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For the Bruins, this is getting ugly

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The struggles are piling up, and the playoffs look precarious.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins Kathryn Riley-USA TODAY Sports

To get the obvious out of the way, the Bruins aren’t doomed.

They’re currently in a playoff spot, and while they’re nine points behind the top three teams in the East Division, they have three or four games in hand on each of those teams. They’re also 4-2-1 in their last seven games, and ran into a Pittsburgh Penguins team that’s on a hot streak last night. It happens.

Having said all of that, do you feel even remotely confident in this Bruins team right now?

If you do, you deserve a Glass Half Full Award. It’s true that the B’s were on a decent seven-game run prior to last night’s game, and it’s fair to wonder if what’s causing a lot of this angst is the manner in which the Bruins lost to the Penguins. It was a listless, lifeless, dull effort all the way around, save for Charlie McAvoy and maybe Dan Vladar. The Bruins had two shots on goal in the first period. Two!!!! Per Natural Stat Trick, at 5v5, the Bruins had 0 high-danger scoring chances in the first and third periods, and just 3 in the second period; the Penguins had 15.

You can tell that frustration is building with Bruce Cassidy. A few games ago, he was calling out the younger guys like Trent Frederic and Anders Bjork for not doing enough. Then he was calling out other guys for making Brad Marchand be the one to get involved in shenanigans against the Devils. Last night, it was the “big guys” who drew his ire (though “ire” might be strong), with Cassidy dropping the fatherly “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” on them.

He’s not wrong.

  • Patrice Bergeron has two goals since the start of March, and zero in his last nine games.
  • David Pastrnak hasn’t scored in his last five games.
  • Brad Marchand has scored in each of the last two games, but prior to that, he was scoreless in eight straight.
  • Away from the top line, Charlie Coyle hasn’t scored in 13 games, and David Krejci has just a single goal on the season.

That’s a lot of dry spells all at once.

It appears that what we’ve seen in the last eight to ten games is what happens when the Bruins’ first line isn’t able to carry the rest of the team. Secondary/tertiary scoring has been an issue for this team for years, and has remained an issue this season; however, the Bergeron line was doing enough to cover up those issues earlier in the season. Now, with the big guns going cold, those issues are rearing their ugly head once again.

It’s fair to ask if all of this is a bit of an overreaction to a bad game against a pretty decent Penguins team. After all, bad games happen. I think what’s most troubling is how the Bruins lost. We’ve seen games over the past few years where the Bruins don’t have it and stumble to a loss, even during their scorched earth campaign prior to last season’s COVID shutdown. But we’ve rarely seen them get so thoroughly beaten in all aspects of the game, and look so completely hapless in the process.

The question, of course, is where do they go from here?

The Bruins are struggling on offense (they’ve scored just ten more goals than the Buffalo Sabres). They’re banged up on defense. Their #1 goalie is out with a lingering injury. And yet, they’re still very much in the mix. Don Sweeney now finds himself in a tough spot: the Bruins don’t look like a favorite for the Stanley Cup, but there’s virtually no way he can just stand pat at the deadline (frankly, selling would be more acceptable than just doing nothing). Games like last night’s may force Sweeney’s hand and accelerate his trade deadline plans, if he can find a team willing to make a deal early.

Maybe things will click tomorrow afternoon, and last night’s effort will be a speed bump. It’s fair to say that the Bruins have too much talent to continue to flounder on offense, and that the pucks should start to go in eventually. The only question is whether or not that “eventually” will come too late. We all knew that the Bruins were a one-line team. Now, that one line has gone cold, and the other lines haven’t picked up the slack.

Something’s gotta give, whether it’s one of the depth guys stepping up with a big game or Sweeney investing in his locker room by bringing in some scoring help. If not, that playoff spot will get a little more precarious, if not completely fumbled away.