By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Don’t worry about David Pastrnak getting over the Bruins’ disastrous loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
By lunchtime Sunday the Bruins forward was sporting his jack-o-lantern grin and responding to questions about the mistakes made that allowed the Kings score a goal in the final second of overtime with no less than four references to how the Bruins played “a pretty good game” and at least got one point.
Consider the page turned.
Clearly there were was plenty of blame to go around, with Pastrnak deserving the majority because of his inability to at least take a penalty that would’ve prevented the Kings’ late-game heroics. Torey Krug and Anders Bjork didn’t get in front of Tyler Toffoli’s game-winning shot, goaltender Tuukka Rask overplayed the short side and coach Bruce Cassidy should’ve left the Bruins with little doubt after the Kings’ timeout that the play was to take a penalty at all cost.
Nonetheless, Pastrnak is right. The Bruins took three out of four points against San Jose and Los Angeles, they have at least one point in four straight games and are at least holding their own while David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari recuperate from injuries, and four rookies continue to get their feet wet in the NHL.
But the schedule is going to be less forgiving for the Bruins in the weeks ahead. The 4-3-2 Bruins are tied with Carolina for fewest games played among Eastern Conference teams. Things will get busier and the Bruins will be tested quickly to see how well they’ve really moved on from the dramatic loss to the Kings when they hit the ice in Columbus on Monday.
“I’m not concerned about parking it,” Cassidy said. “I think young kids’ minds tend to wander more than anything. So they’ve probably long forgotten it today. The guys on the ice might relive it a bit because they were out there, but at the end of the day it’s done, we’ll move on.”
Bjork doesn’t envision the Bruins’ younger players having trouble recovering from the Kings disaster.
“Obviously we want to learn from every game, win or a loss, but I think being younger guys it’s kind of our job to bring energy and not get upset about a loss and move on and bring that energy to the next game,” Bjork said.
There are ways to make sure a collapse like the Kings loss doesn’t happen again that go beyond executing better in the defensive zone when a team has little time to attempt a shot. Had the Bruins gotten more out of Pastrnak during the 60-plus minutes, he wouldn’t have been in position to blow that faceoff play.
Pastrnak didn’t have a point and landed two shots on net against the Kings, two nights after he had just one shot on goal against San Jose. It’s obvious he’s searching for chemistry with center David Backes, which requires a whole different style of play than playing with the injured David Krejci.
“I’ve got to get more pucks to the net, kind of get the shooting mentality in every game,” Pastrnak said. “Because sometimes I feel like I have nights when I try to pass all the time and then another night I have a shooting mentality. So I’m going to have to bring it more often and try to get the pucks in the net.”
It would also help the Bruins if they added some bulk to their lineup against heavier teams. The Blue Jackets on Monday will present a similar challenge as the Kings and Sharks. It’s not a knock on the Bruins’ young skill players that they’re unable to handle some of the physicality – they’re all under or barely over the legal U.S. drinking age and are still rounding into manly bodies.
Bjork, Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk aren’t shying away from the contact, but at this stage they’re going to get knocked off the puck. And too often no one pays the price for taking liberties with Boston’s youngsters. That might mean inserting Matt Beleskey in the lineup for a physical presence, or it might cause the Bruins to eventually (heaven forbid) sign tryout Ryan White, who continues to practice every day without a real contract. A little more bulk in the lineup could open up some room for the Bruins’ kids to make their mark.
The Bruins seem emotionally equipped to handle the disappointment of Saturday and not let it affect them in the games ahead. The “pretty good game” Pastrnak was talking about, though, still needs improvement.
The Bruins should take lessons from the 64 minutes, 59 seconds before the Kopitar/Toffoli miracle in order to make sure that loss isn’t the start of a downward spiral.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter@MattKalman.