The Boston Bruins used Thursday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a measuring stick.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad measured up well in certain areas against the high-octane Lightning, but Boston’s 4-3 shootout loss proved that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“There’s parts of the game that were good. We started defending better as the game went on, not good enough in the first period. Leaky through the middle of the ice off the rush, stuff that we address, we’ll see that Saturday and Tuesday with Toronto,” Cassidy said following Boston’s second loss of the season.
“But five-on-five, a couple of goals there — we just need to be cleaner. Defending the rush. I think every goal — yeah, every goal came off the rush. I think our defensive zone coverage has always been good. Our guys are good with structure there, but it’s managing the puck in the neutral zone. On the breakouts, we were better I thought. And rush goals. It hurts.”
David Pastrnak isn’t hurting, however. He picked up where right he left off from his career day on Monday with a pair of power play goals three nights later. Patrice Bergeron added another man-advantage tally in the second period.
But the Lightning outplayed the Bruins following Bergeron’s second lamplighter of the young season.
Brayden Point — with 0.8 ticks left in the opening stanza — Mathieu Joseph, and Kevin Shattenkirk all bested Tuukka Rask (33 saves) as the Lightning looked to seal their come-from-behind win in regulation. Pastrnak’s second of the evening late in the third forced overtime, but Tampa Bay secured the two points after Steven Stamkos notched the lone shootout tally.
In case you missed it, here are the key takeaways from an entertaining tilt between the Bruins and the Lightning.
1. A lack of secondary scoring lingers into the new season.
There’s no circling around this issue: The Bruins’ secondary scoring woes have carried over into the new campaign.
All three of Boston’s power play goals came from the top line. That won’t get the job done on many nights, especially against a top-caliber team like Tampa Bay.
“We win the game tonight if we get secondary scoring from anybody. I think we are stating the obvious saying that,” Cassidy said. “Having said that, our record is pretty good without it, but I don’t think it’s sustainable.”
He’s right. The Bruins simply can’t rely on the power play and the top line to carry the team every night.
The sky certainly isn’t falling. After all, the Bruins have taken points in six out of their seven games. But they need to find production — somehow — either through their current core of depth players in Boston or from others waiting in the wings in Providence, especially Anders Bjork.
2. Pastrnak is a Hart Trophy candidate.
Who else more fitting to score on national pasta day than Pastrnak? It was written in the stars.
The talented 23-year-old netted his seventh and eighth goals of the season. Without him, the Bruins wouldn’t have come away with a point.
Pastrnak’s first of the night came after Bergeron set him up for his patented one-timer during Boston’s first power play.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 17, 2019
His second of the evening came on a beautiful spin-around shot that found its way into the top corner with just over three minutes left in regulation.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) October 18, 2019
He’s making things look easy with an astonishing six goals in the last two games. Pastrnak sits tied for the NHL lead in goals (8) to go along with his team-leading 13 points.
The talented Czech made his first All-Star team in 2018-19. He’s on pace to surpass his career season a year ago (81 points in 66 games), which would only help his Hart Trophy chances.
“I’m feeling good on the ice,” Pastrnak said postgame. “[I’m] just trying to do the best for the team and focusing on my hockey and how I can help this team.”
Pastrnak isn’t just helping his team in the first month of the season. He’s carrying them on his back.
3. The Bruins can play with anybody in the league.
All things considered, this was a phenomenal game. Two heavyweights just slugging it out at TD Garden in their first of four regular-season tilts — and potentially more, come playoff time.
The Bruins didn’t pick up the win, but they got something out of their effort. They showed that they can compete with the very best the league has to offer.
Yet the Bruins haven’t strung together three strong periods of hockey and haven’t completely avoided the occasional lulls in play. They’ll continue to rack up points at a strong rate as long as they compile more 60-minute efforts.