The process for constructing the 2015-16 Bruins began awhile ago and, recent progress included, it's clearly going to be a roller coaster of a season. When you voluntarily sign off on a team that has one defensive pairing that can consistently clear the zone and at the same time, increase the talent in your Top 9 on the forward side, you're left with a team that might give you whiplash trying to follow the ups and downs.
Last night at Verizon Center was definitely one of the valleys of the young season, with the Bruins unable to score after the first, and being unable to stop the Washington Capitals from dictating much of the game after the first ten minutes. Fresh off a stretch of scoring that sent many confused fantasy owners to the waiver wire to add Bruins players, Boston was unable to score a goal at evens, and spent much of the night struggling to deal with the Caps heavy forecheck.
It wasn't all bad. In your humble blogger's opinion, this game was pretty heavily watchable for the first forty minutes, before the Caps went into lockdown mode. And you know what? Jimmy Hayes scored the Bruins' first goal on Capitals' starting netminder Braden Holtby since the Renaissance began to sweep across Europe, so there's that.
To give full credit to all concerned, the Bruins first (and only) goal of the game came when Brett Connolly, travelling down the left wing in his 1977 pick-up truck, slung the puck in front and hoped for something good to happen. As so often, when you're struggling to penetrate a good goalie's force field, this turned out to be a good approach. The puck deflected off about three different people, last of a which was the net-charging Jimmy Hayes, and went in. The Bruins lead 1-0 at 12:47 into the first, and Colin Miller extended his points streak to five games.
If you want to read just about the good things that happened for the Bruins in this game, you can stop now and just begin gnashing your teeth in preparation for tomorrow's game against the hated Montreal Canadiens. Tomorrow is another day, and all that, and we don't have Milan Lucic on the team anymore to chase down Alexei Emelin and commit six penalties!
But as to the wrap-up of the Bruins first road loss of 2015-16, we digress. As they've been known to do since Barry Trotz took over, Washington made a large push right after going down 1-0. As he's been known to do, Alex Ovechkin scored a goal. It came on the heels of an Alex Khokhlachev failure to clear, and a Kevan Miller mishandle behind the net, caused by that aforementioned Washington forecheck. The puck squirted out front, within reach of Ovechkin. Last year's Richard Trophy winner (again) somehow eluded Zdeno Chara and scored from the slot as he went to his belly. Some would put the primary fault for the goal on Tuukka Rask. The Bruins, no doubt, have needed Rask to warm up, but I say that if Alex Ovechkin makes a ridiculous play after a behind-the-net turnover, we move on. Rask had also already denied Ovechkin on one of the Capitals star's vintage rushes, too. Regardless, it was 1-1 after one.
The 5-on-5 initiative had clearly shifted from Boston to Washington's favor in the latter half of the first period, and that trend mostly continued in the second. Aside from a couple ridiculously good shifts by the Brad Marchand- Patrice Bergeron-And-I-Guess-Other-Skates-Were-On-Too unit, Washington had the better of the play in the early second.
This culminated in the Capitals second tally, which was about as a pretty a goal as the Bruins' first. Of course, that doesn't really matter, since they all count. This one counted after the fourth line and the Adam McQuaid-Joe Morrow pairing were caught running around in their own zone, and a Dmitry Orlov point-shot deflected off track in front and squired by the obviously-screened Rask. It was 2-1 a little over four minutes into the second, and things would soon get worse.
Soon after, Hayes was called for a blatant slash on Orlov right in front of the referee as the latter came up ice, and the Bruins had to go to the penalty kill. After handling the Caps' potent Power Play unit once in the first, the Bruins penalty killers promptly did the opposite -- Brad Marchand exchange whacks with T.J. Oshie in the slot, and Marchand's obvious retaliation was a little too obvious and a little too enthusiastic. He went for roughing, and it was a 5-on-3 now. It wasn't very long before, shortly following Kevan Miller's introduction of his "crab walk dance," the Capitals converted via John Carlson from Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams.
It was 3-1 and, while the Bruins would have their chances in the second, including a huge pad save by Holtby or two, the Capitals would proceed to put the third period on lockdown. A Karl Alzner ENG that proved, once and for all, that Torey Krug should not be the Bruins' emergency goalie, rounded out the scoring late.
- Adam McQuaid left with an injury after delivering a hit and, while he did return, it was hard to tell how effective he was. If that lingers, that would be a blow to the Bruins already-thin defensive corps.
- Zdeno Chara and Colin Miller looked good as a pairing, one of the few highlights for the Bruins.
- Rask continues to round into form, stopping 28 of 31, including a number of good bids by Ovechkin and Co. The SV% number looks a little more like he actually played if you remove the 5-on-3 goal -- two-man advantage goals are rarely on the goalie.
- The Bruins forward lines--of which there were a few, since Claude Julien kinda hit the lines-blender in the second--were generally alright at getting play going the right way, but had trouble generating dangerous chance when Bergeron wasn't on the ice. David Krejci's and Ryan Spooner's units both had trouble getting through a solid Caps defense.
- The Bruins' last good chance was snuffed out by an Evgeny Kuznetsov backcheck, as the Caps young forward continues with his own strong start to the season. He also assisted on Ovechkin's goal.
- if we substitute Chris Kelly for Anna Kendrick, this video fits just perfectly! Also, the Bruins are 0-1-0 in the Not-Healthy-Kelly era.
The Bruins will travel to Montreal tomorrow, to face the Habs tomorrow night, then wrap-up the round trip with a back-to-back against the Isles.