10 seconds into the contest, David Pastrnak got behind the Rangers' defense and slipped the puck through Henrik Lundqvist's legs. It almost felt too good to be true. One night after getting embarrassed on home ice by the Minnesota Wild, the Bruins strolled into Madison Square Garden and immediately flexed their muscles. For the first time this season, the Bruins scored the first goal of the game.
The Bruins finished the first period with a strong effort and a comfortable 2-0 lead. Austin Czarnik notched his first career NHL goal after he fired a puck through Brady Skjei's legs that dribbled through Lundqvist. Ryan Spooner pressured Kevin Klein to turn the puck over at the Rangers' blue line, where David Krejci picked it up and shuttled it over to Czarnik. Three Rangers trailed the Miami University product as he took a few hard strides past the blue stripe and fired the puck on net. The Bruins caused several Rangers turnovers, especially near the attacking blue line.
During the first period, the Rangers were trying to force the play through the middle. Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, and Klein were all guilty of finding white sweaters in the middle of the ice on breakout passes. The Bruins frustrated the blueshirts in the neutral zone with their 1-2-2 formation, with one man filtering the playing with the puck towards the boards. This enabled the Bruins to take away puck movement and provided defensive layers, preventing the Rangers from establishing a dynamic attacking presence.
After the first period, the Bruins broke down.
The Bruins took six penalties, two of which the Rangers capitalized on. The Rangers got on the board when Rick Nash lifted his own rebound over an outstretched Zane McIntyre. After two Bruins failed clearances on the penalty kill, Nash was all alone in front of the net and took advantage of the space. Kevin Hayes snuck a puck from behind the goal line off the backside of McIntyre into the net, and it was apparent that the wind was knocked out of the Bruins at that point. From there, the team lacked systematic responsibility and made several mental mistakes. Frustration shown through, exampled by David Pastrnak running Jimmy Vesey into the boards after he chipped the fifth Rangers goal of the evening past McIntyre at the top of the crease. On the play, the Rangers entered the zone on a three on two as a result of a breakdown in neutral zone coverage. Rangers' forwards were left unaccounted for in front of the net several times, and defensive breakdowns grew to be commonplace. If the Bruins are to succeed, the team needs to stick to its system and achieve consistency for more than stretches of a period or two. Boston needs a full sixty minute effort.
As concerning as the shoddy defensive coverage was, the lack of any sort of pressure in the offensive zone was almost equally unnerving. Outside of the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the Bruins have a scarcity of options capable of providing offense on the other lines. While the fourth line has performed admirably, the third line has been non-existent and David Krejci hasn't appeared as the typical high volume scorer that the Bruins are accustomed to him being. If the Bruins attempt to remain competitive and challenge for a playoff spot, forwards need to crash the net and create space in the offensive zone. Too many times, players are standing still in the zone, waiting to react to a play instead of finding the open space and pressuring the defense to bend out of its shape. Reactions and forechecking are trumping speed and creativity, which is leading to the stagnation of the Bruins offense.
Although he allowed five goals, Zane McIntyre was impressive. He challenged shooters with his aggressive play, cutting down the angles and swallowing up shots. He shut down J.T. Miller twice in the first period on the break. After Miller sped by
the traffic cone McQuaid off of a nicely executed quick up along the wall, McIntyre stayed with Miller as he moved to his backhand and athletically sprawled out to make the glove save. Later in the frame, Miller nabbed a pass with speed to breeze by Brandon Carlo, who was caught flat footed, but the North Dakota alum held firm and denied Miller with a pad save, predicated by a strong push off from his left leg. McIntyre handled himself well, yet was hung out to dry by his teammates. It is wrong to pin the loss on the rookie net minder, as four of the goals could be attributed to a surplus of time and space given to Rangers' skaters and/or defensive miscommunications and breakdowns.
The Bruins face a challenging road ahead, visiting the Red Wings, Panthers, and Lighting before returning home to battle the Sabres before the team heads to Montreal to face those who shall not be named. The Wings have won five straight, the Habs have yet to lose in regulation, and the Florida franchises are considered favorites to emerge out of the Eastern Conference. If the Bruins can't get a grip, the team could be in for an uphill climb for the rest of the campaign.