Bruins

3 takeaways from the shorthanded Bruins’ loss to the Red Wings

Without Brad Marchand and Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins fell to a rebuilding Red Wings team, 2-1.

David Pastrnak (not pictured) fired a third-period shot at Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who has the Bruins' Taylor Hall sailing into him at the same time. The puck appeared to get by the netminder, but the officials waved it off due to Hall's location. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

COMMENTARY

Even against a rebuilding Detroit Red Wings squad, the Boston Bruins faced an uphill battle Tuesday night.

To recap the events leading up to their last November tilt: the league handed Brad Marchand a three-game suspension for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Bruce Cassidy entered COVID-19 protocol, Jake DeBrusk requested a trade, and the Providence Bruins postponed their upcoming slate because of a coronavirus outbreak.

Amid all this, the Joe Sacco-led Bruins outshot the Red Wings, 42-16. Yet, the offensive struggles and costly defensive breakdowns proved costly.

Even with an equalizer on a David Pastrnak 5-on-3 blast midway through the third, the Bruins hardly made Alex Nedeljkvoic’s night difficult. They established decent traffic in front of the Red Wings netminder yet struggled to generate quality secondary scoring opportunities in the danger areas.

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Ultimately, a second-period turnover in front of Detroit’s bench leading to Filip Zidina’s opening tally and a chaotic third-period sequence in front of Linus Ullmark resulting in Marc Staal’s go-ahead marker doomed the struggling Bruins. Here’s what we learned from Boston’s frustrating 2-1 setback.

DeBrusk didn’t increase his trade value.

According to TSN’S Darren Dreger, 12 teams expressed interest in acquiring DeBrusk once his trade request became public. The dozen rumored suitors may have second thoughts after watching DeBrusk’s latest outing.

The 2015 first-round selection hardly touched the puck in 10:25 of ice time. A handful of the 17,850 in attendance at TD Garden sounded off with boos in the rare instances he handled the rubber biscuit.

The mounting frustrations from the past day piled up for DeBrusk as he landed one lone hit and a single shot on goal in a fourth-line role with Erik Haula and Curtis Lazar.

The situational distraction only amplified the Bruins’ need for improved secondary scoring. Regardless, they’re addressing DeBrusk’s situation head-on.

Don Sweeney confirmed DeBrusk’s trade request earlier in the day. The fifth-year forward addressed his teammates on Tuesday inside Boston’s dressing room.

Taylor Hall encountered similar situations, having left Edmonton, New Jersey, Arizona and Buffalo via trade before settling into a second-line role in Boston. The 2010 top overall selection discussed the DeBrusk situation at length following Tuesday’s outing.

“He talked to us this morning. He just said, ‘I love you guys. This is something in my career, I’m at a crossroads,’ and he’s going to have to do,” Hall said of DeBrusk. “He’s not a distraction at all. It’s almost better that it’s out there. You have a day to digest that. Jake is a great kid. He’s got a lot of skill, and he’s going to have a great career in this league.

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“As a group — as an organization — I think you deal with those distractions head-on, and you just go play the game,” Hall added. “That’s the culture and that’s the motto we have. Whoever’s in, you’ve got to play well. That’s what we said this morning. We expect Jake to play as well as he can, even under the circumstances.”

The Bruins may look different in a month or two with DeBrusk’s impending trade and an upcoming decision on Tuukka Rask. For now, they’ll have to navigate through this challenging stretch without their top-line left-winger, a fourth-line staple in Anton Blidh and the other on and off-ice developments.

Boston’s thin depth exposed itself.

Quite frankly, the Bruins would’ve earned some sort of victory in a similar scenario with Marchand in the lineup. There within lies the issue.

The Bruins can ill-afford to lose their top weapons to short or long-term injuries, illness or suspensions. You can count those top performers on one hand: Marchand, Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy.

Indeed, every line outperformed the Red Wings in the 5v5 metrics. But they all lacked the most crucial trait: a finish.

It took a two-man advantage for the Bruins to finally break through in the scoring department. Even with the nearly 3:1 shot on goal disparity, the B’s shot themselves in the foot. The opportunistic Red Wings pounced amid chaos, lighting the lamp off a turnover and during a delayed penalty call on Mike Reilly.

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Every mistake will only amplify. The Bruins right now have to work harder to light the lamp frequently.

It won’t get any easier with the Predators and two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning ahead. The next-man-up philosophy needs to come through at some point. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves drifting further away from the playoff picture at this rate.

Hall found his jump with Pastrnak and Bergeron.

Marchand’s suspension forced the Bruins into a top-heavy lineup.

On Tuesday, Boston’s coaching staff promoted Hall to first-line duty with Bergeron and Pastrnak.

Hall had his skating legs from the get-go. He didn’t light the lamp, but created havoc for Nedeljkovic on multiple occasions with his hard net drive and keen offensive skillset.

In their first game together, the Hall-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio combined for 17 shots on net. The Bruins had a 13-3 edge in 5v5 shot attempts every time the top line touched the ice.

Hall provided that timely assist on Pastrnak’s equalizer, making a brilliant no-look pass to the 2014 first-rounder for his sixth helper of the season.

Clearly, the promotion provided Hall with an extra pep in his step in his 22:44 of ice time.

“It was fun. Those are great players,” Hall said of his time with Pastrnak and Bergeron. “When you go into a line like that, I just tried to play without thinking and used my skillset to help them. 5-on-5, we didn’t get anything. It looks good and everything — a lot of shots and a lot of chances. But you almost [would] rather have a small amount of chances and a goal. And for us to come away with a point, we have to accomplish that as a line.”

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Albeit temporary, Hall’s opportunity will only provide a boost of confidence when he presumably returns to his second-line role with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. A balanced top-six when Marchand returns will only help the Bruins navigate through a rather tumultuous time.

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