnak tried his best to atone, but Boyle used his size advantage to block Pasta off the puck and finished on the backhand side past Rask. 3-2, and the Bruins, now in possession of a very-open floodgate, needed a response.
Loui Eriksson's second PPG was a good response, knotting the game at 3, Eriksson took a long slapper from the space-creating Krejci and deflected it behind Ben Bishop. This was the False Dawn of the Bruins trying to convince you that maybe they had recovered from their swoon, and was also a beautiful goal. For whatever flaws in his game might theoretically exist, Eriksson's net-front presence is second-to-none on the Bruins. For a player who some seem to think needs space to operate effectively, he scores a LOT of his goals from the "dirty areas" of the ice.
But the Bruins had not actually got their stuff together, of course. Steven Stamkos, perhaps tired of reading pre-game releases about how long it's been since the Lightning have won at TD Garden, ripped his own PPG after Bergeron had, once again, got the gate. Apparently Saint Patrice wanted to get the possibility of a Lady Byng out of the way early, thus removing some of the pressure. While this is a valid strategy, I have to wonder at the timing of the execution. Stamkos's shot, from the top of the left circle, made me wonder, yet again, why Tampa's Power Play doesn't have one unit center around, you know, Stamkos being at the top of the left circle more often. 4-3. Ugh, sometimes that'll happen, but the Bruins really weren't up for a third-period comeback.
I, as many of us are and everyone should be, am a huge Tuukka Rask fan. I think there's no question he's still in the Top 5 of goalies in the NHL. He's just a year and a couple months removed from deservedly winning the Vezina. While he has not been his normal self so far this season, this is obviously not his fault. While goalie performance is hard to analyze beyond larger stretches of play, it's very clear that he's being let down pretty badly by what passes for an NHL defense to someone somewhere.
That said, Johnathan Drouin's goal, Tampa's 5th, was not good. I guess it might have taken a small deflection. But Rask being beat by a shot that barely got off the ice from out wide on the left just doesn't really happen. Nonetheless, here it did. While it's not fair to put this game or this stretch on Rask, it's fair to say that this goal was him catching "The Suck" from the non-Chara DMen in front of him. Valterri Filppula's first of the year rounded out the scoring with four minutes left, and the Bruins homestand (mercifully) ended with a whimper.
The Bruins are 0-3-0 for the first time since 1999-2000. This, minus the concussed Brad Marchand and the injured Dennis Seidenberg, is the team that the Bruins front office wanted to put on the ice this season. It's hard to think they'll be this bad all season, but it's also hard to think why this is the team we've been subjected to without wanting to throw small plastic objects at management.
- I haven't mentioned enough of them by name, since really they're the primary culprits here, so I'm going to say a big thanks to Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, and Joe Morrow for making this game borderline unwatchable from a Bruins perspective after first ten minutes.
- You know what? Actually thought Z was fine. It's just he was feeling his way through things a bit, cannot play every single minute, and cannot actually play both sides at once.
- Loui Eriksson and Brian Boyle were both on hat trick watch. Boyle's last two-goal game was in 2010. Loui was a couple inches from having deflected Krejci's goal in the first.
- I'm not putting all or most of this on Claude Julien, but it's hard to see him lasting long if this continues.
- The Bruins outshot Tampa 30-23, but only found a way past Bishop on the Power Play.
- Happy Columbus Day?
The Bruins will attempt to find their first win of the season next against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday at 10 EST. I wish you all the best of luck in mustering enough enthusiasm to stay up.