The Boston Bruins were back at TD Garden on Thursday night, in their third game in four nights, for the eighth time this season—with the first two having been on the road. The road games garnered the team three of a possible four points as they beat the Montreal Canadiens on Monday and then fell in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. Despite having had Thursday morning off, it was perhaps not enough to rest some banged up bodies from the two physical road games.
Going into the game against the Anaheim Ducks unfortunately the Bruins carried a five-game losing streak where this western conference team is considered, having gone 0-4-1. This home and home series will conclude in February when the Bruins will play in Anaheim.
For a local Bruin, it was to be his home opener. Matt Grzelcyk had been recalled from the Providence Bruins on Tuesday and played in his first NHL regular season game on Wednesday against the Penguins. As happens whenever a hometown player is on the ice in Boston, there was much family in attendance. In Grzelcyk’s case, his father John was in the stands, though he is often working at TD Garden, as he is a member of the bull gang—the hardworking group who transition the arena for ice hockey, basketball or concerts. And while Grzelcyk has played on TD Garden ice during his tenure at Boston University, there is definitely something special about donning the home team jersey at the NHL level.
“Yeah. It was really cool,” Grzelcyk said after the game. “Obviously, got a chance to do it in college, but now with the Bruins sweater, it means a little bit more. I just tried to keep it in the back of my mind. Not tonight. Maybe I’ll think about it when I get home.”
Of course, he would certainly have a much sweeter memory if the Bruins had managed to win the game. They have now lost their last three home games and are sub .500 on home ice. The Bruins continue to struggle with feeling a need to make it pretty at home rather than simply getting it done.
“We’ve got a few guys that can fly and score on the rush, but our goals have mostly been ugly, banging around the net, screens, you know,” David Backes explained. “But, they’re all in tight or somebody is standing on the top of the crease taking the goalie’s eyes away. We’ve got to play our game where we like the percentages and how we’re going to win games—pucks deep, taking care of it, and eliminating the opponent’s chances.”
Unfortunately, despite getting a quick two-goal lead with goals scored just 13 seconds apart, the first by Zdeno Chara and the second from Austin Czarnik, the Bruins would find themselves heading to the locker room at the first intermission in a tie game.
Immediately after the second goal, the Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle chose to use his timeout to settle his team down. It worked all too well, as just 24 seconds later, Andrew Cogliano would cut the Bruins’ lead in half. Kevin Bieksa, having just exited the box at the end of his penalty, would have a breakaway to tie the game with 2:10 remaining in that first period.
The Bruins had experienced this before, but when they came back for the middle frame, it wasn’t even a minute into the period before Northeastern University alumnus Josh Manson had the Ducks up by a goal; scoring his first of the season despite having played in the previous 30 games. David Krejci, the only center to finish above 50 percent in the faceoff for the Bruins, would tie things up on the power play a little more than a minute later.
Some sloppy play and miscues—which contributed to the Bieksa goal, would help to give time and space that Rickard Rakell took full advantage of, as a rebound hopped on his stick and he found a wide open back door. This put the Ducks up 4-3 and would end the scoring for both teams for the remainder of the game.
Rakell has been a scoring machine for the Ducks, having scored 11 goals in just 19 games.
“He came in with a bang,” Coach Carlyle said before the game. “I think, his first couple of games, he had the freedom out there. Now that teams are starting to tighten up, we’re going to try and give him a little bit more offensive opportunities. He’s a talented individual.”
The puck continues to find the forward, who this season has been put on the wing, as opposed to spending more time at center last season. The new position clearly agrees with him.
“Yeah, obviously, like, I can be close to the net, and try to find pucks, and if you’re a centerman, you’re more in the slot and trying to read off situations,” Rakell shared. “But I’m trying to put myself in the best positions to always score. So, it’s a little bit different, but it’s working right now, so I’m just going to stick with it,”
The Bruins have Friday and Saturday to regroup before they host the Los Angeles Kings for a Sunday matinee. They will close out the pre-Christmas homestand on Tuesday evening with a tilt against the New York Islanders. Thursday and Friday nights will see them again on the road to play the Florida Panthers and then the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders, Panthers and Hurricanes games will be another three games in four nights.