The Boston Bruins played nearly a flawless game in the season opener against the Dallas Stars.
They peppered Braden Holtby with shots (40), controlled the pace of the game, only had one breakdown on defense that led to the lone goal and received as good of goaltending as you can get from a rookie making his 11th start in the NHL.
However, not to play the role of a Debby Downer, but the final score ended up 3-1 with an empty-netter. Only one goal from the Bruins came 5-on-5, with Brad Marchand opening the scoring with a successful penalty shot and ending it with an empty-netter. How is it that the Bruins managed to convert on just two of the 39 shots that Holtby faced?
Other than Holtby (again) playing fantastic against the Bruins, it came down to taking penalties that were easily avoidable.
The Bruins lost momentum at times due to unnecessary penalties
You want to know the easiest way to get out of a groove in a hockey game? Have your team take a penalty and have to go to the penalty kill.
The Bruins did that too often on Saturday night. There were multiple times where momentum was on their side, but by getting sent to the box, it killed that momentum.
Look at the end of the first period. It was an opening 20 minutes that the Bruins dominated. They had the Stars on their heels the entire time. But a Charlie McAvoy penalty for covering the puck with his hand in the final minute put Dallas on the power play to start the second period. It’s a penalty that is extremely rare, but you have to know you can’t fully cover the puck.
Up a man to start the second, it allowed the Stars to get back into the game and play a much more even period than the first.
Then, McAvoy again had a blunder. On the power play halfway through the second, he turned the puck over in the neutral zone that sent Luke Glendening in on a breakaway. McAvoy had no choice but to hook him to negate the scoring chance, but it also negated the Bruins power play. McAvoy has to be better knowing that he’s the guy in that situation and turnover sends the opponent in all alone.
Finally, in the third period, Boston was going to get another power play. The arm was up from the referee to call Roope Hintz for a hook that would have given the Bruins their first power play in the third. Instead, with the Bruins regrouping in the defensive zone multiple times, there was confusion as Jeremy Swayman couldn’t commit to going to the bench for the extra attacker. As a result, the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice, and the play went to 4 on 4. A completely avoidable penalty for Boston.
Obviously there was a lot of good to take away from the Bruins’ 3-1 win. But when you look at the fact that if you take away the penalty shot, Holtby faced 38 shots and let in just one. The Bruins had nearly half of those (17) come in the first period. The rest of the way, Boston let Dallas back into the game by taking these penalties.
Ultimately, those penalties didn’t hurt them on the scoreboard. Boston’s penalty kill was a perfect 6-for-6. One of the many positives to take away from the game.
However, going forward, especially against better teams with better power plays, the Bruins can’t be taking these penalties. I don’t think it will be a common occurrence, but they need to shake it out of the system sooner rather than later.