Bruins

What we learned from the Bruins’ dismal 6-0 loss to Carolina

The Bruins are in survival mode without Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Frederik Andersen #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates a 6-0 victory against the Boston Bruins with teammate Sebastian Aho. Getty Images

Life without Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron began Thursday as the Boston Bruins welcomed the uber-talented Carolina Hurricanes to TD Garden on ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ night.

The opening results weren’t promising.

With Marchand serving a six-game suspension for punching Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristian Jarry and Bergeron nursing an upper-body injury following an awkward collision with Sidney Crosby, the Bruins had their hands full against another marquee NHL squad. This was the same Hurricanes bunch who trounced the B’s in their 7-1 win on Causeway St. a few weeks back.

And the same Hurricanes bunch who took advantage of a shorthanded Bruins squad.

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It wasn’t all terrible initially. The B’s engaged in a physical opening 20 minutes with the ‘Canes, highlighted by Charlie McAvoy’s bout with Tony DeAngelo. Both teams had three power-play attempts and combined for 20 penalty minutes, with Vincent Trocheck scoring the period’s lone goal.

But the Bruins didn’t establish any good habits either, failing to convert on each of their three power-play chances. The Canes outshot them 18-11 in that opening frame. Then they unraveled in the middle 20.

A plethora of turnovers, defensive breakdowns, and Linus Ullmark rebounds did the Bruins in. Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce all took advantage of Boston’s miscues to put Carolina in cruise control.

Without Bergeron and Marchand, the Bruins needed a near-perfect outing to come away with at least one point. They were the polar opposite of that during another ugly setback against the Hurricanes.

Here’s what we learned from Boston’s uninspiring 6-0 loss to Carolina.

The Bruins are in survival mode without Bergeron and Marchand.

“Listen, they’re key drivers for our team,” Bruins coach Cassidy said of Bergeron and Marchand. “So it’s obviously going to hurt without them.”

Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Bruins will play meaningful springtime hockey for the sixth straight season. But right now, they’re limping their way through one of their toughest stretches of the season.

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The Bruins don’t have the same depth as they used to. Don Sweeney’s quintet of free-agent signings — Ullmark, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek and Derek Forbort — haven’t filled the gaping holes that the New York Islanders exposed in last year’s second-round matchup. The suspect drafts and development throughout Sweeney’s tenure have come back to haunt the club on numerous occasions. And former mainstays like Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara aren’t there anymore to help the team during the rough patches of an 82-game regular season.

Even with Bergeron and Marchand in the fold, the Bruins need upgrades at second-line center and on the back end to have any hope of even advancing past the first round. Cassidy tried to switch things up on multiple occasions up front, highlighted from breaking up the top potent top line of Marchand, Bergeron. and David Pastrnak. Cassidy’s decision provided initial results with more scoring depth, but the moves hardly resembled a sustainable outlook in the long run.

McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk mesh well together on the top pairing. But a usually reliable Brandon Carlo has endured one of the worst stretches of his career. His tough year continued Thursday, highlighted by a costly turnover on Svechnikov’s 18th goal of the season.

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Forbort, Connor Clifton, and Mike Reilly struggled with consistency. Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen each sustained injuries after the pair of first-round selections showcased some promising developments during the course of the year.

Any team would find difficulties replacing two elite, battle-tested veterans. The deeper squads can sustain those stretches without their star players.

The Bruins can’t. They don’t know when Bergeron will return. Marchand has five more games to serve of his eighth career suspension. And now, they may not have the services of one of the few productive players outside of Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, and McAvoy.

Grzelcyk’s exit potentially puts shorthanded B’s in further hole.

Cassidy and Boston’s coaching staff couldn’t afford any further setbacks with a thinner roster to work with. Well, in a week featuring Marchand’s suspension, Bergeron’s injury and Rask’s retirement, the Bruins suffered yet another blow.

An awkward second-period collision with Svechnikov behind the Boston net ended Grzelcyk’s night. Cassidy confirmed Grzelcyk’s upper-body ailment but had no further update on his status ahead of Boston’s upcoming four-game road trip.

The Bruins recalled defenseman Tyler Lewington ahead of Thursday’s tilt. Vaakaninen skated on his own during Boston’s optional skate Thursday but hasn’t practiced with the team since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 1.

Forbort would likely fill Grzelcyk’s spot next to McAvoy on Boston’s top defensive pairing. The veteran started the season next to McAvoy but is better served in a bottom-pairing blue-liner. Even then, he’s struggled in that role as of late.

The Bruins can only go so far with the next-man-up philosophy. But they could use some time away from home following a tumultuous 48 hours. They’ll get that come Saturday in Ottawa for a matinee against the lowly Senators.

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“No one is happy about what happened tonight,” said Foligno, who had a goal waved off in the third period for goaltender interference. “But one thing is we’re going to find a way through it, and we have to.”

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