(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
The Boston Bruins were playing their last game before going into their bye week and the NHL All Star Weekend. Of their previous three games throughout the week they were 1-1-1, and were trending some bad tendencies in regard to their inability to keep the opposition from scoring a tying or leading goal almost immediately after the Bruins had put one in the net. In reality of their prior ten games the Bruins were doing well, coming into Saturday’s tilt with a 7-2-1 record, but despite having beaten St. Louis on Thursday, that game ended up tied in just such a manner in the second when the Bruins got on the scoresheet first.
Within the first nine minutes of the game against the New York Rangers, on Saturday night, the Bruins had been on the power play for six minutes. Jesper Fast had been whistled for a hold on Brad Marchand 1:03 into the game and then roughly five minutes later Ryan Lindgren sat for a high-sticking double minor on David Krejci. With all of that man advantage time, what happened was Mats Zuccarello had a shorthanded bid on the Bruins net that Tuukka Rask was able to deny. In fact Zuccarello would make the exact same exit from his own zone three times in the opening frame to get quality chances on Rask.
While the Bruins inability to capitalize during those six minutes was distressing, the team needs to be more concerned with the ongoing issues that are allowing the opposition to make shorthanded bids that all too frequently amount to shorthanded goals. Though the Bruins still have the best power play in the league, the gaffs that were questionable back during December and going into the Winter Classic, are now a disturbing trend that for some reason Boston hasn’t been able to fix.
The Bruins ultimately got on the scoreboard first with a gritty goal, the result of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s commitment to winning a puck battle in the corner and then putting that puck squarely on Danton Heinen’s stick. Heinen’s shot beat Henrik Lundqvist with 2:32 remaining in the opening period.
Unfortunately, 1:04 later young gun Filip Chytil had given the New York Rangers the tying goal, and worse, had made serious contact with Rask, who could be seen prone on the ice not moving. Bruins trainer Don DelNegro was at his side almost before the people in TD Garden had registered that Rask was truly injured.
While Chytil was definitely coming in fast on Rask, what made the entire thing go from bad to ugly was Charlie McAvoy’s attempt to deny Chytil’s opportunity. It was a play that just went horribly wrong in every way possible. Chytil ends up launched into the air after scoring, and comes down on Rask, who is shoved backwards into the goal with his head making contact with the crossbar before he slams onto the ice in an awkward fashion.
There was no question after seeing the replay that Rask was seriously hurt and at the very least going to have to go through the concussion testing now required for any hard hits like that. And there was no real surprise when it was later announced that Rask would not be returning to the game due to concussion.
“I tried to just take away the pass, he brought it to the net and he jumps through. I had two hands on my stick, I didn’t feel like I shoved him at all, just unfortunate, it sucks, you hate to see it. Obviously Tuukka’s a huge part of our team, he’s been playing great for us so you don’t want to see that,” McAvoy said post game. “He’s taking the puck hard to the net, I think contact there is unavoidable. He’s trying to get across he’s jumping, obviously I’m in there but I don’t feel like I played a massive part he goes right into him.”
Another look. Not good at all. pic.twitter.com/NGUSW9FQhX
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) January 20, 2019
There was no penalty called on the play and the goal stood. The teams continued until the buzzer signaled the end of the period and went into the first intermission tied. But for the Bruins, they had a difficult image of their teammate being hurt now etched in their brains. Something horrible happened to their teammate and one of their own was partly involved in what led up to that event. No matter how tough and professional you are, seeing your teammate hurt in such a way is something that is difficult to block out of your mind even though the players had to come back out and still continue to play.
“Yeah, he obviously didn’t mean to – you know [McAvoy’s] coming back hard to try and kill a play and when things are going at that speed you can’t anticipate what’s going to happen so, you know, stuff like that happens. By no means is it [McAvoy’s] fault. Plays happen like that in the game of hockey and – but we’re all very concerned about him and thinking about him and hope he’s feeling better here soon,” Brad Marchand said after the game.
The Bruins overall game didn’t really improve in the second and eventually, with zone time mounting for the visitors, the Rangers took the lead. Mika Zibanejad scored at 5:22 of the second period. The Bruins Patrice Bergeron was whistled for high-sticking just 24 seconds into the period, and then Matt Grzelcyk received a slashing call at 13:42 of the middle twenty, which was quickly negated by Kevin Shattenkirk when he received a tripping penalty 17 seconds later But the teams left the ice for the second intermission with the Rangers in the lead. And when the Bruins are behind at the end of the second period, their record coming into Saturday night’s game was an underwhelming 1-13-2 in such previous games.
Marchand would tally an equalizer 3:24 into the final period of regulation, but then Zdeno Chara would be sent off to the box less than five minutes later on a delay of game penalty—one of the more frustrating penalties. Zibanejad would get the go-ahead goal, his second of the game, and the ultimate game-winner, 58 seconds into the Rangers man advantage.
An occasional misplay that gives the opposition a possible shot on net is expected. However, the number of mistakes that have given their opposing teams shorthanded goals, coupled with their inability to keep the opposition from scoring almost immediately after them, are two areas that are the norm rather than the exception. And that is something that the Bruins cannot allow to continue.
“You know, I think there comes a time – we have Stanley Cup Champions in the room. We talk about leadership with this team all the time and how good it is, and it didn’t change today. But, at some point, it does have to come from within that hey you know what, you learn from your previous – the things you need to correct you usually learn from. We’ve done a good job with that, just not lately coming out of scoring goals, so I have to take a long look in the mirror to see if I’m putting the right people out on the ice after. But I’d like to think all of our guys are good players, and you’re kind of sticking with a matchup. Generally, you’re not throwing your least dependable players against their – you know what I mean. You’re trying to stay with the matchup, so I think some of that is incumbent on our group to recognize it. It’s like I think tonight our starts were good for a long time, but we went backwards a little tonight. You have to be a self-motivator to be a successful player in this league. It can’t be up to the coach every night to rev you up. We give them information, we prepare them the day before, we do some stuff in the morning, but when that puck drops it’s the individuals job to be ready to play, energy-wise and focused on the task at hand. We had a faceoff goal that the lining was wrong, and they scored on it, second goal. We were just not in the right spots, and part of that’s on our staff and part of that’s on our players to get it right. We get there late, and it’s in the net. So, some of those things crept into the game tonight. I was asked this morning would our focus be on – maybe it was on the break, but I don’t want to use that as a crutch because it’s happened to us how many games now – four, five, six where we’ve kind of let off the gas, got comfortable, maybe thought it was going to be an easy shift the next one and wanted to extend the lead but not playing the right way. So, there’s a lot of those things that go into it. Yeah, we’ll address it, but you’re not a teacher to the student that listens, right? That’s kind of part of it. We have to buy in,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
The Bruins have nine days before the Winnipeg Jets come to Boston on April 29th. During the nine days, most of the Bruins players will take vacations with their families, resting not only their banged up bodies but also their undoubtedly weary minds. They will hopefully return rejuvenated in body and focused. For David Pastrnak, his time off will be shorter since he will find himself participating in the All-Star Weekend events out in San Jose. But perhaps after a few days off, having the opportunity to just play hockey for the pure love and joy of the sport will help him to regain something that he seems to have lost as well.