The law of averages caught up to the Boston Bruins Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Bruins entered Rogers Arena with a five-game win streak and an 11-1 run in their last 12 games. They arrived in Vancouver early Saturday morning following their 4-3 win in Calgary Friday. They played their third game in four nights and embarked on their fourth set of back-to-back games following the bye week.
The well-rested Canucks pounced on a wary Bruins bunch from the get-go en route to their 9-3 victory.
“Listen, we’re playing good hockey. But tonight, clearly, we weren’t the better team,” Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley postgame. “Didn’t deserve to win, didn’t do what was required to win and didn’t have much luck our way either.”
The Bruins still kept their five-point lead atop the league intact, after the Lightning’s 7-3 loss in Arizona on Saturday.
Here’s what we learned:
Bruins allow a season-high nine goals.
Our 40 > their 40 pic.twitter.com/v64ArU9WQ7
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 23, 2020
It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong did.
The Bruins looked out of sorts defensively, beginning with Troy Stecher’s harmless shot that found its way past Tuukka Rask 4:14 in. David Pastrnak evened things up at 7:06 with a beautiful breakaway tally for his first of two of the night, but a defensive breakdown on Vancouver’s first power play led to Bo Horvat’s go-ahead marker at 11:08.
The Bruins remained within striking distance even after a shaky end to the opening period. Then it all went downhill.
Rask ended his night early in the third after allowing four goals in a 20-plus minute stretch beginning with Adam Gaudette’s 11th of the season att 5:32 of the middle stanza. Tanner Pearson (at 14:48 of the second), former Bruin Loui Eriksson (striking 49 seconds after Pearson) and Elias Petterson (a mere 46 seconds into the third) all added injury to insult.
“The way I look at it is a ‘when it rains it pours’ type of thing,” Rask told reporters afterward.
Jaroslav Halak didn’t fare much better in relief, allowing a trio of goals in a 7:15 span — two from Tyler Toffoli and one by Jake Virtanen — to end Boston’s ugly night.
Halak and Rask couldn’t make the timely save, yet the D in front of them looked lost during a rare ugly night for all 20 guys on the roster.
“This team’s taken a lot of pride over the last number of years and the last number of games as well. Tonight we just didn’t have it,” Torey Krug said to reporters. “Everything in between, you name it. It probably happened tonight.”
Toffoli would’ve looked good in Boston.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 23, 2020
Don Sweeney reportedly had a deal in his hip pocket for Toffoli heading into the last week of the NHL’s trading period. Instead, certain Bruins fans might be channeling their inner Bob Lobel asking themselves, “Why can’t we get guys like that?”
Toffoli had a memorable departure with the Kings after notching a hat trick in their Stadium Series win over the Colorado Avalanche. Upon arriving in Vancouver, he followed that up with an assist against the Wild and his pair of third-period tallies against the Bruins.
Even with his injury history, Ondrej Kase’s arrival should at least help slow down the rotating door in the middle of Boston’s lineup. At the very least, they received some much-needed salary cap flexibility for their short and long term needs after adding David Backes to the trade package with Anaheim.
Maybe Backes wasn’t an option for the cap-strapped Kings in a potential deal with Toffoli. Yet the Bruins missed out on a proven commodity with a Stanley Cup ring on his resume.
Perhaps Sweeney could look at adding Toffoli again — if they have enough cap space with Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk up for new deals — when he hits the free agency market on July 1. For now, he’ll still look to address the ongoing need to fill the right-wing void on the second line.
One last chance for the middle of the lineup guys to impress?
Sweeney may have another trade in the works before the clock strikes 3 p.m. on Monday. The impending deadline, along with Kase’s arrival to Boston this week, could’ve marked the last chance for some of the Bruins on the block to make a good case to remain with the club or improve their value in a potential deal.
Danton Heinen drew the second line assignment with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk Saturday. The trio combined for a mere three shots on net and a minus-11 rating.
His work ethic and defensive reliability — even after Saturday’s minus-4 showing — isn’t an issue. But Heinen needs to produce at some point. He hasn’t lit the lamp since Jan. 7 and has a mere five points — all assists — in his last 15 games.
Anders Bjork also had a run with Krejci and DeBrusk this year. He’s made significant strides after two injury-plagued seasons, but the Bruins ideally want to keep the former Notre Dame standout with Charlie Coyle on the third line. Karson Kuhlman looked comfortable in his stints with Krejci and DeBrusk, but, like Bjork, would be best used in a third-line role.
Sweeney remains in search of that elusive winger to skate with Krejci and DeBrusk. The Bruins could do nothing on Monday and remain a favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup come June. But adding another significant piece like Kyle Palmieri only increases those odds.