According to the old adage, home is supposed to be “where the heart is”.
TD Garden has been nothing short of a house of horrors for the Boston Bruins so far this season.
The same team that recorded a 24-10-7 record on Causeway Street last year has been a shadow of themselves this campaign. Wednesday night was the latest example of the Bruins’ early season struggles on home ice as they played host to the Philadelphia Flyers, who were on the second night of a back-to-back. Boston took a two-goal lead into the third period and appeared to have the game under control after a shaky opening 20 minutes.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Goals from Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds 2:36 apart sent the game into overtime when the Flyers captain unleashed a missile past Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask on the power play, giving Philadelphia the 5-4 victory. With the loss, Boston remains one of six teams that has yet to win on home ice this season (0-3-1).
What’s gone wrong on Causeway Street for the Black and Gold this year?
Leaks on The Blue Line
Boston’s defense corps was thought of as the weak link of the squad entering the season. Indeed, they have allowed the second-most goals (26) in the league. Only the winless Columbus Blue Jackets (37) have let in more.
The Boston Bruins defense corps. #ScaryStoryIn5Words
— Dan (@bruinshockeynow) October 20, 2015
On home ice, the Bruins have allowed a total of 21 goals through four home games. It’s more alarming to note that they’ve allowed at least four goals in every game played at TD Garden so far this season. Last year, Boston allowed four or more goals just three times on home ice.
Furthermore, the predisposition of the Bruins as a strong third-period team is rapidly losing its luster. In the final 20 minutes, Boston has allowed eight goals to the opposition while scoring just twice on their own. The “aggressiveness” general manager Don Sweeney wanted from his club has been sorely lacking while the defense has lost their composure and focus in critical times.
Tuukka Rask was dominant at home last season. The Finnish netminder went 22-8-6 with a goals-against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .924 at the Garden a year ago.
Had you told me before the season that Tuukka Rask would be among chief reasons B's lower in standings- wouldn't have believed it.
— Kirk Luedeke (@kluedeke29) October 22, 2015
However, his start to the season on home ice has been mediocre. Rask has been in goal for all four of Boston’s home matchups and has a 4.75 GAA with a .852 save percentage. Sure we can chalk up most of his statistics to the poor play of the blue liners but the 27-year-old goaltender is not without fault either.
In fact, things got so bad on Wednesday night the Garden faithful decided to let Rask hear something that hasn’t been commonplace in his career. After Sam Gagner scored to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead, the gallery gods voiced their displeasure with their franchise goaltender with a few sarcastic cheers after making a routine save.
They did the same thing after Simmonds’ third-period goal to tie the game at four. Clearly, Bruins nation is frustrated with their entire back end including Rask. In fact, one may start to wonder if he is sick and tired of carrying this team on his back as he did much of last season.
Killed on The Penalty Kill
The Bruins may be tied for the best home power play (5/13, 38.5 percent) in the league but the penalty kill has been their kryptonite on home ice.
Boston’s PK has killed off just eight of their 12 opportunities in the comforts of Causeway Street. Their 66.7 percent success rate is tied with three other teams for the third-worst in the NHL, allowing a league-high four power play goals to the opposition. The youth on the blue line and inexperience is a major catalyst to their lack of success.
If there’s one area the Bruins miss injured defenseman Dennis Seidenberg most, the penalty kill is it. The German blueliner has been missing in action since undergoing surgery to repair a disk in his back last month but started skating on his own earlier this week, according to coach Claude Julien.
That will be welcome news to Bruins fans considering Seidenberg led the club last season racking up close to 210 minutes of shorthanded time on the ice. His veteran presence will take the heat off Boston’s youngsters on the blue line who have the nearly impossible task of replacing the 34-year-old.
The Black and Gold will play six of their next eight games on the road, starting with a trip to Brooklyn to face the New York Islanders on Friday. It may not be a bad thing for the club as the TD Garden has been anything but home in the early going.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW