BOSTON (CBS) – California is a place thousands of aspiring actors and actresses have flooded for decades in an attempt to become stars.
The Bruins went to the Golden State this week, without defenseman Zdeno Chara and center David Krejci, to put their star power to the test.READ MORE: Lawmakers, State Leaders Fight Over Drawing Precinct Lines
With a 0-3-0 showing against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, the Bruins clearly failed that test.
Maybe the only positives to take from this trip were that after scoring two goals in the first two games combined, the Bruins scored four in San Jose on Thursday; forward Reilly Smith snapped his 10-game point drought with two goals against the Sharks; and goaltender Tuukka Rask didn’t fit each of his teammates’ heads for a milk crate after the 7-4 loss to the Sharks that concluded the California portion of the road trip.
Never has a goaltender played better and still allowed seven goals, as the Sharks outshot the Bruins 44-24 and had the Bruins hemmed in for almost 2 ½ periods. The shot attempts were 81-52 in favor of San Jose. No one would’ve blamed Rask if he threw a nutty after that loss.
The Bruins have one more chance to salvage a point on their road trip, as they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Here are a few things we learned during the California portion of the trip:
1. Carl Soderberg might not be ready to be a No. 2 center, never mind a No. 1
Don’t give Soderberg that multi-year, cap-strangling contract extension just yet. Soderberg has been battling for the team scoring lead all season, but he’s point-less on this road trip.
Somehow against the Sharks, in a game where it seemed everyone landed a shot on goal (if they didn’t also score twice), Soderberg didn’t muster a shot attempt. He also won just three of 11 faceoffs. He lost a crucial faceoff clean before a goal against in Anaheim. And he was invisible despite winning more than 50 percent of his draws (a rarity) in LA.
Although there’s been some line juggling on the trip, Soderberg has mostly had Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, David Pastrnak and other skilled forwards on his side. There are no excuses for his drop off in production, except that maybe his expanded role in the Krejci-less lineup is catching up to him and opponents have figured him out.
The opposition has improved in talent, but Soderberg hasn’t raised his game accordingly.
2. Kevan Miller playing instead of Joe Morrow is ridiculous
Miller made his mark as a stay-at-home defenseman who could fill Adam McQuaid’s skates last season. This season, he’s been average at best and he was overmatched in California.READ MORE: Coronavirus State Of Emergency Ends In New Hampshire
He capped off the road trip with a team-worst minus-30 Corsi (minus-17 at even strength) in San Jose. For the season, Miller’s Corsi percentage is about average.
Rookie Joe Morrow, a healthy scratch the past two games, has similar numbers and similar zone starts. But at least with Morrow you know there’s an offensive upside waiting to break out. With a one-dimensional player like Miller, the Bruins are easy to defend and easy to forecheck against.
Coach Claude Julien has lauded Morrow’s poise and efficiency. So why not leave the kid in the lineup?
3. Julien is willing to use David Pastrnak on a fourth line, which is ridiculous too
After placing Pastrnak on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the 2014 first-round pick’s first regular-season practice with the NHL club on the day before Thanksgiving, Julien said Pastrnak’s not the type of player you “put on a fourth line” and hope to get the most out of him.
Well it took just three games since then for Julien to put Pastrnak on the fourth line.
Pastrnak’s skills were completely wasted in San Jose skating with Chris Kelly and Matt Fraser. Only because the game got out of hand did Pastrnak manage to reach 13:37 of ice time. He was on pace to play about 10 minutes after the first two periods. He was minus-1 with just two shots on net and had almost no impact on the game. The couple times he had the puck with a chance to do something with it, he had no one to support his attack or he had Kelly, no one’s idea of a goal-scorer, driving to the net with no passing lane against opposing defenders that made sure not to let the rookie beat them.
Pastrnak has now played five games. If he reaches 10 his contract starts up. If he’s going to be on the fourth line, the Bruins should not waste that season.
These are just a few of the troubling things I noticed during the California part of the trip. The Bruins might be able to correct these issues before facing the Coyotes. And not too long from now, they should also get a boost from the returns of Krejci and Chara.
And the best part of being in the Eastern Conference is that any trip back to California will be part of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.MORE NEWS: 4 Your Community: Home Base Program
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