Reasons not to panic after Bruins’ third straight loss

Matt Kalman
December 09, 2019 - 11:11 pm

Here we go again, our monthly mind-blowing revelation that the Bruins aren’t going to win every game.

Oh but this time they've lost three in a row (0-2-1) after winning eight in a row, a winning streak that didn't impress many because a lot of times they came from behind in games. So that proves that this time, really, truly, they’re not as strong a team as their point total – second in the NHL to Washington – says they are.

Just shoot me.

The Bruins lost 5-2 (really 3-1 when you consider Jake DeBrusk’s garbage-time goal, plus two Ottawa empty-netters) to the Senators on Monday. It wasn’t the bounce-back performance they were looking for after getting beat in a battle of NHL elites by Colorado on Saturday. It still wasn’t anything to blow up the team about.

Each of Ottawa’s goals was the result of a correctable mistake. And in the case of Anthony Duclair’s goal, no one could do anything about the funny bounce off the end wall that set that one up. The Bruins pelted Ottawa goalie Anders Nilsson with 40 shots, and he stopped 38. They obviously needed better execution, particularly on their 1-for-5 power play, but they had as many solid stretches as they had poor ones, just the puck wound up in their net more than the Senators’.

For the second time this season they’ve lost consecutive games in regulation, and for the second time they’ve lost three straight in any fashion. This is not a product of miscalculated talent evaluation or off-base roster construction. This is about the NHL season, the schedule and, yes, the repercussions of playing until June 12 last summer.

Of course, it doesn’t require a team to play that long the season before to hit some bumps in the road. Washington lost at home to Columbus while the Bruins were losing at Ottawa. The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues got smoked at home by Toronto on Saturday. Vegas got clobbered at home to the New York Rangers.

You’d still be hard-pressed to get decent odds on those teams not playing into May.

Here are your reasons not to panic about the Bruins:

1. Bruce Cassidy summed it up with Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley after the loss in Ottawa. He called the Bruins’ recent struggles falling behind in games an “emotional challenge.” Thursday nights against Chicago, Saturday nights against Minnesota, Monday nights in Ottawa … they just don’t match up with the emotion and magnitude of May and June games in Carolina and St. Louis. You knew this was coming.

Earlier in the season it was easier for the Bruins to pick up where they left off. But you can’t keep the urgency that high over 82 games. The Bruins impressively managed to win their eight straight games before this slump despite having similar problems with their urgency and their execution. That’s where their talent can swoop in and save them. So until their struggles snowball, cool your heels.

With Washington, Tampa Bay and Florida upcoming on the schedule, there will be no excuse for the Bruins being lackadaisical. We’ll see how they respond.

2. Just to reiterate, the Bruins are 20-5-6. That’s something like a 120-point pace. A rut might put them on a 110-point pace. Call out the national guard.

The Bruins were going to slump. It’s how quickly they come out of it that will tell us more about this team, and history tells us this core doesn’t let these problems grow.

3. This is the most important thing related to the Bruins’ sudden struggles: they’re integrating players at a time many teams would’ve been hesitant to change the lineup. Of course Patrice Bergeron, who scored in his comeback game Monday, was going to play as soon as he was ready. But Cassidy has decided to give Brett Ritchie and John Moore a little bit of a run. The Bruins needs to see what they have. Can Ritchie be a middle-six power forward? Can Moore and Matt Grzelcyk exist together as a two-lefty defense pair? Both those questions have garnered mixed answers thus far. But the Bruins need these answers now so general manager Don Sweeney knows how to deal before the February trade deadline and Cassidy knows what flexibility and limitations he has with his lineup down the road.

We saw Anders Bjork get his first run as a right wing of the season Monday. That could be huge if Bjork could be the second-line right wing the Bruins have been searching for. Expect to see more changing of line combinations and defense pairs while the Bruins look to get back on track.

But more than anything, don’t panic.

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