The Boston Bruins began a five-game, 10-day road trip by playing what was likely their worst contest of the 2017-18 season on Saturday night. The B’s allowed four first-period goals in a total defensive nightmare, falling 6-1 to the lowly Vancouver Canucks.
Here are my six Extra Beats on a disgusting performance from the B’s:
- The effort – and the puck luck – was just not there for the Bruins.
Let’s hope that this game is an anomaly and can be attributed to being the first game of a road trip. The Bruins looked like they were jet-lagged and had no legs for lengthy spurts. It seemed like it was 7-on-3 in the Vancouver end, as they were consistently massive, gaping holes for Canucks’ players to skate into. And that doesn’t take into account the atrocious defense demonstrated on the multitude of goals. The B’s were out-hit throughout the game and barely blocked any shots… because it’s hard to block a shot when it’s being taken behind your entire defensive unit. But it wasn’t just the lack of effort for the first 40 minutes that caused the loss, as the B’s were pretty unlucky at times as well. Boston hit two posts in the first period, they could not capitalize on a wide open net in the second, and they could not corral any of the awful rebounds that came from Canucks’ goalie Andres Nilsson’s saves. Boston played some pretty sketchy hockey during the first couple months of the year, but this was way worse until they finally stepped it up a tad in the third period.
- Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug (among others) had nights to forget.
The Bruins’ defense has been a strong suit all season, but it looked like their D didn’t make the trip to Canada on Saturday night. Normally when a team is down four goals in the first period, they would pull the goalie (more on that coming up soon), but the Bruins really needed to just pull their entire defensive unit. Carlo and Krug had the worst performances among the bunch, as they combined for a grotesque -7 rating. The duo was victimized on the first goal, as they both basically stood around and watched Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson on the former Bruin’s tally. Carlo left Sedin alone on the second goal, as he made a late break to cover B’s killer Thomas Vanek, who had broken free (a common theme of the night). The D pair was out there again for goals four and five, with Krug getting blown by on the last Vancouver goal, as Jake Virtanen beat him to the front of the net with ease before setting up Nic Dowd. Krug did get in on the scoring by assisting on Tim Schaller’s third period tally, but that won’t erase what was an embarrassing performance by the entire B’s defense.
- Charlie McAvoy looked like a rookie for once.
McAvoy was also pretty awful on Saturday night, as he got beat easily on Bo Horvat’s goal to make it 3-0, and had a brutal exchange deep in his end with Anton Khudobin that led to a shorthanded goal from Loui Eriksson – his second of the night. McAvoy has one of the best plus/minus ratings in the entire league, and is a clear candidate for the Calder Trophy, so it’s easy to forget that he is just 20 years old and in his first full season in the pros. Nights like tonight should happen more often, but let’s really hope this is just a brief bump in the road for the B’s best young defenseman.
- The goaltending was brutal at times… for the victorious team.
Nilsson entered the game with a 6-10-1 record, and had lost his last eight starts. It became evident pretty early on why he has struggled so mightily, as he made several normal saves look downright challenging, and had little to no control on his rebounds. I really have no idea how the Bruins didn’t score multiple times in every period against Nilsson. The B’s goaltending was miles better, yet it was their total lack of effort on defense that gave them no chance to gain a victory in the first game of their five-game road trip. Nilsson did make some solid saves late, especially when the B’s actually pushed and looked like a team that hadn’t lost in regulation on the road since early December. But this easily could have been a 6-5 Bruins win due to Nilsson’s poor goaltending.
- Jake DeBrusk was the only Bruin to show up.
With his father doing commentary between the boards for Hockey Night in Canada, DeBrusk had a couple early scoring chances that could have eliminated the first of Vancouver’s many tallies on the evening. The rookie winger rang the post after a great wrist shot at around the six-minute mark, then drew a penalty after forcing a turnover deep in the Vancouver end. He had the best chance on a mediocre man advantage after being set up by Patrice Bergeron. DeBrusk connected with David Krejci on what should have been the first B’s goal in the second period, but when things are going badly even wide open nets can’t be hit. His motor kept running all game, and he should have had a multi-point game on his terrific effort alone. If a few other Bruins’ players had even half the effort that DeBrusk showed on Saturday, this game could have turned out a lot differently.
- This wasn’t Tuukka Rask’s, or Anton Khudobin’s, fault at all.
The stats will show that Tuukka Rask had a .500 save percentage, as he allowed four goals on eight shots. But none of those goals were his fault, and he didn’t deserve being pulled to start the second period. The switch was purely a way to try to kick-start the effort of the Bruins, which didn’t work. Khudobin gave up two goals in relief, but again, those were really not his fault either. The Bruins’ defense gave their netminders no chance to succeed, and the Canucks could have gone for close to 10 goals if not for some nifty saves by the two Bruins’ goalies.