Sports 12-22-2016

Bruins Beat

by Bob Morello

Bruins giving gifts early

Christmas is the time for giving, and the Bruins did just that on Tuesday night versus the struggling Islanders, who were winless in their last five (0-4-1) coming to the Garden. It started early as the Islanders capitalized twice within the first 5:40 of the contest, benefitting on a Tuukka Rask collision with Brad Marchand to score their first, unassisted, followed by a second goal on an odd-man rush. Those two ‘gift’ goals immediately put Boston in a hole they couldn’t climb out of, as New York put an end to their five-game winless streak with a 4-2 victory.

Despite being able to post 95 attempts on net, with 50 of those shots getting through to Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss, the Bruins could not overcome the 3-0 first period margin. No doubt Rask did not have his usual great night in net, but his teammates just could not muster the needed help, or the much needed goal scoring. Rask did not make it to the end of the second period, after surrendering three goals on just 13 shots. Anton Khudobin managed the Boston net for the remainder of the game, allowing a single power-play goal.

Several things remain status quo for Boston: the team’s inability to win on home ice, with just 8 wins in 17 games; the lack of scoring on the power play, and even the lack of scoring at even strength from their top players. The scoring drought has become sort of an epidemic, as Patrice Bergeron with four goals and five assists in 31 games, has one wondering if Bergeron is playing with an injury. Add to that the numbers of David Krejci and David Backes, both still in the teens (19-16), and while Jimmy Hayes has upped his game of late he still falls short of helping with the scoring, with three points in 29 games.

There also hasn’t been much help scoring-wise coming from the blueline, their contribution: seven goals total in 34 games – Zdeno Chara two, Brandon Carlo two, Colin Miller two, and Torey Krug one. The remaining defensive corps has put a mere seven points on the board, with Kevan Miller yet to post a point in 14 games, and Adam McQuaid and Joe Morrow single point totals. Coach Claude Julien’s constant juggling of lines has not resolved the scoring problem, along with the ineffective power play (0-3) at 12.7% continuing to be a problem. It’s obvious that when you’re just getting offense from your fourth line in a game, there’s a problem. Fourth-liners Anton Blidh notched his first NHL goal, and veteran Dominic Moore put up his eighth of the season, for the Bruins’ as the only markers in the Islanders game.

With the return of David Pastrnak still questionable, following elbow surgery, Boston’s back-to-back matchup on the road with the Florida Panthers on Thursday (tonight), and the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday remains important. Boston’s 37 points are good enough for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but Florida (35) two points back, and Carolina (33) at four back are in the chase with both holding a game in hand. The schedule doesn’t do Boston any favors moving forward, as Tuesday’s (10/27) opponent will be the Columbus Blue Jackets who at press time were riding a ten-game winning streak. The Bruins end their four-game road trip next Thursday (12/29), with the Buffalo Sabres, who are at 32 points, five back of Boston, but the Sabres also hold three games in hand.

Bruins Beat would like to wish our readers a very Merry Christmas!

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