The Boston Bruins couldn’t pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat on this night.
Aside from spurts of scoring chances, the Bruins lacked execution in every phase of play during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. From untimely turnovers to sustaining minimal traction in the attacking zone, a beat-up Bruins bunch simply couldn’t find a second gear against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Chris Wagner put the Bruins ahead 1-0 with his tip-in at 13:14 in the first. But Bruce Cassidy’s squad couldn’t build off of Wagner’s fourth goal of the season — and second in as many games — against an opportunistic and talented Avalanche side.
Here’s what we learned as Boston’s point streak ends at 14 following its first regulation loss of the season at TD Garden.
A lack of urgency from doomed the Bruins.
The Black and Gold emphasized sustaining a full 60 minutes on Saturday night. The last thing they wanted to do was to find themselves in a predicament where they needed another come-from-behind effort.
What they preached, however, lacked in execution as the Avalanche countered Wagner’s first-period tally with four unanswered goals from Valeri Nichushkin, Ian Cole, Andre Burakovsky, and Gabriel Landeskog. The taxing third-period comebacks over the last week put the Bruins in a tough spot come the final 20 minutes Saturday night.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 8, 2019
Yet for anything they could’ve taken advantage of — including a goalie change, an injury to Cale Makar, and a late third-period 6-on-4 power play — the Bruins simply ran out of gas. David Krejci’s collision with fellow Czech David Pastrnak during the 6-on-4 opportunity summed up Boston’s frustrating night.
Sums up this game pic.twitter.com/X4KRI14U34
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 8, 2019
“I think it was an aspect of us not playing our game tonight,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “We had a bad start to begin with and from there we couldn’t really recover. The past couple of games we had to fight back and that just wasn’t an option tonight.”
Boston’s D had troubles absorbing Colorado’s talent.
This wasn’t a case of the Bruins being caught off-guard. Instead, it was an instance where they couldn’t match Colorado’s elite speed.
Nathan MacKinnon has the tools to be a perennial Hart Trophy candidate. Mikko Rantanen’s development gives the Avs another bonafide weapon up front. Makar, the former UMass-Amherst star, may very well win the Calder Trophy a year after earning the Hobey Baker as the best collegiate hockey player in the country. Landeskog’s leadership and skill set add another element toward the Avalanche’s present and future success.
MacKinnon and company were one step ahead of the Bruins on a night where the two teams only combined for 40 shots on net. From MacKinnon’s touch pass springing Burakovsky on a breakaway to Nichushkin winning a race for the puck and beating Jaroslav Halak five-hole by mere inches — despite Par Lindholm’s last-second effort — the flat-footed Bruins had no answer on this night.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 8, 2019
“They do this against a lot of different teams,” Cassidy said. “This isn’t like dumb luck. They know what they’re doing and some of it is that they’re a good puck possession team. They can get in and out of their own end, right? That’s one way to beat a good offensive team is to put them on their heels and play defense. They did that to us very well tonight.”
If only the Bruins had the right personnel to match — or counter — the Avalanche in the regular-season finale between the two clubs.
Patrice Bergeron’s absence was noticeable.
One person’s absence, even if that someone is as valuable as Bergeron, isn’t a reason why a team loses on a given night. Every team deals with injuries in the NHL, some more impactful than others. After all, the Avalanche came to town without Nazem Kadri after he left with an injury in his first game back in Toronto on Wednesday night.
The Bruins overcame Bergeron’s absence over the last several games. They entered Saturday’s tilt with an 8-0-2 mark without their three-time Selke Award winner.
Bergeron’s absence wasn’t a reason why Boston fell to a talented Colorado squad. But he sure could’ve helped them against the likes of MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar, Landeskog and the rest of the high-octane Avs.
Boston’s struggles to clear pucks out of their own end? Bergeron’s defensive prowess could’ve helped with that. Their troubles generating scoring chances? Bergeron could’ve helped there, too. And their inefficient night at the face-off dot? Well, at least Bergeron would’ve helped the Bruins inch toward a 50-50 night instead of falling in 18 of their 32 draws.
“When you’re playing against one of the top teams in the league, you’re going to need your best players around to help you,” Bergeron’s longtime linemate Brad Marchand said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re missing him, but they’re missing good players too…you want guys like him [in the lineup], especially as one of the best centers in the league.”
The Bruins embark on a four-game road trip beginning Monday in Ottawa. Bergeron skated with the team in practice late last week, albeit in a red no-contact sweater. They sure hope he’s ready to go at some point during their next road swing that also includes stops in Washington, Tampa, and South Florida.