It was an up and down week for the Boston Bruins. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, the lack of offense from the defense is becoming a growing concern, the Bruins will head out on a six-game road trip against some possible trade targets and more.
Bruins Defense Has Been Nonexistent Offensively
The numbers over the recent stretch of games for the Bruins defensemen are staggering. Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk went eight games without a point, Mike Reilly, who supplied eight assists in 15 games in the 2021-22 season following a trade from the Ottawa Senators, has gone scoreless in his last 10 games and Derek Forbort has gone scoreless in his last eight games and was a healthy scratch against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 19. Connor Clifton, who has been in and out of the lineup, has not recorded a point in 18 consecutive games and Urho Vaakanainen has gone 10 straight games without a point after recording for assists in his first five games of the season.
“We need secondary offense from the back end. We need some players that are maybe down in the lineup to kick in some goals here and there – particular in games like these when the so-called guys we rely on weren’t having….”Bruce Cassidy (from ‘Marchand suspension is upheld by the NHL’, The Boston Globe, 2/19/22).
The biggest point-less stretch for the Bruins was broken in a 3-2 overtime win over the Senators Saturday night when Brandon Carlo scored on a rebound in the slot to end a 19-game scoreless streak. Carlo was questionable prior to the game after getting injured earlier in the day in the morning skate when he was accidentally injured by goalie Linus Ullmark, but his teammates were happy he was in the lineup and was rewarded for his efforts with a goal.
“I thought Brandon Carlo had a good game not because he scored but he just seemed to be harder on pucks and the plays below the goal line, things like that,” said Cassidy. “That’s the snarl, move people out of the front of the net and end plays below the goal line when it’s your opportunity.”
The lack of offense coming from the defense is not for a lack of effort. McAvoy, who along with Grzelcyk snapped their pointless game streak with an assist in the Bruins 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon, has been aggressive joining the offensive rush and Vaakanainen followed in his footsteps against the Senators. Carlo, who kept the puck in the offensive zone in the second period with a pinch along the boards, went to the front of the net and was rewarded by backhanding a loose puck into an open net. Just what the Bruins needed.
Bruins Still Can’t Solve Islanders
If there is one team that has given the Bruins fits in the last eight months, it’s the New York Islanders. In the second round of last season’s playoffs, the Black and Gold lost in six games, which ended with Cassidy’s famous comments about the Islanders playing more like the “New York Saints”, than the New York Islanders.
“I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints and not the New York Islanders,” Cassidy said last spring. ” … The exact calls that get called on us do not get called on them, and I don’t know why.”
This season, the Islanders beat the Bruins 3-1 in the team’s first meeting at the brand new UBS Arena on Dec. 16, then on Feb. 17, Boston lost against, 4-1. Taylor Hall gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first period and that was the only shot that got by New York goalie Ilya Sorokin, who finished the game with 26 saves, including 12 in the first period. The Islanders scored three third-period goals for the win, including an empty-net goal from Brock Nelson, off an assist from former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
It was yet another frustrating loss against the Islanders, who are struggling this season at 18-20-7. To make matters worse, New York is now 4-16-2 against teams currently in a playoff position. That’s four points that the Black and Gold could use at the end of the season.
Bruins Head West to Face Possible Trade Targets
Boston will embark on a six-game road trip out West and will see old friend Jeremy Lauzon with the Seattle Kraken, after he was lost with the first pick in last July’s expansion draft. Lauzon was blossoming into a solid physical penalty-killing blueliner for the Bruins and with Seattle near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, first-year general manager Ron Francis could be open to making deals ahead of the March 21 trade deadline. Getting Lauzon back would be a nice addition for the Black and Gold.
The second stop is against the San Jose Sharks, which will give Boston an up-close look at Tomas Hertl. A free agent following the 2021-22 season, Hertl, the 17th overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft by San Jose, is going to be one of the top centers that teams are going to be interested in up until the trade deadline. In 49 games this season, Hertl has 22 goals and 18 assists, but he is seen as a top-six center addition to contending teams. The Bruins have interest in him and it’s not the first time they have been linked to him. Getting Hertl will give Cassidy a No. 2 center behind Bergeron and if they can lock him up beyond this season, a No. 1 center to replace the captain when he’s gone.
The fourth stop is against the Anaheim Ducks, who have fallen on hard times in the West after spending most of the season in playoff position. Left wing Rickard Rakell is another player that the Bruins have been linked to in past seasons and with 11 goals and 11 assists this season in the final year of his contract of a six-year deal that carries an affordable $3.879 million cap hit. You can never have enough depth at one position and moving on from Jake DeBrusk here will give Cassidy serious left wing depth with Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, and Rakell.
Boston has been playing well on the road, going 12-3-3 in their last 19 games away from the TD Garden. It is going to be a long road trip for the Black and Gold, but going up against some possible trade targets ahead of the deadline is not such a bad thing at this point in the season.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday: at Seattle Kraken, 10 p.m.
- Saturday: at San Jose Sharks, 10 p.m.
- Monday: at Los Angeles Kings, 10 p.m.
- Tuesday: at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m.
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.