There have been a number of frustrating things about this Boston Bruins season.
To start, there’s the lack of scoring from lines 2, 3 and 4. There’s the inconsistent defensive play and goaltending at times.
But perhaps the most annoying part about this team is their lack of ability to put teams away early.
It was on full display in yesterday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers. The Bruins dominated the first period, outshooting New York 17-5. However, at the end of the first 20 minutes, it was a 1-1 tie. A goal in the final seconds of the period by the Rangers washed away a first period where the Bruins controlled the pace of play, didn’t let up much to the Rangers’ offense and should have been leading.
The Bruins’ inability to use a great first period to put teams away is a concern
Yesterday was a very winnable game. And credit where credit is due, Igor Shesterkin was fantastic for the Rangers and kept them in the game. But it’s not the first time the Bruins have let a team stick around after a great opening frame.
In fact, it’s been evident all season long. In the first game of the season, the Bruins did just that. They outshot the Dallas Stars 17-4 in the season opener, but all they had to show for at the end of the first was a 1-0 lead thanks to a successful penalty shot by Brad Marchand. They went on to win the game 3-1, but it was a close one that didn’t need to be had Boston put Dallas away earlier.
Boston did it again recently against the Philadelphia Flyers. Again, it resulted in a 5-2 win so it’s hard to get picky, but they put 22 shots in goal on Martin Jones in the first. It was only with under two minutes to go in the frame that they finally found the back of the net.
But wait, Bryan, they are winning these games? What’s so bad about it?
What’s bad is that when they play like this against good teams like the Rangers, they don’t win. They will get away with it against teams like the Stars, like the Flyers, but against playoff contenders, it’s not going to fly.
Look at the game earlier in the season against the Florida Panthers as well. They were skating circles around a team that was undefeated. Boston could not have looked better in the first period of that matchup. The result? A 1-1 tie after 20. And then the wheels fell off and the Bruins lost 4-1.
Now let’s look at some stats. The first period is by far, the Bruins’ best period. They have outshot opponents 222-150 in 17 games this season. They have outscored opponents 19-12 in that frame. They are a perfect 8-0-0 when leading after the first 20 minutes.
However, after the first, their shot totals and goals go down each period after. They’ve generated 200 shots on goal in second periods and 192 in third periods. They’ve score 17 second period goals and 16 in the third. Meanwhile, their opponents goal totals go from 12 in first periods to 16 in second periods and 21 in third periods.
This all comes to the biggest red flag of all. In games in which the Bruins are tied after the first period, they have not won a game.
Not one. They are 0-4-0 in those such games.
That is unacceptable. And why it is infuriating to watch this team fall to capitalize on great first periods. Because if they don’t have a lead, they likely don’t win. And as the numbers show, the first periods have been their best periods, and it’s going to waste.
I thought about and I really think only once this year has the Bruins used a first period to put a team away. That was the game against the Buffalo Sabres this past Wednesday. Pumped in four goals in a period that they put 22 shots on net. Now that is how you win hockey games.
This trend is a problem. It needs to get fixed. It’s part of the reason why we haven’t seen a full 60-minute effort out of the squad. They play great out of the gate, but don’t have the killer instinct to pot in multiple goals in the first, let a team stick around and have to sweat it out the rest of the way.
Sure, when it’s the Ottawa Senators, or New Jersey Devils, or Detroit Red Wings, they can get away with it. But not against the Panthers. Not against the Edmonton Oilers. Not against the Rangers. That’s what gives you a 10-7-0 record to start the season. Something has to give for this team to get over the hump.