Here we are once again breaking down another week of Bruins hockey and it certainly was a mix of the good and bad. The B’s snagged a real nice win against the Jets in Winnipeg on the back of Tuukka Rask’s big performance and followed that up by beating the New Jersey Devils in the TD Garden home opener on a thrilling last minute Patrice Bergeron game winner. But then the lovely Montreal Canadiens came to town and the week went to shit. It was the same ol’ Canadiens in Boston as Carey Price, alongside a nightmare 2nd period, closed the door and handed the B’s their second loss of the season. The Habs have now won a stupid 9 straight games in Boston. Unreal.
So here are our BostonPucks.com thoughts on all the action from Week 2:
The Bruins Still Haven’t Scored First
5 games into the season, 5 games the other team scores first (and sometimes second). Isn’t that fun?!
We wrote about this in last weeks review that the Bruins couldn’t keep playing from behind to start every game. That they needed to start setting the tone early and get out to a lead. In the first week of the season the Bruins trailed for 100 out of the 120 minutes of hockey they played. And when they led for most of the game against Winnipeg I thought their trend of always trailing was finally dead despite giving up the first goal of that game. Wrong. Nothing has changed. They would go on to give up the first goal against New Jersey and Montreal as well and have only had the lead for 1:15 out of 120 minutes in their first two home games. That’s a real hard way to live.
You can try to pin it on new young faces in the lineup and the learning curve in Boston. Or point at a goalie not buying the team some time to get it going. But none of the excuses really matter. At some point they have to show up, jump on a team, and get on the board first. There’s a lot of guys in the lineup that need to start producing (Krejci, Beleskey, Hayes, Heinen, Spooner) and that stick gets gripped a little tighter when you’re constantly trailing in games while trying to find your missing offense. They NEED to get the first goal and get themselves loose. Do the bull dance. Start feelin’ the flow.
Spooner vs. Heinen
Being in Boston this past week I heard more than once on sports talk radio that Danton Heinen is not NHL ready. I will be honest, earlier last week fellow Boston Pucks writer David Wayne and I had a conversation on how Heinen was maybe struggling, but looked better with every passing game.
Then I went to the Bruins home opener on Thursday night to see it for myself. My initial opinion, that Heinen struggled, was changed big time. He may not have recorded a point yet this season but he was sniffing the net and then some. If you are looking for the “wow” factor from him though you are not going to find it. Heinen is not flashy but he does a lot of things well. He was so strong along the boards against the Devils and just smart and creative with the puck. There were multiple plays he made during Thursday’s game that really left me impressed.
I think the view of Heinen’s play so far is skewed by the fact that the average Joe can’t see everything he does just by watching the game on TV. You definitely need to see him live, watching him away from the puck, to get the entire scope of his game. There were times Thursday where the Krejci, Backes and Heinen line had the Devils pined in their own zone for good stretches and Heinen was not just a passenger along for the ride. He was helping in the cycle game to keep the puck in the zone and creating a lot. On the power play against New Jersey he was also inches from popping his first career goal, particularly on a rebound attempt after Bergeron rang a BB off the post.
Yet after the game I heard the same chatter on the radio, that Heinen is not NHL ready and Spooner should be playing. I could not believe what I was hearing. Did this guy actually watch the same game I just did? Yes, you could argue Spooner should have played that night, as he probably should have. But to me Heinen was not the one he should replace. Heinen had not played himself out of the lineup but young AHL eligible guys will usually be the first to get a night off.
Ryan Spooner did respond to Thursday’s healthy scratch by returning Saturday night, replacing Heinen, and scoring a power play goal against the Canadiens. He was much more engaged, aggressive, and had his best game of the season so far. Spooner is a more dynamic player than Heinen when he is using his speed to back up the defense and create passing lanes. However, Heinen is more offensively creative and has a great release. It just seems he has been hesitant to shoot the puck thus far as he learns the pro game.
Personally, I would like to see Spooner back centering the 3rd line where he naturally fits yet still have Heinen in the lineup. But after the Canadiens game it does not look like there are going to be any changes to the 4th line since they have been playing well. So who sits? Maybe it’s time for some one (Jimmy Hayes) on that 3rd line to kick their feet up in the pressbox for a night to make room for both Spooner and the publicly underrated Heinen.
Special Teams Are A Mixed Bag
The Bruins special teams are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde right now. The penalty kill has been very nice for the most part, ripping along at a 90% success rate that has them ranked 10th in the NHL. But the power play has only hit on 10% of their opportunities which puts them in 25th out of 30 teams.
Personally I’d rather have the PK going more than the power play if you had to pick, but I think at some point it’ll click with the man advantage as well. Outside of the atrociously stagnant 6-on-3 the Bruins had to end the game Saturday night, they’ve been moving the puck well on the 5-on-4 and have had some great chances. The finish isn’t quite there yet.
It can often take a little more time for the skill guys and offenses to find a rhythm early in a season and in time the PP should be fine. All you have to do is take a look at the league power play numbers overall. Teams that have boatloads of power play friendly skill, like Washington, Florida, and Anaheim, sit in the bottom 3rd of the league in power play efficiency as well. We may not like it right now but it’ll come. And as long as the PK keeps clicking it’ll buy a little more time before we see better power play results.
Is The “Merlot Line” Back?
If you would have told me after 5 games that Dominic Moore would have more goals than David Krejci I would have said the Bruins must be in trouble. And maybe they are in trouble, but so far you really couldn’t ask for a better 4th line. They are all responsible in their own end and they also are showing some touch offensively. Moore may have scored both of the line’s goals and has been fantastic on the penalty kill, but Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari were directly involved in both goals and are kicking ass as well.
I have especially been impressed with Moore and Schaller’s play in the offensive zone. They are not top end skill guys, but are good enough to make this year’s version of the 4th line a major upgrade over recent years editions. Again, their play is also one of the reasons why Heinen and Spooner have been healthy scratches. As I wrote a few paragraphs ago, Moore, Acciari and Schaller simply do not deserve to be taken out of the lineup so something has to give elsewhere when deciding who sits. Injuries can and will happen during the season, and players will be moved around the lineup, but it will be interesting to see who’s getting pushed out if the Bruins can continue to get this kind of productivity out of the 4th line all year. If they do it’ll make Sweeney signing that bunch look fantastic.
It’s The Same ol’, Same ol’ Situation With The Canadiens
There is something about playing the Canadiens that messes with the Bruins heads. It’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend out at the bar who’s gotten kinda hot. Most likely you are going to do something stupid that night because of it.
Now, the Bruins hadn’t made many stupid mistakes so far this season but when they saw the Canadiens Saturday the mistakes came out in full force. Certainly you have to credit the Habs for causing the Bruins headaches by owning all the real estate in their brains but in the case of Saturday night, the entire second period was one giant mental mistake for Boston.
The solid start to the game quickly got away from the B’s in the second period as they were constantly pinned in their own end and gave little push back in an effort to change the tide. The Krejci line was still falling short of expectations, the Nash line was brutal, and of all the players Joe Morrow seemed to struggle the most. His penalties were painful (no pun intended, Torrey Mitchell) and after his nice outing against New Jersey his overall play was tough to watch against the Habs. Even my perfectly concocted whisky sours just didn’t have the same taste during that second period.
This was the first game this season that reminded me not just of recent home performances against the Habs but also of the tone and feel of how the playoff-less Bruins play. The 3-1 Bruins that started the season hit back when attacked. The Saturday night second period Bruins did not. The Saturday night second period Bruins were the ones we saw a lot of last year. Let’s hope they knock that shit off real soon.
For Something On The Lighter Side
Here is a short clip of the Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt interview from last week. This is awesome. It’s great that at 98-years-old Milt is still able to get out and do this kind of stuff. A living legend, indeed.
The Week Ahead: The Bruins are home against the Minnesota Wild this Tuesday, October 25th. Then they travel to New York the very next night to take on the Rangers. Finally the B’s finish up the month this Saturday the 29th in Detroit. It will be the Bruins second to last game, despite it’s rich history, in the dump that is Joe Lewis Arena.