Tuesday night was the first game back after the All-Star break for both the Boston Bruins and the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins were riding an 18-game point streak and the Ducks were beginning their five-game road trip against Atlantic Division teams. The previous seven games between these two teams had seen the Bruins lose 0-6-1. Their last victory against Anaheim came in a 3-2 shootout victory in Boston on October 21, 2013. Boston also was missing Brad Marchand, who was serving the second of a five-game suspension for his elbowing of Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils on January 23, 2018.
As things got underway, the Bruins would go on the man advantage just 27 seconds in, when Ryan Kesler was whistled for a slashing on Matt Grzelcyk. The fact that it was the Ducks with the two shots on goal during Boston’s power play would sort of define the opening twenty minutes for the Bruins. In fact, the Bruins wouldn’t register a shot on Anaheim’s goaltender, John Gibson, until 8:18 of the first, by which point Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin had already stopped five.
“We just didn’t have it early. I don’t know if it’s credit to them, or just our guys, or the break, whatever the case was, wasn’t good enough. We addressed it. I thought we were a lot better after that,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said postgame.
It was disappointing, the way we came out. And we got the result that shows it. – Patrice Bergeron
Given that the Bruins were on the streak they were, it perhaps shouldn’t have been such a big surprise to them that the opposing team was planning on playing tough from the first puck drop.
“The way we were playing going into the break, you know, you want to find a way to continue that after a few days off, so I thought we did a good job of that, controlling the play and obviously coming out with the lead, so especially against this team at home with the way they’ve been playing for a really long time, so it was a big start for us,” shared Ducks forward Adam Henrique who had two goals on the night, including the game-winner.
Even with Marchand out, the Bruins had found a way to get that 18th win going into the All-Star break, but it was also the seventh game in which they had given up the first goal of the game—a Russian roulette that shouldn’t be played too often. As their streak had continued, opposing teams were determined to hit them hard, but the Bruins didn’t seem to be prepared for that approach in the last few games.
“At the end of the day we just need to focus on ourselves and get the start that we want. I thought they did a good job of coming out and punching us in the mouth metaphorically speaking,” explained defenseman Torey Krug, who had a team-high six shots on goal in the game. “There were times that it seemed like they were hitting us and we weren’t hitting back and we’ve got to focus on ourselves and make sure that we’re using our legs. It’s pretty clear that they are a bigger team and that’s the style of play they want to be but if we come out, use our legs to check, then we can be more effective.”
By the end of the first period, the Bruins were in a two-goal hole and had been outshot 15-5. And it didn’t help that Anders Bjork, who had been recalled and slotted in to take Marchand’s place on the top line, went down early in the game, having been out for only four shifts. The play, which didn’t look dangerous, ended with him on the ice and having to be helped off by the trainer. It was later announced that he would not return and was listed as having an upper body injury.
It did look like the Bruins picked the pace up in the second period. Undoubtedly things were said during the first intermission by the leadership core, as the Bruins went on to outshoot the Ducks in the final forty minutes 26-12. However, the Ducks may have taken their foot off the gas a little too.
“Yeah, we had a few turnovers, obviously, neutral zone, kind of, offense and blue line, we weren’t kind of controlling the puck like we were in the first, where they seemed to gain some momentum,” Henrique offered. “I think there was maybe a penalty kill and then a power play, too, where they gained some momentum, so, you know, those are just areas of the game where we just have to be able to control. I think we’ve been doing a much better job of that the last few weeks, too, so that’s an area we’ve talked about improving on, and I thought we’ve done a good job.”
For Boston, though they managed to keep the Ducks from getting much on net after the first, their own chances just refused to go in.
“A lot of good chances, a lot of good looks. If you bury a few of those, it’s probably a different game and we feel better, more confident. That being said, I think it was a tough start and a good way to come back. Like I said, you have to learn that you have to play 60 minutes in this league,” assistant captain Patrice Bergeron stated after the game.
In addition to Bjork, David Backes would take a hit from Nick Ritchie and go down on the ice like a ton of bricks, with 5:13 remaining in the game. Once again, the Bruins’ trainer would head out onto the ice. There would be no call on the play, though many believed it was a late hit. And for the Ducks, they would see Gibson give in to a lower body injury with just 5:25 remaining in the game, being replaced by backup Ryan Miller.
In the end, it wasn’t a good start for the Bruins and they couldn’t seem to solve Gibson. And while many were talking about the streak and its end, for the Bruins, it was more about this one game than those 18 games before. They will regroup, look at what they need to do differently and expect another hard game on Thursday when the St. Louis Blues, who garnered their third straight win Tuesday night, come to Boston.