No one really knew what they were going to get out of the 2015-16 Boston Bruins in their first game on Thursday night.
There was the new-look offense, makeshift defense, and a new, offensively-driven, system from a coach known to stick to a defensively-sound scheme.
But it started good. Real good, even.
Before the first TV time out less than eight minutes in, the Bruins were already up 1-0 after David Krejci picked Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Ben Chariot’s pocket for the unassisted goal. They had 11 shot attempts with eight landing on net. They were controlling the play and applying major pressure in the offensive zone. Things were better than they were in 2014-15 in both ends of the ice, just 20 minutes in.
“We respected both parts of our game in the first period,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “We generated a great attack and we were on them and didn’t give them much in the first. That’s the way you want to play all three periods, but the second period got out of hand.”
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things turned. Maybe it was early in the second with the Bruins on the power play when Krejci botched a pass that led to an Andrew Ladd breakaway. Tuukka Rask made the save, but the momentum began to shift. In the span of 12 minutes in the second period, the Jets scored three unanswered goals. It was no longer a game after that.
“We got away from our defensive game after we did a pretty good job of creating a bunch of scoring chances,” said Krejci. “But on the other end, we totally forgot about our defensive game.”
The defense was suspect, which was to be assumed with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg still out with injuries. Instead of the defense bending and not breaking, it broke. In fact, it snapped pretty quickly in the second period.
Matt Irwin was the unfortunate subject of criticism after his brutal turnover behind Rask led to the eventual go-ahead Winnipeg goal. Later in the second period, Irwin caught himself out of position alongside Zach Trotman leading to a wide open Drew Stafford for the Jets’ third goal of the game.
“We had enough of chances, a lot of shots,” said Krejci. “We gave up a lot of goals in the second period.”
Julien called the second period a lack of respect on the other side of the game. Krejci called it uncharacteristic. Let’s just call it what it was: more of the same.
We’ve seen this team before. The team that starts the game with promise but putters out after the first 20 minutes. The team that can’t finish–even after ending the game with 63 shot attempts. The team with an elite goaltender whose defense consistently lets him down–Rask made 26 saves and allowed five goals.
One game into the season and we’re seeing the 2015-16 Boston Bruins look a lot like the 2014-15 team. And after an offseason with a ton of moving parts going into several different directions, this was perhaps the worst case scenario for the Bruins on game one.
But that’s just it. It was one game down with 81 others left on the schedule. Is this reason to panic? Absolutely not. It’s just–in a word– disappointing. It was disappointing to see the Bruins come out flat for two-thirds of a game after an offseason of preaching change and having a new identity. It was even more disappointing after seeing what they’re capable of in the first period on Thursday.
Of course, there were bright spots. David Pastrnak continues to be the one of most promising pieces to an otherwise puzzle of a Bruins team. His tally early in the third period, a pure snipe from his off-wing, kept the Bruins close and gave them a quick jolt of energy before Chris Thorburn scored to extend the lead for Winnipeg.
The line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson played well and did a good job of creating chances and leading the breakout from the defensive zone. But that’s pretty much it.
The Bruins don’t have a chance to regroup and think about their loss with the Canadiens and Lightning both in Boston on Saturday and Monday. Even though it’s only one game in, it might be a good time for the 2015-16 Boston Bruins to realize last season is in the past.
Right? It’s in the past. It’s over.
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Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.