Bruins Can Still Turn Around Rough Start to Season
The promising 2017-2018 Bruins’ roster met a few obstacles over their first 5 games. Despite the easy match-ups the Bruins had, they only managed to win 2 of those games. Perhaps it’s the absence of key forwards, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes, or maybe it’s the addition of newer and inexperienced players. Whatever the reason is, the Bruins must take advantage of their easy schedule, as they will not play a powerful team until the beginning of November when they face Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
The Bruins opened their season with a dominant performance against last year’s Stanley Cup Champion Runner-Ups, the Nashville Predators. Rookie Jake DeBrusk began the scoring, netting his first NHL career goal in his first NHL career game. Moments later, fellow rookie, Charlie McAvoy launched the puck into the back of the net, his first NHL goal as well, putting the Bruins up by 2. It came as no surprise the kids would make an early impact on this team. They were eventually complimented by David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The Bruins led 4-1 for the most of the game. Nashville managed to create stress on the rink and in the crowd as they put 2 on the board in the last 2 minutes, but failed to tie it as time ran out.
Despite the promise and ferocity shown in Game 1, the Bruins managed to fall twice in back to back games to the 2016-2017’s last place team, the Colorado Avalanche. In fact, the last time the Bruins beat the Avalanche in Boston was March 30th, 1998, back when Ray Bourque AND Joe Thornton were still wearing Black and Gold. The Bruins forgot to show up, getting shutout at home 4-0. Literally two days later, the Bruins traveled to Denver and dropped the game with a marginally better outcome, 6-3.
On Saturday, the team travelled to the Gila River Arena in Glendale, where they trounced the Arizona Coyotes, 6-2. This game is a more accurate representation of what the Bruins are capable of. Solid plays involving a medley of newcomers and seasoned veterans resulted in plenty of goals for this convincing win. Wisconsin-native, Anders Bjork, scored his first NHL career goal during the power play in the waning minutes of the 3rd period. Danton Heinen, another rookie, was called up and contributed 2 primary assists – proving he deserves a second chance in the majors. Backup netminder, Anton Khudobin played the entire game, giving Tuukka Rask the night off.
On Las Vegas
Sunday, the Bruins went to Las Vegas for the first time, to play the Golden Knights in their inaugural season. With former Pittsburgh goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, suffering an injury in the previous game, Vegas promoted Malcolm Subban to the Knights roster. Subban was 2012 first-round pick of Bruins – he was placed on waivers on the 6th of October. Subban never showed as much promised in the NHL as he did in the AHL with Boston – being pulled in both games he started. He played his 3rd NHL game against Boston on Sunday, nearing a shutout until Pastrnak scored in the late 3rd period. Many questions arose when General Manager Don Sweeney finally gave up on Subban, with echoes of the Seguin trade (Thornton or Kessel) haunting the Bruins faithful. Despite his stellar performance, Subban’s success in Game 5 was largely attributed to the Bruins failure to create and convert scoring chances. The Bruins looked too tired for a game this early in the season. Maybe the Vegas nightlife got the better of them.
What went right?
Young guns, DeBrusk, McEvoy, Heinen, and Bjork are already making an early impact – each with multiple points. DeBrusk is making the departure of longtime fan favorite Milan Lucic more palatable. Bjork shows flashes of greatness with his hands, occasionally being mistaken for Marchand. Pastrnak is proving his 6.6 million dollar contract is worth every penny. Marchand leads the team in points (5), and shows no hint of digression since his career highs in goals, points, and overall production last year. Khodobin is expected to play significantly more than he did last year as the team tries to alleviate the pressure put on Rask. He was put in during the second game against Colorado, stopping all 8 shots he faced, in addition to his win over Arizona.
What Went Wrong?
The Bruins seem to be unable to beat lower-tier teams. This trend has been evident over the past few seasons. There is not one reason for this, rather a multitude of issues that the Bruins have to address and fix. Unlike the past seasons, the Bruins now actually have the necessary tools. Not one player is responsible for the losses that already occurred. “Trade Rask” and “fire Cassidy” are common phrases used by nervous Bruins fans on social media. Those individuals need to keep their faith intact. This team still has great potential, after all, a 2-3 record is not awful and there still is 77 games left
Cassidy and Chemistry
Cassidy is still adapting to this team as head coach. He shuffled the lines multiple times over the 5 games played. At one point, 4th line center Riley Nash played on the first line with Marchand and Pastrnak. While it does not appear the team is in immediate trouble, there is significant room for improvement. It does not appear that anyone’s job is in jeopardy at this point, and despite what one may read on social media, Rask, Chara, and Cassidy are staying put. This team has many new players, and chemistry is normally not instantaneous. Cassidy is not afraid to experiment, and the beginning of the season is the time to do so. For what it’s worth, rival Montreal players and fans alike are panicking as former Bruins coach, Claude Julien has managed a 1-3-1 record thus far.
Bergeron and Backes have yet to play a game this season, and their absence has hurt the team. Bergeron suffered a lower body injury before the season began. Upper management is vague in their description of the injury, but Bergeron has been practicing with the team to an extent. Backes has been diagnosed with Diverticulitis, an inflammation in the digestive tract. There has been talk that both players may make their debuts before November. Noel Acciari also remains out of the lineup after suffering a fractured index finger – and will be out until mid-November. Ryan Spooner left the game against Vegas with a lower body injury. It did not appear to be serious, leaving his attendance to Thursday’s game against Vancouver questionable. Coincidently, all of these players are all centers (some forced to play on the wings). It is likely Jakub Forsbacka-Karlsson will play if Spooner is not available. Pastrnak’s face came within inches of a falling Golden Knight’s skate blade, and McQuaid went head first into the boards the same night. Both players are fine and will be in attendance Thursday.
As previously mentioned, the Bruins have an easy schedule over the next couple weeks. They should win the next four games, all of which are at TD Garden. They will get plenty of rest between the games, making the returns of Bergeron, Backes, and Spooner more likely. It is better to remain optimistic, the Bruins lost 8 of their first twenty games in 2010-2011, and went on to win the Stanley Cup the same season. It is neither safe nor fair to assume the fate of any team in any sport during the first weeks of the season.