FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 01: Zdeno Chara #33 and Jimmy Hayes #11 of the Boston Bruins speak in the third period against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Bruins Lack of Depth, Spark Costly in Winter Classic
Two Winter Classics, two different stories. The Boston Bruins were unable to come up with their second Winter Classic victory on Friday afternoon as they fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 5-1. The story of the game may have been the lack of zone time for the Bruins, and the inability to clear the crease on defense, however it is a lack of depth at the forward position that was costly.
The Bruins went into the contest without three of their top forwards. Brad Marchand was serving the first of a three game suspension after an illegal hit against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. David Krejci and David Pastrnak were both out with injuries.
“There’s no excuse,” said Torey Krug after the contest. “We weren’t ready to play and we didn’t represent our fans and Boston very well.”
Out of the top two lines this afternoon, only Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, and Matt Beleskey could be considered top-six forwards. Seth Griffith is up from Providence playing on the top line while Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly saw top forward time. While Spooner has nearly been a point-per-game player over the past month, Connolly has been nearly non-existant in his first full season in black and gold.
Connolly was eventually demoted to the fourth line with Max Talbot and Zac Rindlao while Landon Ferraro was moved up to the top line. It didn’t make much of a difference, as the B’s were still only able to score one goal in the third period.
Alex Khoklachev was invisable again in his second stint with the Bruins this season. He, along with Frank Vatrano, saw less and less ice time as the game went on.
When healthy, the Bruins top two lines are excellent. Eriksson is having his best year as a Bruin while Bergeron is once again quietly racking up the points. Beleskey has played well, especially of late, while Krejci and Marchand were both on pace for career seasons.
“We have to find ways to step up in games like this,” said Patrice Bergeron to the media after the game, “and we definitely didn’t do that today.”
On this afternoon from Gillette Stadium, the diminished Bruins roster put up just three shots on goal in the first period and at one point went 15 minutes without registering an attempt on net. The final score of 5-1 was the most one-sided affair in the history of the Winter Classic, which began in 2008.
“I’d say embarrassing more than disappointing,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask to the media after the game, where he gave up five goals for a league-leading sixth time this season. The result is hardly his fault, however, after the Bruins struggled to clear the defensive zone all game.
There is no doubt that since Jimmy Hayes was put on a line with Spooner, he has played better, and today his line, which included Beleskey, was the only one that showed much spark at all. While the Montreal Canadiens had a spark with Brendan Gallagher back in the lineup, the Bruins noticeably did not. Was that just an effect of Marchand being out of the lineup?
One way or another, not having a spark in the Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens with first place on the line should be a concern. Once healthy, maybe the Bruins can rebound and return to being the same team that won 13 games in a 15 game stretch. Otherwise, this listless approach isn’t going to get them a division, or anything else.