With the opening of the 2018-19 NHL Regular season a week away, and the deadline for starting rosters looming on October 2, 2018, the Boston Bruins played their next to last preseason game on Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. The two teams played each other in Detroit five days prior, Saturday, September 22, 2018, and saw the Bruins served with an overtime loss 1:42 into the three-on-three extra frame at Little Ceasar’s Arena. Going into Wednesday night’s game the Bruins were 5-0-1 and hoped to end the Red Wings’ five-game winning streak.
The first period was a lot of circling with little else taking place. Neither team capitalized on their man-advantages of which the Bruins had two and the Red Wings had two and the first few seconds of a third. The shots were relatively even, with Detroit edging out Boston 11-10.
Going into the second period, after killing off the 1:50 remaining of defenseman Steven Kampfer’s hooking penalty, Boston got on the scoreboard first with David Pastrnak’s redirection of Kampfer’s slapshot from the right point. Less than four minutes later, and just five seconds into their third power play, Boston’s Lee Stempniak gave his team their second goal of the game. Unfortunately for Boston, being up two goals would not be enough as the Red Wings would capitalize on their next two power plays to tie the game.
Some questioned Jaroslav Halak’s efforts in net for the Bruins, especially on the second goal, but by that point the Bruins were becoming sloppier as the game went on. During a good thirty seconds of that second penalty kill, the Bruins just couldn’t seem to get the puck to stop bouncing around and stay on their sticks so that they could clear it two hundred feet. Coupling the somewhat Keystone Cop-like approach to the penalty kill was the solid screen by Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi in front of Halak, and it was just a matter of when the puck would find the back of the net.
The sloppiness of the Bruins showed, not only in their inability to clear the zone on the penalty kill, but also in the increasing number of giveaways. During the first period they had seven (Detroit had three). Boston’s best period in this area was the second in which they only had four additional giveaways (though Detroit added just two more). The third period saw Boston tallying ten further giveaways, compared to Detroit’s additional three. It was these giveaways and the amount of time that Detroit hemmed Boston in their own end during the final frame, outshooting Boston 16-6 in the third that showed how strong Halak actually was. If not for Halak, it could have been a regulation loss for the Bruins rather than an overtime loss.
“A lot of it is some of the guys tonight haven’t played a lot, so I think they’re still a little bit in circling mode and not detail mode, so we’ll have to address that. So that was certainly part of it. I thought the ice conditions were soft, so the puck was bouncing, so the guys were getting frustrated. It’s the same for both teams, right, so the onus is on us then to get it to the net, go for some second chances. But I think we tried to be too cute. We all saw that,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy answered honestly after the game. “Our breakdowns were just our puck management was not where it needed to be. We just did not manage the puck as well as you need to, to be hard to play against.”
In truth both Torey Krug and Noel Acciari were in their first game of the preseason, having finally finished the rehab from their injuries. Patrice Bergeron continued to be absent from the lineup as he continues to rehab from his groin surgery during the summer. David Backes found himself as the pivot of the top line with Brad Marchand and Pastrnak.
Both Krug and Acciari were pleased with how they felt overall but recognize that they still have a way to go, so it is fortunate that they have one more preseason game before the wins and losses really start to matter.
“You can never prepare for the physicality and pushing off guys in the corner, getting hit, and going back for pucks—you can’t prepare for that, just because you don’t have the same competitiveness in practice,” Krug explained. “Your teammates don’t want to blow you up or anything, so I felt okay. A lot of times, the read and reaction part of it’s got to come back, and hopefully I get another shot at it on Saturday to get going.”
Yes, the good news is that the results of the game don’t matter, but the sloppiness of the play and the number of penalties the Bruins took speak to things that will undoubtedly be addressed in the next few days by the coaching staff. And really that is part of what preseason is about. There is the testing of the young players to see how they are developing. There are those players who may not have had the opportunity to train in the summer, the result of recovering from injury or surgery and rehabbing. And as those young players are put on lines, it is to be expected that there will be a lack of chemistry and some missed communications.
Ideally Coach Cassidy is hoping that he will have Bergeron and Sean Kuraly back for Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers so that he can see if what he envisions as his centers and their line mates will work. However, no one on the staff wants to rush the recovery of any player, so it is possible that tinkering will continue right up until Boston must submit their starting roster.