Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Halak's heroics wasted by another Bruins offensive outage

Matt Kalman
November 04, 2018 - 12:00 am

Give the 7-4-2 Bruins credit for consistency.

Once again goaltender Jaroslav Halak was nearly impenetrable during a 1-0 loss at Nashville on Saturday.

The 33-year-old made his third start in the past four games and made 39 saves to improve his league-leading save percentage to .952. He looked like a goaltender intent on not relinquishing the net to Tuukka Rask for the foreseeable future.

However, the Bruins again wasted a strong goaltending and defensive performance because their offensive game plan is one line and pray. They were shut out for the third time this season and the second time in the past three games.

With Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron searching for their game for the first two periods – helped in part by 14 minutes in penalties assessed to Marchand from the end of the first period through nearly ¾ of the second period – the Bruins’ would-be attack resembled ghosts left over from Halloween.

Statistically, the second line (centered by David Krejci) and fourth line (centered by Sean Kuraly) held their own against the top team in the NHL. Those lines had a few decent chances, but they produced nothing resembling sustained pressure.

And then there was the third line (centered by Joakim Nordstrom), which based on 5-on-5 ice time should really be classified as the fourth line. Low and behold, the return of David Backes didn’t make this line into an offensive juggernaut. Who would’ve guessed it? In fact, the line of Nordstrom, Backes and Anders Bjork was thoroughly outplayed, produced 25 percent possession numbers and basically just left you wondering which player is going to be the next to be demoted to Providence (AHL) to join or replace Ryan Donato.

Despite their multitude of flaws, the Bruins were within striking distance in one of the toughest buildings to be a visitor, and Bergeron’s line did what it usually does in the third period: put the heat on. But a couple chances missed the net and Pekka Rinne extinguished a few others. Meanwhile, that line received little help and the Bruins were inexcusably outshot 17-6 in the third period despite trailing from the outset of the session.

Not to be left off the hook was the power play, which went 0-for-4 and managed just five shots on net. The Bruins were in and out of the attacking zone in the blink of an eye most of the night. The second unit is desperately missing injured defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk to run the point and might as well let the first unit just the play full two minutes at this point.

Some of the Bruins’ problems have been out of their control. McAvoy and Grzelcyk went down and potential reinforcements from Providence have been limited by injuries and other issues (Peter Cehlarik was banged up; Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson went to Sweden to attend to a personal matter). Although it might be asking a lot of those young players, or Trent Frederic or Zach Senyshyn or Ryan Fitzgerald, to come in and make the third line an actual NHL-caliber line, it may not hurt for general manager Don Sweeney to keep rolling players in and out while he scours the waiver wire and trade market for help.

Otherwise it looks like the Bruins are going to be following the same script night after night, continuing on their upcoming four-game home stand. Halak plays out of his mind and wins or loses based on how much scoring he gets from Bergeron’s line.

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