The Boston Bruins can’t buy a goal.
They had their chances on a four-minute power play in the third, facing a 1-0 deficit. They managed to fire a paltry three shots on net in that stretch.
The frustrating on-ice execution paled in comparison to the events of the final 70 ticks in regulation. Bruce Cassidy’s squad thought they had evened things up on two occasions, on a Patrice Bergeron tally and a near crazy bounce in the final seconds. But a questionable interference review and another replay went against the Bruins on Sunday night.
Instead of notching at least one point, the shorthanded Bruins suffered their fourth loss of the season to the New Jersey Devils, the seventh-place team in the East Division.
Kyle Palmieri notched his seventh goal of the season — his fourth in five meetings with the Bruins — late in the opening stanza. Mackenzie Blackburn held the fort between the pipes stopping all 31 shots he faced in New Jersey’s 1-0 triumph.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 28, 2021
Here’s what we learned following another frustrating Bruins’ loss to the Devils.
Replay reviews and officiating blunders take center stage
Amidst a frustrating night, Bergeron thought the Bruins would at least get to 3-on-3 overtime with his supposed tying marker.
Upon further review, the officials deemed Krejci interfered with Blackwood by the slightest of margins. In Blackwood’s attempt to poke the puck out of danger, Krejci made a little contact as he poked the puck free to Bergeron. Yet, the Bruins had to get back to work after Lindy Ruff’s successful challenge for goaltender interference.
New Jersey challenges for goaltender interference and Bergeron’s tying goal is negated. pic.twitter.com/po5mDzjrtV
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 29, 2021
“I think the goalie interference could’ve went either way. He signaled a goal and he was right in front of it, the official,” Cassidy said afterward. “Typically it’s supposed to be something egregious, and I guess they thought it was egregious. The overhead [view] does us no favor. That’s what they looked at…but I don’t know. What am I supposed to say on that? They made the call. It didn’t go our way.”
Cassidy’s bunch pressed on and nearly had another equalizer, if not for Blackwood’s stop on Nick Ritchie with the puck near inches from completely crossing the goal-line. Inconclusive looks at replay kept New Jersey’s thin 1-0 lead intact with a little over one second remaining.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) March 29, 2021
The Bruins didn’t get the benefit of the doubt on replay. They rarely got the benefit of the doubt from the officiating crew in a few instances, including a clear trip on Krejci that went uncalled late in the second period. Instead of a 5-on-3 power play attempt to start the third, the Boston power play returned to its stagnant ways coming out of the locker room.
The officials redeemed themselves — not before huddling with one another — assessing a four-minute double-minor to Janne Kuokkanen for high-sticking Charlie McAvoy in the face. The Bruins failed to convert on the four-minute power play, firing a mere three shots on net during that stretch.
The officiating conundrum in the NHL took another hit after the league relieved Tim Peel of his referee duties following his hot mic moment. But Sunday proved a bigger concern for an offensively challenged Bruins bunch.
Boston’s stagnant offense lacking necessary tools
The Bruins entered another season with secondary scoring concerns. Don Sweeney’s failure to address that need has now provided an ugly trickle-down effect.
They knew they would have their hands full this weekend with Brad Marchand joining Jake DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly on the COVID-19 protocol list. That left the Bruins without the services of their top line left-winger, a middle-six commodity, and their fourth-line center against the bottom two teams in the East Division.
Even with a healthy lineup, the Bruins aren’t built to light the lamp consistently. Their secondary scoring conundrum and lack of 5v5 production hindered them on multiple occasions this season. And now a once lethal power-play unit finds itself in the middle of the league in production; sitting 14th with a 22.7 percent success rate.
Every hockey player preaches on keeping things simple. For the most part, the Bruins haven’t preached that philosophy. More often than not, they’re trying to make the perfect play instead of throwing pucks on net. Instead of opting for shorter feeds for cleaner offensive zone entries, they’ve tried to stretch the D with lengthy, less accurate passing attempts just hoping it would lead to odd-man rushes.
The thin personnel and the overthinking in their decision-making led the Bruins toward this hole. The razor-thin reviews against them only escalated their frustrations on Sunday.
Granted, they still find themselves in a solid playoff position with several games in hand on the rest of the division. Even with allowing the third-fewest goals against per game (2.20), the Bruins need significant scoring help if they ever want to consider themselves true Cup contenders in this shortened season.
“We’re fighting to stay in the mix. I think we’ve done a good job of that — we’re in every game,” Cassidy said. “I think we’re a better defensive team makeup. That’s why our numbers are very good defensively. Offensively, we’re not built to outscore teams.”
The Bruins used several internal options in hopes of finding that secondary offensive boost after losing Torey Krug — their top puck-moving defenseman — in the off-season. It hasn’t worked out. Their 83 goals are third-fewest in the division, ahead of only the Sabres and Devils. Until Sweeney addresses this glaring need, the offensive struggles are only going to escalate.
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