Now we know what a Bruins disaster would look like

Matt Kalman
November 05, 2019 - 12:44 am

There were 28 faceoffs in the Bruins zone, just 11 in the Pittsburgh zone on Monday.

That was just one of the many ways you could measure how much the Penguins dominated the Bruins for many stretches at TD Garden. Of course, you probably won’t spend a lot of time thinking about that because the Bruins won 6-4 on the strength of Brad Marchand’s five points, including the game-winning goal with 1:57 remaining in the third.

But the Bruins definitely should have taken their shortcoming against the Penguins to heart, and it sounded like they already had by the time they showered up and headed for Montreal on Monday night.

“You know even against Ottawa [a 5-2 win on Saturday> we didn’t have a great game, but we won,” Marchand said. “And it’s not something we can continue to do, we can’t have bad games and expect to win every night. So playing with fire a little bit, but it was a good I think eye-opener for us realizing that we’re not as good as we might’ve thought we were. Things were rolling smoothly and every team has an opportunity to win every night, and that’s just something we have to continue to remember. But when we focus and play our game and we play the right way, we’re a good team and we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity to win. We did that I the third and came out on the high end.”

At 11-1-2 the Bruins remain the only team in the NHL with one regulation loss. They’re 7-0-1 at the Garden, leaving them as one of two teams (along with Vancouver) that hasn’t lost in regulation at home yet. Boston has won six in a row and earned a point in 10 straight games (8-0-2). It’d be easy for the Bruins to get complacent or have an off game. The Penguins made sure the Bruins wouldn't coast to another two points..

Pittsburgh outshot them 44-26 and out attempted them 64-45. The second period was a dreadful mess for the Bruins, as they were outshot 21-6 and outscored 4-1. They only had five shots on net after taking a 3-0 lead with 4:22 elapsed in the second period.

That period, though, was only the peak of what was an ugly night for Boston. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan called his team’s performance “one of the best games we played all year … we just didn’t win it.” Had Jaroslav Halak (40 saves) not been as sharp as he was when it mattered most, had Matt Murray (three goals allowed on 11 shots) not had one of his worst performances of the season in net, had the Penguins not lost defenseman Kris Letang to injury in the third period, the result could’ve been different and the Bruins could’ve been left scrambling for answers.

The Penguins, a team coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game was the fastest he’s seen this year, put that speed to great use on the forecheck and on the breakout, moving the puck too quickly sometimes for the Bruins to find their structure, and preventing the Bruins more often than not from making a player rather than just dumping the puck out of their own end. The result was possession for the Penguins and their stable of talented offensive players, led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang. None of that trio scores, and Malkin and Letang had one assist each, but they were right in the thick of keeping the heat on and wearing out the Bruins so that other players could take advantage of a tired Boston defense corps. Letang had six shots on net, Crosby had five.

“I think their pressure, just their forecheck, they were keeping pucks low and it seemed like we were kind of standing still there for a little bit,” forward Jake DeBrusk said. “And you know kind of not managing the puck, I think that was the biggest thing. I had a couple plays too where I passed to nobody. So that’s kind of on us in a way, but you’ve got to give them credit, they were all over our defensemen tonight. And that goes through the neutral-zone forecheck and things like that, little details. But that’s why they were giving us so many problems.”

In addition to the Bruins’ winning streak, Marchand has a 13-game point streak and David Pastrnak has a 12-game point streak. The Bruins are dominating not just the NHL standings but the NHL leaderboard.

But there are still things they have to work on. If they hadn’t already realized it, the Penguins grabbed their attention. The next highly skilled NHL team to take a page from the Penguins’ book might not get terrible goaltending from its starter or be banged up on its back end, and that could spell disaster for the Bruins.

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