The Colorado Avalanche beat the Boston Bruins yesterday 2-1 at The TD Garden. The winning goal was scored by Daniel Brierre with 0.4 seconds left in the third period. While the Bruins did indeed play a better game yesterday than their previous two, it was at best marginally better.
While I'd have to say the Bruins had the slightest of edges in play in the first period. The best shots came from the sticks of the Avs. Niklas Svedberg was playing in his first game of the season as the official Bruins backup goaltender. He was very sharp throughout the game making one small error in the second period that led to Colorado's first goal. He faced 30 shots and turned away 28 and deserved a better fate for his efforts.
However, while Svedberg deserved a better fate, the rest of the Bruins did not and they lost this game because of lack of focus at certain times during the game. Over the course of the game there were more than several times when the focus wasn't zeroed in or they just were playing through the motions. The two glaring occurrences of this was when Colorado scored both of their goals. The first goal came as a result of an icing call that led to a defensive zone face-off. On a rush, Jordan Caron with the puck moving up the left side decided to dump the puck in the left corner of the Avs end. If he had held onto the puck for 1-2 more strides, he would have crossed the center ice line, instead the play was whistled dead for icing. The players on the ice can not be replaced after an icing and the tired fourth line with Matt Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg, lost a defensive zone face-off and the fresh line of Colorado buzzed around the zone until Jamie McGinn came off the right corner, spun in traffic and beat Svedberg to his left on a shot that squeezed by him. Svedberg never got square to the shot and the Avs were up 1-0. Of note was that Ryan Spooner lost this face-off. Seidenberg and Bartkowski were the defensive pair and on the ice for both goals scored and the Bruins line seemed unable to corral the fresh Avs legs after the face-off. The second and game winning goal came in the closing second of the third period again with the Avs buzzing the zone and both Seidenberg and Bartkowski had left the slot, leaving Brierre in front and alone after making an initial save and the experienced Brierre moved laterally across the crease beyond Svedberg's ability to stretch and shoveled in the puck into the net.
I'd like to make a point here. This was Jordan Caron's first game of the season. It's the same thing every game he plays. He's not thinking, being defensively responsible or able to contribute with secondary scoring. In 8:05 of ice time, he had one hit and was responsible in large part for the first goal due to lack of focus. This is Caron all the time, so my question is this. The Bruins had a player in 2012 named Benoit Pouiliot, that was responsible for making a bad play in OT of the seventh game against Washington. His bad pass into the shin pads of a Cap led to a 2 on 1 and the play ended the game and series with the puck in the back of the net. Pouiliot played 74 games that season scoring 15 goals and was a +8. Since then in 114 games he's 24 goals with 32 assists and been a +24. He was run out of town as not being a Bruins style player. Couldn't think, not defensively responsible, despite contributing secondary scoring playing in similar situations, minutes and roles to Caron. Caron in 100 games has 9 goals, 12 assist and is a -7. Why is this guy on the team and why does this team stick with him? This guy cleared waivers last week and nobody wanted him. Pouiliot got picked up right away three times as a free agent and is now playing for Edmonton with an over priced contract, but could have been had the last three years for peanuts. Jordan Caron is a nice guy and a hockey player. But he is not a Boston Bruin and Providence is stocked with players that can play just as well and perhaps 5-6 can play better than he can.
Other Bruins haven't done well in the focus area. Zdeno Chara has taken two stupid penalties that have negated power plays for the Bruins in the last two games. Note to Coach Julien; play your best players, that means seven defensemen and eleven forwards. Playing Seidenberg on the right side pairing with Bartkowski didn't work against Washington in a pre-season game and didn't work yesterday. Kevan Miller compliments him much better . Play Bartkowski where he belongs on the bottom pair with McQuaid. Torey Krug, one of our top offensive weapons isn't getting any points. He can help the offense and team defense from the wing. Play him as a forward 5 on 5 and point man on the power play. Seth Griffith played his first game and played some hard nosed minutes with a couple of hurried shots. He looked good and deserves his chance. But he deserves his chance on the fourth line as an energy player, he's no pure sniper and doesn't have break away speed or good corner size. Matt Fraser sat yesterday after contributing one shot and 3 hits in three games. He has size and a heavy accurate shot. You finally get David Krejci back from injury whom he played with during pre-season and did well with. He sits? You have to play all the players that can help you win and you have to play them where they can help you the most.
We finally played well on the penalty kill and allowed zero shots in three kills. We've been doing well in the face-off circle, but could be better in the defensive zone. Asking Matt Bartkowski to replace John Boychuk's minutes and spot while diminishing Seidenberg by moving him to the right side where he is uncomfortable and much less efficient coming off his injury is just bad and desperate coaching. Your not putting either of those players in a position to succeed. Carl Soderberg has to learn through fire and practice time how to be a better face-off man. Having Kelly take his draws when he could be giving you depth at center on the fourth line and elevating Dan Paille's game, is another example of putting players in a position to succeed. Two veterans on every line with lesser experienced wingers on every line is just smart coaching. One experienced defenseman on every pairing with a lesser experienced defenseman is smart coaching. You have enough assets on this team to have one power play unit focus an attack from the left and another focus an attack from the right. As players, I can see how as the games go on and the game is in doubt, how some players are doing more as individuals, not as team mates. You can't have that and win or be successful at this level hockey. We know this as a hockey team because we've used this system before. Why have we abandoned it now? I want my lunch pail down in the trenches hockey team back, not this meals on wheels dump and chase in three zones team.
On the upside, players that looked better, Loui Eriksson, scoring the first Bruins goal in two games and a power play goal to boot. He had three shots on 5 attempts and two hits and no, repeat, no giveaways. Milan Lucic with three hits and three shots looked more like himself with David Krejci playing his first game of the season. The Bergeron line has been most consistent but takes individual chances instead of sticking to the cycling game they are so good at late in the last three games. It's a sign of desperate attempts to move the game forward and feeling the weight of lack of support from other lines. While I would hesitate to take Chris Kelly away from Soderberg and Eriksson, because he has been the Bruins best overall player through 4 games, we need quality minutes and effort from the fourth line and who better right now could provide that. Right now Adam McQuaid is healthy and giving the team some monster minutes. But in the second period when he was sitting in the penalty box for five minutes, wouldn't it have been grand to have a seventh defenseman that could drop back and keep the pairings refreshed and sat the fourth line?
I could make just as many judgement calls about the Colorado Avalanche last night. But, they're not my team or the team I'm reporting on. The Boston Bruins are and I have some expectations. I can't remember that last time I looked out three games ahead in the schedule and worried, can we get three points in the next three games, can we get two? Joe Haggerty summed up the game yesterday on Comcast New England SportsCentral show. Referring to the combination of Soderberg and Eriksson on scoring the lone goal and Svedberg in net, and the inability of the rest of the team to score with Rask on the bench. He said; " Yesterdays game was too Swedish and not enough Finnish". I couldn't agree more !
Until Next Time!