Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson (21) during a NHL game on November 19th, 2015. (Brian Fluharty/ Inside Hockey)

Bruins Fall to Predators In Lackluster Performance

We are 25 games into the 2015-16 season, and the Boston Bruins are sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with a 14-8-3 record entering Monday. If the playoffs were to start today, the Black and Gold would be among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

There is ample hockey left to be played and a lot can happen between now and April.

Now, on to the less obvious…

With the minimal time elapsed in this young campaign, what can we say about this team? It is safe to assume that this is the Bruins’ team that we expected from the beginning; a team that is slightly above average and will remain on the cusp of that postseason line all the way to the end. Plain and simple, they are who we thought they would be.

After concluding a three-game, Western Canada road trip, the B’s returned home to the TD Garden on Monday night to host the Nashville Predators.

The Bruins took four-out-of-six points in the games against Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver collectively…capping off the trip by blanking the Canucks by a final score of 4-0 on Saturday night. Even though those three teams are near the bottom of the Western Conference, making that grueling trip across the continent to play three games in four nights is not ideal. For Boston to snag four points in those contests is a minor miracle.

The focus now turned back to home ice where the Bruins will play eight out of their next 11 games. With Nashville on the slate, the B’s looked to avoid becoming the hunted against the Predators.

Nashville also played a game on Saturday night coming into Monday—a 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Even though the Predators have a .500 record on the road this year and were 2-5-2 in their last nine games, they possessed the same amount of points as the Bruins prior to this game (31). In what was the first meeting of the season between these two teams, it was impossible to predict the outcome of this one. That is why they play the games.

Jonas Gustavsson (5-1-0, 2.49 GAA, .908 SV %) opposed Carter Hutton (2-1-0, 2.97 GAA, .911 SV %) in the goaltending matchup–battle of the backups.

In the first period, the Bruins controlled the puck in neutral ice early on. On the other hand, the players (and officials, for that matter) had trouble keeping their skates due to the condition of the ice. Usually 50 degree weather is never the norm in December and the ice was evident of that throughout the opening period.

The B’s got on the board early courtesy of a Kevan Miller shot from the point. He had a great give-and-go exchange with David Krejci down the left slot to set up the goal, which was impossible to defend at that point.

“I came down the wall and they got mixed up in the zone,” said Miller regarding his goal. “That left me open and I was able to capitalize.”

As the period progressed, Nashville got a couple of chances with the man advantage. The Predators cashed in on their second opportunity with 25 seconds left in the period to tie the game. Roman Josi was the goal scorer for the opposition. Gustavsson made 11 saves in the opening 20 minutes, but some of the stops that he did make were huge giving the situation. The damage could have been worse.

As the second period amped up, so did the intensity. Brad Marchand ended up dropping the gloves with Josi in a fight with two unlikely combatants. The crowd got into the game from that point forward and that was much needed because Boston got off to a sluggish start in the second period. After Tyler Randell had a decisive victory in his scrap with Eric Nystrom, the energy shifted back in Boston’s favor.

It was not long after that the Black and Gold cashed in on the power play. Loui Eriksson tipped home a perfect thread pass from Ryan Spooner. The Bruins could not sustain any momentum whatsoever as they allowed the Preds to get right back into the game. Once again, it was the power play that did the Bruins in. Josi netted his second goal of the game to tie things up. Boston was completely outmatched during the second period, recording only four shots on goal and getting outshot 24-11 through 40 minutes. It did not help that they got whistled for three-straight minor penalties either. Not good.

“There just were not a lot of opportunities to shoot pucks,” said Frank Vatrano. “I guess that is the way the game goes sometimes; guys getting selective with shots. That is what happened for us in this game.”

In the third period, the fatigue started to show for the Bruins. They played most of the game with only 11 forwards when Joonas Kemppainen left after only three minutes of ice time and did not return. The Predators continued to chip away at the Bruins until the blue line bent late in the third period. Viktor Arvidsson netted his third goal of the year to put the away team on top. That tally proved to be the difference as the B’s fell in this one by a final score of 3-2.

“It is always tough coming back from a road trip but you have to try and find a way to win the game,” said Gustavsson. “They found a way to score a late goal and they won the game.”

In regards to the loss, no one was making any excuses.

“We have to be smarter,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We took a lot of penalties and we let them get to the front of the net too easily. We just never got any sustained momentum.”

The Bruins will play again on Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. This game will be held indoors (huge emphasis) at the Bell Centre. The Winter Classic is vastly approaching, Bruins fans. This game should be a solid prelude to the epic showdown in a few weeks.

Lineup for Dec. 7 vs. Nashville

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Brett Connolly

Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-Loui Eriksson

Ryan Spooner-Joonas Kemppainen-Frank Vatrano

Zac Rinaldo-Landon Ferraro-Tyler Randell

Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman

Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller

Side Notes: Brad Marchand recently skated in his 400th career NHL game…..Landon Ferraro remained in the lineup after recording his first two-point game as a Bruin…..David Pastrnak is still sidelined with a non-displaced fracture in his foot and there is no timetable for his return as of yet. He last played on October 31…..The Bruins entered this game with an eight-game point streak…..Jimmy Hayes, Dennis Seidenberg, and Colin Miller all remained out of the lineup for this game…..Patrice Bergeron picked up an assist on this night, tying Milt Schmidt for 11th place on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list with 575 career points.