Bruins take another beating, lose 6-2 to Rangers

The Bruins are suffering from an identity crisis right now. They have completely forgotten who they’re supposed to be.

That tight-checking, highly competitive group that got off to such a good start to the season? That team has been nowhere to be found the last two nights, and 24 hours after being run out of Nassau Coliseum by the Islanders, the B’s had the same scenario dropped on them by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Similar to Thursday’s game in Long Island, the B’s were in this one late in the second period only to give up four straight goals and lose 6-2 to the Rangers.

“This doesn’t happen here. It can’t go on any further like this,” said Brandon Carlo of the back-to-back drubbings. “This is unacceptable.”

Yes, the B’s are riddled with injuries and some young players are being forced into and up in the lineup, and they especially miss the big beef of Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) and Kevan Miller (reaggravation of knee pain from four surgeries). But this is the hand they’ve been dealt. For the second night in a row, rookie Urho Vaakanainen got manhandled on a couple of goals. Both Vaakanainen and fellow rookie Jakub Zboril need to focus on using their strong stick skills to get the puck up and out of the zone so they’re not put in the position of being overpowered, said coach Bruce Cassidy.

“We’re trying to get through a stretch with the back end  that’s still sorting things out and learning,” said Cassidy. “A couple of things have to happen. They have to play better and recognize what they can get away with and what they can’t. Just too many turnovers and reckless play. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching them up, no doubt, so that’s on us. By the same token, once they get on the ice, they have to recognize how they can help us win games. That’s the one thing we’ve got to correct. Second, knowing that we have some valuable guys out, the stiffness in front of the net with Lauzon and Miller and the puck mover in (Matt) Grzelcyk, as a team, you have to pick up that group. That means an extra save along the way. That means secondary scoring and working hard to get back into your own end to limit the damage, winning your wall battles so that we don’t have to defend a lot.”

Cassidy also challenged his group of young veterans to get them through these challenging days.

“You know (Patrice Bergeron) and their line is going to find their game,” said Cassidy. “But the guys in the middle who have an opportunity and some days maybe go home and say ‘Geez, I wish I got more minutes’ or ‘I wish I had a better chance,’ the (Anders) Bjorks, the (Jake) DeBrusks, the Johnny Moores, the (Connor) Cliftons who have been out of the lineup, guys who’ve been in the league a little bit, (Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly), who are going to see more minutes because it’s three in four nights and it’s back-to-back, (they need to) put a little onus on themselves to impact the game.”

As the game wore on, Cassidy saw “easy goals. Just too easy.”

Smarting from a brutal third-period showing in their 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Islanders on Thursday, the Bruins did not exactly come out for the first period breathing fire. In fact, the Rangers took it to them physically (17-8 hit advantage in the first), both with their shoulders and their legs, winning races and battles all over the ice.

And at 13:03, the Blueshirts took a 1-0 lead. Operating on the left wing, Julien Gauthier shrugged off a Carlo check and was able to twirl back into the faceoff circle with time and space to fire a decent shot. With a heavy screen in front, Gauthier’s shot beat a helpless Tuukka Rask to the short side.

An opportunity presented itself right off the second-period puck drop when Kuraly took a stick up high and the B’s went right back on the power play. They applied some decent pressure and nearly evened it when Jack Studnicka’s backhander went off the crossbar.

And not long after that missed opportunity, the Rangers made it 2-0 at 2:32. The teenage Alexis Lafreniere, the first overall pick in the last draft, made his first NHL assist a beauty, zipping a cross-ice feed to Ryan Strome, who beat Rask from a prime scoring area at the bottom of the right circle.

Finally, that seemed to get the Bruins’ attention and they pushed back. Shortly after Trent Frederic buried a Ranger in the neutral zone, the B’s got on the board.

Charlie McAvoy made a nice self-pass off the boards to penetrate the offensive zone and dished to Brad Marchand, who tried to set up David Pastrnak for the one-timer. Pastrnak did not have a good angle on the puck and, with goalie Alexander Georgiev over-committing to the shot, he pushed it to Bergeron for an easy tap-in at 4:02.

That gave Bergeron his 889th career point, moving him past Bobby Orr for fifth place in points in club history.

The B’s appeared poised to climb back in this one, especially after they got Brendan Lemieux to take a post-whistle roughing penalty on DeBrusk after DeBrusk jammed the net. And on the power play, Charlie Coyle nearly evened it when he had some space over Georgiev’s glove but hit the post.

But then things fell apart again.

First, Marchand took a high-sticking penalty off an offensive zone penalty, and though the Rangers didn’t score on that PP, the Blueshirts gained some momentum. And when Nick Ritchie took an offensive zone tripping penalty with 1:18 left in the period, the sky fell for the second straight night.

Ten seconds after Ritchie took a seat in the box, Colin Blackwell tipped an Adam Fox blue-line shot past Rask to give the Rangers their two-goal lead back.

They weren’t done. Just 12 seconds later, Chris Kreider easily shook off a Vaakanainen check attempt behind the Bruins net, came out on the other side and threw the puck on net, banking it off McAvoy and in.

“That’s Vaak. He’s going to have to learn to get stronger,” said Cassidy.

It was shaping up as one of those nights. Again.

The Rangers tacked on two more in the first four minutes of the third and the only objective left was to mitigate the embarrassment. Later in the game, Marchand scored his 10th of the season, his 300th career goal. But a celebration was not in order.

 

Read More