What the Bruins can do to make their overtimes less hellish

Matt Kalman
January 02, 2020 - 11:20 pm

Well, at least the Bruins didn’t lose another shootout Thursday.

This time they continued their recent trend of losing during the 3-on-3 overtime, 2-1 to Columbus at TD Garden.

The Bruins have lost their past six games that have gone past regulation, and their past four games that ended in the five-minute overtime. Almost every time the loss has been a result of an odd-man rush against, like the Seth Jones-led 2-on-1 that set up Pierre-Luc Dubois for the Columbus game-winner.

“Just be smarter and hang on to the puck,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who didn’t get on the ice for the 52 seconds of overtime because Charlie McAvoy got the start. “It seems that some teams do that to us, where they’re holding on to the puck, and getting our changes at the appropriate time. I’m not just talking about tonight, but games passed I feel like we can out-change the other team a little bit better and be respectful or our changes and see what happens. Obviously, we’ve got to capitalize on our chances. …

“That’s what happens, it’s kind of a crapshoot at times.”

Crap is an appropriate phrase to describe both the Bruins’ overtime record (2-5) and their shootout record (0-6). And even a veteran team with experience going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final might be suffering some mental blockage in non-regulation games.

“Yeah, you know it’s how I said, I think a big part is confidence,” said forward David Pastrnak, who pulled of a “crapshoot double” by turning the puck over behind the opponents’ net and then getting beat inside the opponents’ blue line with a gamble against Jones.

“I think … early in overtime we had a clean 3-on-2 and I don’t get a shot on net. It’s how I said, a little confidence missing in that, you don’t want to make a bad shot and then [they’re> scoring, they fire back at you and they get a great scoring [chance>. We just need to win one of those and hopefully it’s going to be the next one.”

The points keep accumulating and despite some hot play from Toronto and Tampa Bay, the Bruins’ lead in the Atlantic Division hardly gets a dent in it. But they don’t want to just get one point per night for the next 39 games until the playoffs.

Here’s a helpful short list of solutions coach Bruce Cassidy might want to try to end the “Curse of Overtime.” (copyright)

*Cassidy is tired of his team making dumb plays in overtime.

“As for the overtime, some of it is we’ve got to smarten up,” he said. “Can’t get caught diving down low, that’s happened more than once this year. On those puck battles away from your net, if you don’t make a play at their end, you’ve got to make sure you put yourself in a better spot defensively to defend the rush or get off the ice. That’s cost us a few times, so at some point you’ve got to learn from those mistakes as well.”

Well if you want to make sure smart plays happen, then start the smartest player on the team – Patrice Bergeron. And if his line with Pastrnak and Brad Marchand really is the Perfection Line, then throw them on the ice without a defenseman. Bergeron is wise and responsible enough to handle the back end, if the opponent even gets the puck against the best line in hockey.

*Or how about going with three defensemen? McAvoy, Krug and Brandon Carlo have a little offensive upside and they should be able to get back quickly, particularly if they don’t try and risky offensive plays.

*Eat the puck for as much of five minutes as they can and only attempt a shot if it’s absolutely perfect. This might require the puck-protection skills of Charlie Coyle for a couple minutes, but after Boston wins the faceoff it should lull the opponent to sleep with a skating exhibition until a hole opens up or they clock expires. At least in the shootout there’s a great chance of luck being on the Bruins’ side.

*Win in regulation. The Bruins have blown third-period leads the past two games to two teams, Columbus and New Jersey, that probably won’t be playing past April. They lost a late lead to Los Angeles before losing in overtime last month. When leading after two periods, the Bruins are 14-0-5, a record not reflective of their dominance in the NHL standings.

So it’s not just overtime that requires smarter play, it’s regulation as well. The Bruins have to put their brains to better use in the defensive end, but also add on to their leads with some 5-on-5 goals. And maybe some of those goals could actually come from players not on the Perfection Line. Maybe.

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