Even in their losing efforts, the Bruins didn’t have many stretches where they were outplayed for a good chunk of the 60 minutes.
That changed Friday night in Detroit against the lowly Red Wings.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad had arguably their worst performance of the season. And it came against a Red Wings team that ranked dead last in nearly every major statistical category, including goals for (35), goals against (68) and penalty kill percentage (66.7 percent).
Things snowballed after Dylan Larkin answered David Krejci’s early first-period tally just 1:32 after the Czech centerman gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead a mere 69 seconds in. The Bruins didn’t have much to build on as sloppy penalties in the attacking zone, errant passes, and a lack of urgency in all three zones kept them on their heels all night in the Motor City.
“It’s a game where I didn’t think we were good enough early on,” Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley postgame.
Sloppy as they were, the Bruins still had a chance. Torey Krug cut the deficit to one with his power-play tally late in the second as the Bruins seemed to find their groove again. But aside from a couple of quality scoring chances from David Pastrnak, the Bruins didn’t generate many good looks against Jonathan Bernier as the Red Wings held on for a 4-2 win.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins dropped their second straight regulation game for the first time this season.
Boston’s special teams weren’t so special
The potent Bruins’ power play rose atop the league with ease. Their penalty kill also came through in clutch moments this season, including their stellar effort during an eight-minute penalty kill against the Senators last week.
One special teams unit had a decent moment when Krug put the Bruins within a goal against the Red Wings. But they didn’t generate many quality chances in their other three attempts.
As for the other special teams unit, well, it wasn’t good.
Robby Fabbri — recently acquired from St. Louis — scored twice as the Bruins penalty kill units left the slot area open in front of Tuukka Rask (28 saves) all night. Boston’s netminder made some solid stops in each of the five shorthanded attempts as his teammates found difficulties clearing pucks and defending the dangerous scoring areas against Detroit’s 23rd ranked power play.
Robby Fabbri scored on a power play blast in his first game with the Red Wings ? pic.twitter.com/U5NmXpWqLB— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 9, 2019
Marchand tried to light a spark
Marchand didn’t tally a single point for the second straight game. Heck, he hasn’t even fired a shot on goal since his five-point night against the Penguins on Monday.
That didn’t stop him from at least attempting to help his team get out of a rut Friday night. Marchand’s takedown of Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek marked his first fight in over a year.
Marchand looked on from the box as Krug pulled the Bruins within one. They found a little rhythm afterward late in the second and up until the midway point of the third.
So yes, Marchand gave the Bruins a temporary spark, but they could’ve used more catalysts and fewer passengers on this night.
“We have a guy that dropped the gloves that shouldn’t have to,” Krug told reporters. “[He’s] trying to get a spark and trying to get our bench moving. Not much of a response after that, but a couple of minutes later we started to show up and it showed in our game. But once we got to that point we just didn’t have enough to get over the hump.”
Trying to make sense of Friday’s lineup
Cassidy has worked with makeshift lineups throughout his Bruins’ tenure. But Friday’s forward trios and defensive pairings provided one of his toughest times of lineup management.
Jake DeBrusk, Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes and Par Lindholm stayed home to heal from their respective injuries. Brett Ritchie was a last-minute scratch in Detroit, leaving Cassidy with 11 forwards and seven defensemen at his disposal.
Peter Cehlarik made the trip to fill DeBrusk’s void on the second line with Krejci and Danton Heinen. The Anders Bjork-Charlie Coyle-Zach Senyshyn trio remained intact following their stellar effort Tuesday night in Montreal, as did the potent Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line. Steven Kampfer moved from defense to forward in pregame line rushes with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner, but didn’t tally a single shift.
Even the three defensive pairs saw a little tinkering. Cassidy opted to move Connor Clifton with Zdeno Chara, while reuniting fellow Boston University teammates Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy in search of more offensive production from his blue-line.
Some of the new-look lines had their moments, notably Cehlarik’s connection with Krejci to give the Bruins the early lead. But the four lines and three defensive pairings couldn’t put forth consistent and solid shifts against a rebuilding Red Wings squad.
“Pete made a good play [on the Krejci goal] that’s for sure, but his overall game has to be more consistent. Again, I don’t know if he got inside much or attempted much else,” Cassidy said to Edwards and Brickley. “Tonight, Bjork and Coyle weren’t the same obviously. They weren’t able to turn over many pucks, and when they did, they couldn’t hang on to it in the ‘O’ zone.”
The Bruins didn’t do many things right in the Motor City. Cassidy, as a result, may have more tinkering ahead heading into Sunday’s tilt with the Flyers at TD Garden.