Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How Bruins wasted McAvoy’s return and lost their third straight game

Matt Kalman
December 06, 2018 - 10:53 pm

It all ended, appropriately enough, with a harmless shot on net.

Coming off a 5-0 loss at the Florida Panthers on Tuesday the Bruins started their game against the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday the way you’d expect a team that had its rears handed to it two days earlier would start.

The Bruins had 11 shots attempts to the Lightning’s six, and had a 1-0 lead on a David Pastrnak goal, when Noel Acciari gave up the Bruins’ momentum. The right wing fluttered a wrist shot from 50 feet away on the rush, and Lightning goalie Louie Domingue gloved it easily to get a whistle and bring on the first TV timeout of the night.

Studies have shown that shots like Acciari’s are as worthless as giveaways to a team’s cause on offense. The Lightning had a chance to rest and regroup, they began carrying the play almost immediately after that timeout and tied the score 1-1 at 14:59 on a Brayden Point goal.

Two goals in the third period gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 win that was only made close by a David Krejci 6-on-5 goal with 1:45 remaining – a rare sustained offensive burst by the Bruins during their third straight loss. The Bruins are 1-4-0 in their past five games and have scored 16 goals in their past 10.

The Bruins had hoped their popgun offense would get a boost from the work they did on their breakouts in practice on Wednesday and the return of Charlie McAvoy, who in a bit of a surprise was activated from the injured list during the afternoon after missing 20 games with concussion symptoms.

McAvoy looked rusty at first and fell down in the sequence before Point’s goal. He took 11 shifts in the first period and that was enough time to get his rhythm. He looked more confident as the game went on and finished with 30 shifts for 19:20 in ice time. Having a healthy McAvoy finding his stride late in the game definitely benefited the Bruins more than having Connor Clifton or Jeremy Lauzon in the lineup down the stretch. The rookies played well early in their stints with the Bruins but their play was starting to drop off as the competition increased in talent.

The extra practice and the extra puck-moving defenseman in the lineup, however, did nothing to improve the Bruins’ offensive fortunate. They started the night by reinserting Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after three games out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. They put Colby Cave back in between Brad Marchand and Pastrnak but then put Krejci in that spot from the second period through the end of the game.

Regardless of who was centering them, Marchand and Pastrnak were back on top of their game, generating 25 percent of the Bruins’ shot attempts and 75 percent of their scoring chances. Too bad two players rarely beat 18.

Forsbacka Karlsson had a strong tip land on net in the third period and won all six of his faceoffs. For that he deserves a cookie. Cave continued to be miscast as a top-six center, Acciari continued to struggle as a third-line wing and we’re now at the point where Sean Kuraly can only get eight minutes and Danton Heinen can only get 10 minutes of ice time because they're contributing so little to the Bruins' cause. The sophomore jinx or whatever you want to call it is real, folks.

The Bruins outshot the Lightning 35-30, 4-0 when Tuukka Rask was pulled for an extra attack. As this heat map shows, many of Boston’s attempts were as harmless as that early-game momentum-stalling Acciari shot.

Courtest NaturalStatTrick.com

No one’s denying that the Bruins’ effort was better than what they produced on Tuesday. But that’s like saying you sing a song better than William Shatner. Anything is better than that. What the Bruins need right now are points and they’re not going to get any if their muckers don’t pay a price to get to the net and get some dirty goals, and their skilled players don't make high-end plays to create enough goals to support their strong goaltending and newly established defensive structure.

Otherwise the Bruins’ pursuit of a playoff berth in the highly competitive Atlantic Division is going to suffer the same fate as that Acciari shot.

Related: Bruins claim former Stars forward Gemel Smith

Comments ()
Tags: