Bruins are panicking, and here’s how they can stop their five-game losing streak

Matt Kalman
December 12, 2019 - 11:06 pm

One thing we’ve rarely seen since around the Bruins since Bruce Cassidy took over as coach in February 2017 is panic. Nothing has stopped these guys and their bench boss from having the nerves of a special agent defusing a bomb.

They could use some cooler heads to prevail now after their 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay extended their losing streak to five games for the first time in the Cassidy era. It’s also the first time they’ve lost four straight in regulation since Cassidy’s first couple months on the job.

Want to know how white-knuckled things are right now around the Bruins? Even Patrice Bergeron, the suave James Bond of the NHL, the man so perfect his helmet doesn’t even muss his hair, made a panic play. It was so blatant, NESN color analyst Andy Brickley, who doesn’t shy away from criticizing anyone, had to violate the cardinal rule of Bruins Land and point out a Bergeron faux pas that cost Boston at a crucial time in the game.

During a third-period penalty kill in a 1-1 game, Bergeron made a steal deep in the Bruins’ zone with a chance to clear the puck and go for a change. Instead he tried to make a pass to Brad Marchand at the far blue line, where it was intercepted. Bergeron’s shift ended after 1:24 of ice time with the Lightning’s go-ahead goal of Brayden Point’s stick. Yes even Patrice Bergeron is trying to force things.

It wasn’t just the Bruins’ Mr. Perfect who was a little off his game trying to do too much to get Boston out of its rut. The power play turned in an 0-for-2 one night after it was 0-for-5 in Washington. There were some decent looks, but also a lot of plays where five guys were trying to do different things.

John Moore fell and took a penalty that led to Tampa Bay’s tying goal. Instead of trusting his teammates to bail him out, he reached out and tripped Alex Killorn. Moore took two minor penalties that weren’t necessary, possibly a sign he’s still trying to find his game after his long injury absence. Sean Kuraly took an unnecessary penalty as well, and it led to Point’s goal.

Captain Zdeno Chara accepted Pat Maroon’s invitation to fight 27 seconds into the game. Considering how badly his team needs him, and the fact that he fought Tom Wilson 24 hours earlier, Chara might’ve been wiser to decline the offer and save a potential fight for protecting a teammate. Maroon told Fox Sports Florida he was looking to fire up his team. The Bruins did not need to play against a fired-up Lightning team considering the state the Bruins are in.

And that brings us to the coach, the Master Toggler, the guy who never met a line combination he couldn’t break up (unless it’s Brad Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak). The Bruins were right there in a 1-1 game, getting outshot just 21-16 entering the third period, looking like they were building some chemistry. And then boom, Charlie Coyle becomes David Krejci’s right wing. Sean Kuraly starts centering the third line. Chris Wagner takes a shift at center but then for the third straight game doesn’t get off the bench in the second half of the third period. Joakim Nordstrom was equally benched.

Cassidy saw something he didn’t like. He told Brickley and Jack Edwards after the game that “you need four lines and six D going, and I can’t say we had that tonight.” In a later scrum with the rest of the media, Cassidy lamented not getting enough from the bottom nine forwards. It would take a little delving into his mind to find out exactly what he didn’t like about what he was seeing. But he didn’t help matters with his mixing and matching.

It sure looks like he’s panicking, and it’s rubbing off on his players. How many times have you heard the Bruins, and every team in the NHL, for all of eternity, say that the way to get out of a slump is to simplify? We’ve seen this Bruins core and most of the supporting players do that time and again the past couple seasons. It’s taking them a little longer this time around to get back to that mindset.

So that’s what the Bruins need to do: simplify. That means executing basic plays, running some give-and-go plays, looking for more high tips. And that means picking four forward lines and sticking with them, while also not burying his hardest-working players halfway through the third period.

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