The Boston Bruins lost for the first time in seven games on Sunday afternoon, as they could not overcome another injury and fell 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks to cap a rare home-and-home weekend matinee.
Boston trailed entering the third period, then struck for the equalizing goal with nine minutes left in regulation before allowing two late tallies from the home squad.
Here are my six Extra Beats for Sunday’s tough road loss:
- Boston could not overcome missing another gigantic weapon.
The B’s entered the contest knowing that they would be playing on Sunday without Patrice Bergeron (foot), Charlie McAvoy (knee), and David Backes (suspension). Bruce Cassidy stated prior to the game that his lines would remain the same from Saturday’s 7-4 win, but news broke right before the puck dropped that Brad Marchand would also sit on Sunday with what was described as an upper-body injury. Boston did not have an extra forward on their roster, so they were forced to use seven defensemen and 11 forwards in Chicago, with Adam McQuaid jumping back in the lineup. Cassidy jumbled his forward lines throughout the game, often pairing Rick Nash with David Pastrnak – especially in the second and third periods – but missing one of the hottest players in the league proved to be too much to overcome for Boston. They did muster up 32 shots on net, and had some quality chances, but earning a win with a shorthanded roster after playing yesterday, traveling, and dealing with an early start and the time change was just not in the cards on Sunday.
- Penalties – both early and late – killed the Bruins.
The Bruins came out of the gates strong in a game that began at 10:30am… well it was really 11:30 in Chicago after we sprung forward on Sunday. They had outshot the Blackhawks 5-2 prior to Tim Schaller hitting the penalty box at 6:08, but only mustered up five more shots in the remaining 14 minutes of the period. The B’s went to the sin bin three times in a five-minute span, with the Hawks capitalizing on the Schaller penalty with the only goal of the first. The B’s did a nice job of staying out of the box for the majority of the game after those three penalties, until the huge double-minor for high-sticking to Zdeno Chara with less than four minutes left in regulation. The Hawks wasted no time on Chara’s penalty, as Patrick Kane scored just 18 seconds into the first half of that four-minute double-minor, then Brent Seabrook made Chara pay for trying to get off the ice after he left the box to seal the deal with 1:04 left in regulation. Boston won the game on Saturday with their power play, and lost it on Sunday due to Chicago’s power play.
- Both Antons were stellar in net on Sunday.
It was a battle of Anton in net, as Anton Khudobin faced Anton Forsberg, and both were fantastic throughout the game. Khudobin did all he could to keep the Bruins close by making several huge saves in the second and third periods. He made a huge stop on a breakaway attempt from Brandon Saad in the second period, and picked up some puck luck after a shot from Alex DeBrincat earlier in the second went behind Khudobin, struck the post, then hit Dobby in the back and bounced off the side of the net. Dobby flashed the leather in the final period, and made an acrobatic save early in the period, but ultimately allowed two late goals to suffer just his fifth regulation loss of the season (15-5-4). Forsberg was also terrific in net, stopping 31 of Boston’s 32 shots on net, with only a deadly wrist shot from Chara getting by him in the third period. Forsberg continued to trade wins and losses, as he is 4-4-0 in his last eight starts dating back to February 15th.
- Nick Holden missed a Golden opportunity to change the game in the second.
With Boston struggling to produce quality scoring chances early in the contest, the new-look like of the two Nash’s – Riley and Rick – and David Pastrnak came up with a beautiful break that should have resulted in the tying goal in the second period. Nick Holden had an open net to fire into, but hit the post behind Forsberg after taking a great feed from Pasta:
Nick Holden manages to miss the entire net pic.twitter.com/5to0P6bFAM
— TheRenderNHL (@TheRenderNHL) March 11, 2018
Holden has been a great addition to the Bruins, especially with the injury to McAvoy, earning four assists in his first four starts with Boston. He still had a solid showing on Sunday, with two hits and two blocked shots, but saw just 13:37 of ice time as Boston played seven defensemen. He could have changed the game, and probably earned more ice time, if he had just buried that open-net shot to tie the game at 1-1.
- The defense improved, with Brandon Carlo having one of his best games in recent memory.
Although Boston kept winning games, it was clearly evident that their defense took a huge hit when McAvoy injured his knee last week. The B’s allowed 11 goals in the three games that McAvoy had missed entering Sunday, including four in Saturday’s comeback win. Boston’s defense looked strong at times today, especially during even-strength play. Brandon Carlo made several steady plays throughout the game, and jumped down into the offense more frequently than normal. Kevan Miller had two shots on net and led the defense in blocked shots with three, and Torey Krug was solid until leaving the game for a brief stint in the third after taking a stick to a bad area on the body. It was a step in the right direction for Boston’s defense on Sunday, but there’s still work to do to shore up the D before McAvoy returns, which hopefully will happen prior to the postseason.
- The Davids tried, but could not carry Boston’s shorthanded offense.
With Marchand, Bergeron, and Backes missing on Sunday, the two Davids – Pastrnak and Krejci – stepped up to provide most of the offensive spark for Boston. Krejci had the primary assist on Chara’s goal, and was creating magic throughout the game, as his chemistry with Jake DeBrusk is at an all-time high. Pastrnak had a couple terrific chances, with the best coming on a breakaway in the second period that was denied by Forsberg. Pasta had five shots on net – with only Brian Gionta taking more shots on Forsberg – but the most impressive part of the afternoon was how well he gelled with Rick Nash. The two were paired up for a majority of shifts in the latter stages of the game, and it looked like the duo had been playing side-by-side for the entire season. It would not be surprising to see Cassidy pair Nash and Pastrnak up again in the near future, as now is the time to try out some new combinations with Boston holding a firm grip on the second slot in the Atlantic Division.