Bruins Offense Blooms…Defense Missing in Action

Entering Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild, the only Boston Bruins forward over the age of 30 was four-time Selke Trophy-winner Patrice Bergeron. In fact, ten of Boston’s 18 dressed skaters were under the age of 25.

Of course, when you’re missing key players like David Krejci, David Backes, Brad Marchand, and even role players like Noel Acciari and Ryan Spooner – all forwards, mind you – things are going to look a little rough around the edges.

Brad Marchand joins a long list of injured Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that said, the Bruins looked sharp whenever they had possession in the offensive zone. They had the Wild skating in circles at times, and it was not just Boston’s top line getting into the fun.

Bruins’ Exciting Offense

After giving up a goal within the first five minutes of action, the Bruins responded with four unanswered goals of their own. Despite surrendering those goals, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk put on quite the display between the pipes, keeping his team in the game. Boston displayed quick passing and cycling. At times, all five skaters could be seen moving as a cohesive unit, stringing passes together before setting up a shot from a dangerous location.

Jake DeBrusk opened up the scoring for Boston just past the halfway marker in the first period. Chara sent a pop fly out the neutral zone that bounced through the legs of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. DeBrusk got his legs churning up ice, picking Spurgeon’s stick and bringing the puck below the goal line. He attempted to send the puck out front to a streaking Frank Vatrano, but the puck went off of Ryan Suter’s skate and into the net.

Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk scored the Bruins’ first goal against the Wild on Monday (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the goal came off of a lucky bounce, DeBrusk showed a great effort by not giving up on the play and making something out of what seemed like thin air. Vatrano followed up with a goal – his first in 26 games. Both DeBrusk’s and Vatrano’s goals were assisted by Jordan Szwarz which would go on to be the first and second assists of the 26-year-old’s career.

Danton Heinen and Tim Schaller would go on to assist Sean Kuraly’s second goal of the season in the second period before David Pastrnak opened things up for Torey Krug to rifle home a slap shot just over two minutes later. Schaller went on to score Boston’s lone goal in the third period with an empty net, sealing the 5-3 win.

Defense Lacking

While the Bruins showed good composure by not letting an early deficit cripple their spirits, an NHL team can’t expect to win games if they’re giving up the first goal. While this may sound picky, consider looking at the Wild’s goal just 4:53 into the game. Nino Niederreiter or not, you simply can’t allow an NHL forward to creep into the slot unopposed:

For starters, 24-year-old Rob O’Gara starts this highlight above the goal (to Tuukka Rask’s left). He does a nice job breaking up Michael Granlund and Niederreiter and then stays glued to Granlund as he travels through the slot. This is where a lack of communication seems to take place.

O’Gara was smart to stay with Granlund and tie him up as he crosses in front of the crease. The shot from the point was low, indicating that it was likely meant to deflect off of Granlund’s stick. However, defenseman Kevan Miller needs to either realize or be notified that he is then fully responsible for Rask’s glove side.

Miller seems to notice Neiderreiter turn after he comes out of the corner and passes the puck to the point judging by the fact that he keeps his stick on that side of the ice for the remainder of the play. But No. 86 in black’s fatal mistake is turning his back on No. 22 in white, as well as inching towards the puck carrier on the opposite side of the zone as him.

Kevan Miller, Boston Bruins, Extension, NHL
Kevan Miller’s lapse defensively put the Bruins down early (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Miller glided all the way to the hash mark on Rask’s blocker side. If he remained on his glove side and was able to tie up Niederreiter, the Bruins would not have been down so early in the game.

Related: David Backes Requires Surgery, Out 8 Weeks

Turnovers Kill

The hiccup by Miller and the Bruins early in the first period was made up for and will be forgotten by Wednesday night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. Unfortunately, that was not Boston’s only mistake in their own zone against the Wild on Monday.

Granlund scored in the third period off a feed from Matt Dumba, but how did Dumba get the puck? Krug sent the puck around the boards before being hit. Pastrnak grabbed it above the face-off circle and, when aiming a pass to Bergeron, missed him, and tossed it onto Dumba’s stick. From there, Granlund was wide open to make it 4-2.

Pastrnak was responsible for a turnover in the Bruins’ zone leading to a Wild goal (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Eric Staal made it 4-3 in the third on the short-handed goal. This also came off a Bruins giveaway, this time at the Wild blue line, that opened up a 2-on-1 that sprung Staal around Krug who was attempting to respond to the sudden change in possession. Heinen sent a short pass to Bergeron who attempted to touch it to a trailing Pastrnak before the play was broken up and sent the other way.

On all three Minnesota goals on Monday night, the Bruins left Rask in a hopeless situation. This doesn’t count all the times Rask did make a big stop following a Boston turnover. Mistakes are going to be made, especially by the rookies, but the Bruins better clean up their act quickly if they want to beat the NHL’s toughest teams this season.