The Boston Bruins capped off the second annual Hockey Day in America by being shut out 2-0 by the Minnesota Wild. This loss is the fourth time in February that the Bruins have been shut out and their most recent ten-game record is now 4-6-0–a record almost as bad as the slump in October.
As per usual lately, the Bruins started the game with a good tempo. Again Daniel Paille stood out as someone trying very hard. He got two breakaways, although neither were successful (Paille breakaways tend to be unsuccessful as a whole, though). Paille’s line, as well as the line centered by Patrice Bergeron, both stood out as ones trying hard to get one past Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom, though, would not be solved today. That’s not because the Bruins didn’t try–throughout the game, they fired 48 shots at him–but because they didn’t try effectively.
Backstrom often gave up huge rebounds or even left the net vacated for a few moments. However, instead of the Bruins managing their net-front presence and consistently stationing someone there to handle rebounds, they settled for taking the puck past the blue line and firing independently at Backstrom from the perimeter. Shawn Thornton later told Anthony Gulizia that “it’s tough to beat [goalies] from the perimeter.” Perhaps he should have told this to his teammates. Most of the Bruins’ shots were taken right at Backstrom’s chest protector.
Thornton did try to inject some life into the game, telling Gulizia that he felt there was enough time for him to fight and sway the game Boston’s way when he took on Matt Kassian at the start of the third. This fight was unusual, though, because not only was it so long, Thornton seemed a lot less dominant than he has been in many of his fights. Much of it seemed like bear hugging between he and Kassian without much actual fighting. Thornton’s effort is admirable, though, when so many of his teammates seemed discouraged.
Backstrom was tested on a quality chance by Milan Lucic towards the end of the game, though, and full-on robbed him with his catching glove. This made Lucic so upset that he smacked his stick against the ice. (The Xcel Energy Center DJ then played the Bruins’ goal song, a tune that hasn’t been heard too often lately back at TD Garden.) Joe Haggerty reported that Lucic, in a bout of frustration, “pulverized [his] stick into shards [and] he threw it onto the ice in frustration as final buzzer sounded.”
The difference maker here may have been a penalty called. Already down 1-0 on Chad Rau’s second goal of his NHL career, Chris Kelly was called for tripping. Just before that call, Brad Marchand had been tripped behind Minnesota’s net, but there was no call there. With Kelly in the box, Matt Cullen scored, finishing off all that the Wild needed to defeat the Stanley Cup champions in their only meeting this season. After that point, aside from the Thornton and Lucic outbursts of passion, the team seemed complacent.
Once again, there were the same defensive failings as seen in recent games. Zdeno Chara came away with another -1 rating, but over the past four games, he’s a -7. Dennis Seidenberg’s idea for defending Cullen’s shot was to stand with his back to Cullen and hope for the best.
Performance like this is unacceptable, unlike the Bruins and something needs to change immediately. It’s time they made some trades. The team is in desperate need of both someone to goose the under-productive offense and to shore up the defensive structure. Maybe GM Peter Chiarelli has something in mind already.
Next up for the Bruins is their only visit to the St. Louis Blues this season on Feb. 22.