By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Secondary scoring is nice. Essential, even, for a team that wants to make a long playoff run.READ MORE: 12 Firefighters Treated For Chemical Burns After Fire In Cambridge
But secondary scoring must remain just that — secondary — for a team to function at a high level in the playoffs. When the primary source of offense dries up for extended stretches, teams often find themselves in a world of trouble. And quick.
With their second-round series against Columbus now tied at 1-1, the Bruins may not officially be at that point just yet. But after a painstaking offensive showing in Saturday’s 3-2 double overtime loss, they don’t want to risk getting any closer.
To be clear, the Bruins could have won in Game 2. Charlie Coyle hit a post in overtime. So did Patrice Bergeron. Matt Grzelcyk’s dump-in from the neutral zone nearly took a wicked bounce into the net. Sergei Bobrovsky had to be outstanding several times throughout the night.
Yet despite coming within inches of seizing victory, the Bruins had absolutely no business winning this game.
The Bruins simply were not generating the type of offense needed to win games at this time of year. They weren’t even generating the offense that can win games at anytime of year. The Bruins landed just 21 shots on net in regulation. And despite playing an extra 23-plus minutes, they got just 31 shots on goal all night long. They were outshot 5-0 in the double overtime period.
The biggest issue to that offense is simple. Their best players simply are not going.
Reg. Season: 38 goals (in 66 games)
Current stretch: 2 goals in 9 playoff games
Reg. Season: 36 goals
Current stretch: 2 goals in last 5 games
Reg. Season: 32 goals (in 65 games)
Current stretch: 1 goal (empty net) in last 7 games
Reg. Season: 27 goals (in 68 games)
Current stretch: 1 goal in 9 playoff games
Reg. Season: 20 goals
Current stretch 2 goals in 9 playoff games; 0 goals since Game 5 vs. Toronto
David Pastrnak did finally get on the score sheet with a goal on Saturday night, but it was of the gritty variety, one typically scored by fourth-line grinder and not a player with world-class skill. Pastrnak is a player with a shot that can beat any goalie on the planet at any time. Pastrnak, whose game has been drifting, simply has not been that player this postseason.
“To me, I still think he’s indecisive whether to shoot or pass,” Bruce Cassidy said early Sunday morning after the loss. “You’d see it on the power play; when it looks like he should shoot, he makes a play. And then when the opportunity is there to make a play, it’s forced. He’s just gotta fight his way through it.”READ MORE: McCormick Recalls 3 Seasonings For Possible Salmonella Contamination
Patrice Bergeron has been so ineffective that speculation and whispers abound that he’s playing while injured. That’s despite the fact that nothing about his play actually looks like an injured player is on the ice; merely, with three points in his last seven games, his production is not matching the career-best season he put forth this year. After tallying 79 points in 65 games this season (1.22 points per game), Bergeron has five points in nine playoff games.
Brad Marchand is certainly trying, but his patented move of pulling up on the half wall and looking for trouble is generating nothing. He’s only gotten three shots on goal per game thus far in this series.
Jake DeBrusk was the personification of this issue on Saturday night, when he was gifted a puck and a free lane to the net. But instead of shooting or deking, DeBrusk chose to drop a pass to Pastrnak. It did not lead to a goal or even a very good scoring opportunity.
On the back end, in what is already a highly physical series, Torey Krug is expending a lot of energy in that department. Perhaps it is draining a bit from his offensive output; perhaps it is not. But whatever the reason, Krug has gone from registering .83 points per game in the regular season to .56 points per game in the playoffs.
This is all a far cry from a year ago, when Pastrnak had 20 points in 12 playoff games, and Marchand had 17 points, with Bergeron close behind with 16 of his own. Krug had 12 points, Krejci had 10, and DeBrusk had eight.
This postseason, in just three fewer games, Marchad leads the way with nine points, while Pastrnak has seven, and Bergeron has just five. It’s obviously a small sample size with multiple variables, but that’s exactly what the playoffs is. With each game being so critical, the microscopes are bigger and the pressure is stronger. There’s just not enough time to waste any opportunities.
Columbus — a team that just defeated a Lightning team that was one of the most prolifically dominant regular-season teams in NHL history — deserves credit, for sure. So does Bobrovsky, who’s been tremendous. But this dry spell dates back to the Toronto series. In that series, credit was quickly dished out to John Tavares for limiting the Bergeron line. This series, credit can be given to the Blue Jackets. But at a certain point, great players overcome the opponent. That’s yet to happen thus far.
Part of the issue, according to Cassidy, has to do with the power play. Though Matt Grzelcyk did beat Bobrvosky with a slapper on the power play in the first period, the Bruins got just two total power-play shots on net despite getting four power-play opportunities on the night. That included an extended power play of 2:46 with zero shots on net, and a power play midway through the third period in a 2-2 game that generated … zero shots.
“Maybe the power play was my one criticism of our top guys where they were out of sync and didn’t execute well, and it could have been a difference tonight,” Cassidy said. “So they take a lot of pride in that — that’s where I’ll put Pasta, and that’s where I’ll put Bergie and March. They’re the guys that drive that, so hopefully we’re executing better and finishing some plays on that. … I’ve always found the offensive guys, when they get going on the power play, it bleeds into 5-on-5, they start having confidence.”
Better power-play execution would help, but the long and short of all of it is that the Bruins are going to need some goals from their very best goal scorers. It sounds simple, because it is.
Goals from the likes of Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie Coyle are all tremendously important parts of what makes a Stanley Cup run. But they must be supplements. The main package must be delivered, or else series — and seasons — can come crashing to a halt in a hurry.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments