The same old problems were followed by the Bruins in their 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night at the PPG Paints Arena. But this time they added another subplot to the narrative.
Again, the B’s couldn’t find the back of the net 5v5 even though they otherwise played pretty well and landed 43 shots in the net. But on top of that, goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak, who was so good this year, seemed to have hit a wall during his relief run for the injured Tuukka Rask.
And now that the B’s have lost two games and have only won two games in their last seven games, they have a rookie on Tuesday – either Daniel Vladar or Jeremy Swayman – for the rematch. If that wasn’t enough to make B’s fans sweat, the Flyers beat Rangers in extra time on Monday to get the last playoff spot in the East Division within one point ahead of the B’s.
Without a doubt, these are shaky times for your Bruins. The post-game comment from room B emphasized the positive, and maybe that’s a good thing. With no equally strong goals scored in four of the last five games, the self-labeling may have only deepened the seasonally threatening situation the B are currently in.
“You generated enough to win the hockey game. You have to finish, I know that, I’m saying the obvious here. But I worry more if you don’t generate, ”said coach Bruce Cassidy. His team’s lifeless efforts against the Rangers on Saturday are still in mind. “I think there is enough talent to achieve enough goals. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we will be one of the highest scoring teams until we get more aim and more confidence. But we generated enough tonight to score more points in Pittsburgh. But we didn’t finish very well. And they did. ”
The only thing the Bruins could count on this year was a good goalkeeping team. But with Rask on the shelf and Halak in his fourth game in a row, the B’s had a good first period wasted on a few softies.
Pittsburgh B goalkeeper Tristan Jarry scored 20 shots in the first game, two more than she could muster in the entire game on Saturday. They also won their share of the battles, beating pins 19-8.
The B’s took the first lead of the game after Bryan Rust hit Brad Marchand with a penalty. After playing 5-0 in PP on Saturday, Cassidy went back to what had worked before Saturday and put Nick Ritchie back on the first unit as the net-front presence. That paid off immediately. With Ritchie parked in front, Matt Grzelcyk got his first of the year behind Jarry, a nice shot that went off the post and went in.
Everything went well for the B’s until 3:09 was left. Then Evan Rodrigues, operating outside the left circle, fired a harmless-looking shot that Halak couldn’t handle with his glove, and the puck trickled after him.
If that didn’t pierce the skaters in front of Halak, the pens 1:43 later got another hit from Sidney Crosby that was almost as bad as the first. Jake Guentzel had too much time and space in the middle of the ice and he went to Crosby on the right. It seemed like Halak cut the short side off but he left a hole between his left arm and his body and Crosby’s shot somehow found the light of day for the 2-1 lead.
“He wasn’t good in the first phase, but he’s been playing a lot of hockey for us lately, a lot of good hockey. But you have to push back, don’t you? He saved us many times, ”said Cassidy.
For Cassidy, the killer was the penguins’ third goal in the second period. Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton had chances to move the puck up and out of the zone, but poorly managed it behind the B’s net and Clifton received a trip penalty. The pins made it count to make it 3-1. Crosby hit Evgeni Malkin on the right side of the slot and Halak’s gloved hand couldn’t cope with Malkin’s hard snap at 8:20. That was Malkin’s 1,000th career point.
“You will play lower scoring hockey games and you have to be clean and smart. You have to make good decisions with the puck, ”said Cassidy.
The B’s still had a chance of climbing back in. Jake DeBrusk was dismissed for two shorthanded bids in the same penalty shoot-out in the second period. They also had three more chances at the power game that they couldn’t take advantage of. In the last one, which started at 6:48 in the game, David Pastrnak had an open net in a backdoor game, but it was torn wide.
A goal there would have made it interesting, but it didn’t happen and Güntzel ended it with an empty nice guy.
Brad Marchand believes that the focus need not be on the end results, but rather on how those results are derived.
“Of course it’s not acceptable to keep going up and down, to have a good game and a bad one. But our biggest thing is that it’s okay if you lose and do your best on the ice, ”said Marchand. “We don’t want to go any further where we don’t play our best hockey. If you play your best hockey every night, you will win more than you lose. You will not go through this league, there are a lot of good teams, especially in our division. That’s what we need to focus on and we focus more on the outcome, but not the process of how we have to play every night, the accountability that we have to bring to one another. Just bring your best game every night. And if we do that, we’ll win more games than we lose. We’re just too good on a team. We have too much depth. Obviously every team has injuries and we have to balance and work through that, especially now. If you can overcome this adversity, it builds character and that’s something we’ve always been good at. But we don’t panic in our room. We always seem to be able to recover. And we had a good game. We had a really good game. If we continue to build on it and work like this every night, we’ll be fine. ”