The Boston Bruins entered Saturday night’s game against the Washington Capitals ranked third in the NHL on the power play with a 29.5 success rate. Within the last ten games, however, the Bruins have struggled to find the back of the net; capitalizing on just eight of 33 power play opportunities.
Injuries have also taken a toll with the already-struggling Bruins team.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy announced an hour prior to puck-drop that Patrice Bergeron was ruled day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He is the 78th man-games lost for the Bruins on the season so far.
As if that was not enough for the injury-bugged Bruins, Torey Krug was placed on the injured reserve three hours before puck drop against the Capitals of the back-end of the Bruins’ back-to-back weekend series.
Bergeron’s and Krug’s injuries add to the long list of injured players for the Bruins as of now; defenseman John Moore is out on the long-term injured reserve with a shoulder injury, forward Brett Ritchie is out with an upper-body injury, forward Jake DeBrusk is out on the injured reserve with a lower-body injury, defenseman Kevan Miller is out on the long-term injured reserve with a knee injury, forward David Backes is out with an upper-body injury, forward Karson Kuhlman is out on the injured-reserve with a non-displaced fracture to the right tibia, and forward Zach Senyshyn is out on the long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
The Bruins announced that they recalled forward Paul Carey from Providence; he slotted in on the fourth-line to the right side of Par Lindholm in Saturday’s game. Carey suited up for his 100th NHL game.
Because of the many injuries, Cassidy rolled out a lineup that had David Krejci centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and bumped Charlie Coyle’s line to second.
Having a banged-up lineup, is not something uncommon for these Bruins however as injuries were a trend last season as well.
“That’s part of it. We battle with [injuries] every season, and last season we showed any guy can come into the lineup and step up,” said Pastrnak on what it does to the team when finding out a player can not play before heading out on the ice. “For us it’s the same game, and focus before the game.”
It was certainty a test for forwards Anders Bjork, Coyle, and Danton Heinen; a line that has recently found some chemistry.
Just over two minutes into the opening period, Bjork created havoc for the Capitals in their end of the ice; collecting the puck to the back of Washington’s goaltender Brandon Holtby, then passing it straight up the slot to his crashing line-mates. The puck was unable to get on the stick of either Coyle or Heinen, as it ultimately cleared the zone.
Four minutes later, the line would have another sequence of opportunities as Coyle was wide open in the slot, only for Holtby to block away the shot with his right shoulder. Seconds after, Bjork shot a wrist-shot to the right of Holtby, only for the net-minder to cover the shot up to stop play.
The second-line’s efforts were eventually payed off, as Coyle opened the scoring for the Bruins extending his point streak to four games with two goals and three assists.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy pinched the play to the right boards, and wrapped the puck around to Heinen. Henien passed it to a crashing Coyle in the slot, who was able to slide it five-hole for his second goal in two games.
“We had a game-plan all along to do, and we executed there on our play. We do a lot of talking,” said Coyle on his line continuing to find chemistry. “It’s a work in progress, and be able to contribute as much as we can especially when we are playing at where are.”
About six minutes later, Washington would even the scoring on a Bruins’ defensive collapse; forward Travis Boyd scoring his first goal of the season, redirecting a shot from the blue-line from forward Brendan Leipsic.
The second half of the first period, the Bruins struggled to get the puck out of their zone; the injuries on the defensive-end of the roster beginning to show. Washington made it difficult for the Bruins to clear the puck and control it through the neutral zone.
Despite a heavily-Washington-controlled second-half of the first period, the defenseman Radko Gudas got tangled up with Marchand on the blue-line and committed a hooking penalty.
The Bruins were unable to capitalize on the player-advantage; something that they would struggle with all night.
While Boston started the second period on the power play, the Bruins were unable to converse. They would see two more opportunities within the second period on player-advantage, but would not be able to capitalize; the injuries to key specialty-team players haunting them.
The Bruins ended 0/3 on the power play, but went 2/2 on the penalty kill.
The Bruins were able to take the lead in the second, however, as Pastrnak was able to slide one past Holtby for his 17th of the season.
Blowing a lead in the final 20 minutes of play appears to be a trend for Boston.
The third period saw matching roughing penalties from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and Washington forward Tom Wilson with 6:01 remaining in the period. Neither team was able to score on the 4-on-4 play.
With just under a minute left in regulation, Washington was able to tie it with their goaltender pulled to give the Capitals the extra player.
It is clear the Bruins have been struggling defensively, and are missing players – such as Bergeron and Krug – out there to close out the game.
Overtime would not be enough, as Boston would go on to the shootout for the third time in four games; ultimately falling to the Capitals 3-2.
“It’s a 50/50 chance. You’re going to score, or you’re going to miss. And we support each other on the bench, whoever is going out there, believe in them to go out and do the job,” said McAvoy on what the mindset has been going into these shootouts. “It’s a lot of pressure going in a shootout, especially when it’s a back against the wall scenario and you got to score.”
The Bruins are set to take on the Devils on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Prudential Center. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.