Over the last five games, the Boston Bruins have been hit with the injury bug. In that span, the Black and Gold have lost three of their top-four defenseman, their leading goal scorer, and a goalie. Injuries are part of the game, but despite all of them, the Bruins have had their chances to be faring better than their 1-4 record and they have become their own worst enemy.
The good news is defenseman Matt Grzelcyk returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators and Brandon Carlo is on track to return Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is no telling when Hampus Lindholm or David Pasternak will return and there is a day-to-day timetable for goaltender Linus Ullmark who left after the first period against the Senators after taking a shot off his mask. In the last 10 days, anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong with a lot of self-inflicted mistakes that have them searching for confidence.
Bruins Hurting Themselves With Mistakes
The Bruins have been hurting themselves and that was never more evident than in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Senators. They took not one, but two, too many men on the ice penalties. The second one was late in the third period when they were trailing by a goal to negate their fifth power play of the game.
In the second period, Mike Reilly was called for a high-sticking penalty, then six seconds later, Patrice Bergeron was called for a questionable hooking penalty. Ottawa scored two power play goals, which turned out to be the difference, but on both goals, the Bruins had multiple opportunities to clear the puck out of their zone, but failed and the turnovers ended up in the back of their net.
“Frustration is a useless emotion, so I’m not frustrated,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I want to correct things. We had some miscommunications on the bench tonight, we had some lack of focus, especially on the power play – going back to our own end there late, almost took ourselves out of the game…lack of finish with some guys, obviously, is hurting us right now – not shooting at appropriate time.”
Against the St. Louis Blues, Tuesday night in a 4-2 loss, the Bruins held a 2-1 second period lead when Trent Frederic took an ill-advised roughing penalty after the whistle that led to the game-timing goal and changed the momentum in favor of St. Louis. It has been one of those stretches for Cassidy and his team.
Bruins Power Play Struggling Does Not Help
To say that the Bruins’ power play is struggling is a severe understatement. Since Pastrnak went out of the lineup, they are a dreadful 0-for-23. Pastrnak has a team-high 14 man-advantage goals, but just his presence not being on the ice has changed the dynamic of the first unit and made them easier to defend. Pastrnak generally sets up waiting for his trademark one-time slap shot, but without his presence, they are all out of sorts.
Cassidy has tried multiple combinations with Charlie Coyle getting a look with the first unit, then Jake DeBrusk has got a chance in the last two games, but they have not been able to find the back of the net. Both units are struggling with zone entries, getting off quality chances, getting to any rebounds left by opposing goalies, and overall confidence by pressing too hard.
While the Bruins’ power play has struggled, it has been the difference for the opponent to win three of the last five games against the Black and Gold. In their 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on April 5, the Bruins gave up a power-play goal, which turned out to be the difference as the Wings scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory. The power-play goal scored by Torey Krug of the Blues Tuesday night on Frederic’s penalty started the comeback, then the two goals on the man advantage by the Senators 57 seconds apart were the difference two nights later. When a team is struggling on the power play, the penalty kill needs to pick them up and that has not been the case.
Bruins Blowing Leads is Concerning
This season, Boston has been mostly good at protecting leads, especially two-goal leads. In their first 69 games, they went 30-1 when they led by two goals at any point in the game. Their one loss was to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 8 when they gave up the final four goals after two Pastrnak goals gave them a 2-0 lead in the first period. In the last five games, the Black and Gold have surrendered a pair of two-goal leads that have led to losses.
Against Detroit, the Bruins built a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Erik Haula and a shorthanded goal from Carlo. After that, things went downhill and the Red Wings, who will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin next month, scored five of the game’s final six goals. Thursday night against the Senators, who like Detroit will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin, Boston built a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from first-year players Marc McLaughlin and Jesper Froden, but three-second period goals from Ottawa sealed just their 28th victory of the season.
Bruins Becoming Their Own Worst Enemy
With just eight games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins should officially clinch a postseason berth in the coming days. Despite going to the playoffs, they are not exactly playing the hockey they want to be heading towards the second season. Most of it has to do with them being the victim of self-inflicted wounds, despite all the injuries. They have been in plenty of positions to set themselves to win games and have not finished the job. If they can’t figure things out in the final two weeks of the regular season, their playoff stay could be short. The first step? Stop being their own worst enemy.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.