Bruins Need to Clean up Bad Habits Against Wild With Upcoming Schedule

Coming off three straight victories following their 16-day COVID-19 shutdown in the last five days and playing a team that was undermanned, the Boston Bruins had an effort that was reminiscent of their first 26 games Thursday night.

As they struggled through their first 26 games at 14-10-2, the Bruins had many nights where they took too many penalties, outshot their opponents, and were frustrated at the end of the game. That was the case following their, 3-2, loss to the Minnesota Wild at the TD Garden Thursday night. To make matters worse, they were beaten on a goal by Wild rookie, former Boston College standout, and Boston native Matt Boldy in the second period of his first career game.

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Minnesota played the game with 11 forwards following Brandon Duhaime being placed in COVID-19 protocols, joining Jordan Greenway. Also out of the lineup injured for the Wild were Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Bjugstad, Jared Spurgeon, and goalie Cam Talbot. They still came to Boston and broke a five-game losing streak and recorded their first win since Dec. 9. Let’s take a look at what turned out to be a frustrating night and what needs to be cleaned up going forward against tougher competition.

Bruins Played Undisplined Hockey

Usually, the Bruins are a disciplined team, but through two periods alone, they took seven minor penalties, which the Wild cashed in on. After Minnesota was called for two minor penalties in the first period on one sequence for a two-minute 5-on-3, which the Bruins ended up scoring a 4-on-3 Taylor Hall power play goal, the Black and Gold returned the favor later in the period and the visitors took full advantage.

Brandon Carlo and Brad Marchand were called for penalties on the same sequence and the Wild, who entered the game with the 25th ranked power play in the NHL capitailized. Kirill Kaprizov one-timed a pass from Mats Zuccarello by Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman to tie the game, before Nico Sturm, redirected a Jonas Brodin slap shot from the point 1:23 later for a 2-1 lead.

Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins
Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Boston ended up taking eight minor penalties in the game, with Patrice Bergeron being called for two, while Trent Frederic was whistled for three. Boston’s penalty kill has been good as of late, but being asked to kill eight minor penalties, including a two-minute 5-on-3 is asking too much in one game.  Before the COVID-19 shutdown, the Bruins had moments when they were undisciplined and took too many penalties, which cost them some games. That was once again the case against the Wild. Moving forward, they have to be more disciplined and stay out of the box.

Bruins Lacked High-Scoring Opportunities

Once again, the Bruins outshot their opponent, but lost the game. They held a 38-30 advantage in shots, but according to Natural Stat Trick, most of the Black and Gold’s attempts came from above the circles. That certainly made life easy for Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen.

Hall’s power play goal was a slap shot from just below the right circle dot and Marchand’s second-period power play goal was also a slap shot, from the same spot. In their previous three wins, the Bruins were getting scoring around the net with a lot of dirty garbage goals. They did not get many chances Thursday night.

Aside from the two power play goals, they did not have much of a net-front presence for most of the game. The Bruins are clicking when they are around the net making life hard for opposing goalies. Kahkonen made 36 saves, but saw a lot of the shots, which made his night a little easier.

“I don’t think either team had a ton [of scoring chances] at 5-on-5. It was just one of those games where there was zero flow,” Cassidy said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to find a way at 5-on-5 against good teams.”

As has been the case this season, the Bruins outshoot their opponent, but fail to get the better end of things on the scoreboard. Cassidy could make that comment after most games, to be honest, and deep down inside, you have to think he knows it. Was the success of the new-look lines a reflection of the competition or was it just another frustrating, unlucky night for Boston against the Wild? It looks like the latter following their loss to Minnesota, but you have to give the undermanned Wild credit, they frustrated the Black and Gold in the offensive end and allowed Kahkonen to see a lot of the shots.

Schedule Does Not Get Any Easier

The Bruins hit the road for a two-game road trip against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Saturday night, they visit the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, before a game in the Nations Capital on Monday night (Jan. 10) against the Washington Capitals. After a frustrating and undisciplined game against Minnesota, these two games will say a lot about Boston against two teams that are Stanley Cup contenders. They need to get back to doing what they did in their previous three games, rather than what they reverted to against the Wild or they could be in for a long two-game trip.

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