After a blistering start to the 2022-23 season, it was not the way that the Boston Bruins wanted to head into the All-Star Break. The Atlantic Division leaders head into the break with an 11-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they will be more remembered for their 2-2-1 up and down close to the break on a five-game road trip.
As the Black and Gold head into the All-Star Break, here are five takeaways from the five-game road trip where they struggled against two of three potential postseason opponents and enter the break with a 39-7-5 record.
Brandon Carlo Had a Rough Trip
It could have been a better trip for Brandon Carlo, despite his goal against the Maple Leafs in a 5-2 win on Feb. 1. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the game tied 2-2 late in the third period On Jan.26, he collided with goalie Linus Ullmark, which pushed him out of position and Victor Hedman took advantage by scoring the game-winning goal into an empty net. Believe it or not, it got worse from there.
In the final seconds against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 28, he had the puck pinned along the boards behind the Boston net, but was unable to run out the clock. The puck made its way to the front of the net where he kicked the puck to Aleksander Barkov and the Panthers forward tied the game with three seconds left. It took Florida just 17 seconds into overtime to bury the game-winner. One night later against the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period, he had a turnover at the defensive blueline and Seth Jarvis went in and scored on a breakaway for a 3-0 lead to seal the victory. He did his second goal of the season against Toronto, but it was not the best trip for Carlo, who is someone who needs the break.
Bruins Really Miss Jake DeBrusk
Who knew one year ago that the Bruins would miss Jake DeBrusk as badly as they did? When he went down with a fractured foot in the 2-1 Winter Classic win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, he had 16 goals and was on pace for a career year. Recently, his absence from the lineup has been noticeable.
Missing DeBrusk on the first line, Patrice Bergeron had just one goal, the game-winner in a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 24, and Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist in the five games. Coach Jim Montgomery tried rotating different players with the two veteran forwards, but all struggled. Craig Smith and Taylor Hall got the most chances up there, but neither worked out. David Pastrnak is the best fit, but taking him off the second line with Pavel Zacha and David Krejci weakens their best-producing line. DeBrusk can’t return quickly enough and it’s expected he will return out of the break against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 11.
Bruins Power Play Is a Mess
The one consistent special team unit for the Black and Gold is a complete mess right now. The power play is struggling and struggling mightily. They went 1-for-16 on the trip and it was a struggle to watch them at any point.
Related: Bruins & Canucks Still Emerging as Potential Trade Partners
Latest News & Highlights
They struggled with their zone entries, keeping possession of the puck, and generating high-danger opportunities and it looked like most of the time that they killed the penalties for their opponents. In fact, they allowed multiple 2-on-1s and were bailed out by their goaltending. It seems they never made any adjustments to their power play and maybe it’s time to try the five-forward unit they have employed this season. Getting DeBrusk back on the first line also means that are getting back net-front presence on their first power play unit too. That can only help.
Bruins Lacked Dept & Balance Scoring
When the Bruins are rolling and playing their best, they are getting production from their bottom six to support their top six. It was one of the big stories of their hot start to the season. On the road trip, they failed to get much production and it hurt.
They scored 15 goals on the trip and the only three members of the bottom six to score were A.J. Greer, Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle. Both of those goals were the gifts of all gifts against the Panthers. In the first period, Smith stole an attempted clearing pass by Florida out of the defensive zone and beat Alex Lyon with a wrist shot under the crossbar. In the second period, Coyle made a pass from the boards across the ice to Hall, but Florida’s Sam Bennett swatted the puck out of the air and into his own net. If the Black and Gold are going to be successful this season, depth scoring is a must.
Bruins Limped Into the All-Star Break
As the trip went on, it was becoming clear that the Bruins were just counting down the periods until they hit the All-Star Break and their 10-day break. Yes, the schedule was not too kind to them with five games in eight nights, including three in four and a tough back-to-back, but regardless, you have to play the schedule in front of you. They were able to salvage a split on the trip with their win over the Maple Leafs, with Derek Forbort and Carlo getting them going offensively with second-period goals, but there were times in the game where Toronto supplied a lot of pressure and somehow they hung on behind another strong Ullmark performance.
They are banged up a little with DeBrusk and Tomas Nosek out injured, but Joona Koppanen and Marc McLaughlin filled in for Nosek and did their job as fourth-line centers. At the end of the trip, they were on fumes as a team and that’s not good playing three Eastern Conference championship contenders in the Lightning, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs. Now they have a 10-day break to reset everything and hopefully get DeBrusk back.
When the trip started on paper, you knew it was going to be a tough trip and that’s what it was. It was the first time this season that the Bruins faced some adversity with their first multiple-game losing streak of the season. In the big picture, with a few additions at the trade deadline, they should be fine, and sometimes facing adversity is a good thing.