By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Remember, if you can, way back to Game 1 of this second-round series between the Bruins and Blue Jackets. Back in yesteryear (last Thursday), the Bruins looked like a powerhouse. You had Marcus Johansson dishing out backhand sauce like it was nearing its expiration date, you had Charlie Coyle fitting one-timers through the tiniest of windows, you had Johansson seeing the ice from above to set up an overtime doorstep redirect with seeming ease, and you even had Noel Acciari — he of a mere six goals in 72 regular-season games — beating Sergei Bobrovsky clean to the blocker side for a goal to open the scoring in the series.READ MORE: POLL: Besides Mac Jones, Who Has Been Patriots' Most Pleasant Surprise?
It was a veritable goal-scoring bonanza, I tell you.
That, though, was a very long time ago. Now trailing the series 2-1, the Bruins are in a heap load of trouble … because they’ve been unable to score a real goal ever since.
“Real goal” is, of course, a subjective evaluation. But generally speaking, the idea of a goal being scored in hockey involves a skater shooting the puck past a goalie. Goals can be scored in other less glamorous ways, and they count just the same as the purdy ones, but in general when your team is comprised of professional hockey players, you’re going to want them to be able to score some professional hockey goals.
Over the past 143:42 of this series, the Bruins have been unable to do that.
In Game 2, the Bruins did score twice. Neither would be considered “real.” You could make the case that Matt Grzelcyk’s slap shot from the top of the circle, which deflected off Bobrovsky’s glove and into the net, was real. But, well, it’s just not often you see an unscreened slap shot from 35 feet with no redirection get past a goalie these days. There’s more blame on Bobrovsky for that goal than credit for Grzelcyk, who now has seven goals in 150 NHL games.
Even if you wanted to count Grzelcyk’s goal/Bobrovsky’s brain fart as a “real goal,” it came just 7:50 into Game 2. The teams skated for more than 75 minutes after that goal, and the only offense the Bruins could muster came when Charlie Coyle flung a puck into a mess of bodies in the crease and caught a fortunate bounce off David Pastrnak’s skate.
The Bruins managed just 22 shots on goal during regulation of that Game 2, but managed to generate a number of quality scoring chances in overtime. For that effort, they got … bupkis. They couldn’t score. Patrice Bergeron hit a post. So did Coyle. But posts aren’t goals. The Bruins eventually lost in double overtime. (The Blue Jackets outshot the Bruins 5-0 in that second overtime period.)
Which brought us to Game 3. Nobody ever says a Game 3 is “pivotal” in the way that a Game 5 must be deemed pivotal, but you know, they are pretty pivotal. And in a pivotal moment of a series, you’re going to want to score a goal.
Yet instead of scoring a single real goal in Columbus on Tuesday night, this was the only way the Bruins could manipulate the scoreboard in their favor:
While you can commend the effort of Jake DeBrusk to carry that puck all the way to the net and provide just enough force to get it to squeak through Bobrovsky … it also appears Bobrovsky may have scored that goal on himself. The puck didn’t appear to be moving until he reached back with his glove hand to try to find it and/or cover it up.
Nevertheless, the goal counted, and it theoretically could have been a major momentum swing in the Bruins’ favor. That was only theoretical, though, because as we have covered, the Bruins aren’t scoring any real goals these days.
The Bruins peppered Bobrovsky with 15 shots in the third period. Torey Krug was firing off slappers like Rick James. Brad Marchand was throwing rubber at the net with reckless abandon. David Krejci gave it a whirl. Grzelcyk tried to replicate his Game 1 magic. David Pastrnak decided the third period was a good time to start registering shots on goal, even if they needed to come from the neutral zone. Acciari rung a post.READ MORE: Patriots Reclaim First Place With Blowout Win Over Titans
Perhaps the best opportunity came when Krug sent a hard pass from the blue line to Bergeron in the high slot for a redirect. Bergeron did what he wanted to do, guiding the puck on net. But it ended up hitting Bobrovsky square in his cup. It was no problem at all for the Russian netminder, who’d finish the night with 36 saves, zero “real goals” allowed, the First Star of the evening, and a 2-1 series lead.
All because the Bruins cannot score.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are potting “real goals” left and right. In Game 2, Artemi Panarin replicated Coyle’s keyhole one-timing skills …
… and then went ahead and nearly tore the roof off the net:
Matt Duchene has managed to pitch a tent and camp out in front of the net on the power play to score the game-winning goal in Game 2 … and the game-winning goal in Game 3. That’s not ideal if you’re the Bruins. It also doesn’t help when Boone Jenner is made to look like Sidney Crosby multiple times during the game, one of which leads to the inexperienced Connor Clifton folding into a pretzel before diving to redirect a shot that gets past Tuukka Rask.
While the Blue Jackets are making the most of their opportunities, the Bruins are doing this:
And that’s not going to work.
The culminating result of all of this for the Bruins is that the walls are starting to close on in on them a bit. Bobrovsky is feeling as confident as ever, despite the Bruins getting just six high danger chances (compared to Columbus’ 10). That is a continuation from Game 2, when the Bruins mustered just five high danger chances over 83-plus minutes of hockey. (The Bruins generated 10 high danger chances in their lone win of the series.)
From the Bruins’ side of things, there’s reasonable panic about the play of David Pastrnak, who “scored” with that puck off his skate in Game 2 but otherwise has had trouble staying on his feet, let alone scoring goals. A 38-goal scorer in 66 regular-season games (that’s a 47-goal pace over 82), Pastrnak has been the Bruins’ worst player over the past four games.
The rest of the Bruins’ top goal scorers aren’t too far off. Bergeron had a Grade A doorstep bid, set up by Marchand, early in the first, but Bergeron hit the bull’s-eye of Bobrovsy’s belly-button with the shot. Charlie McAvoy completely beat Bobrovsky in the first, too, but that shot rung iron. Coyle fired a nifty shot from the slot, once again fed by Johansson, but Bobrovsky made a deft toe save. Krejci’s shot in the waning seconds toward DeBrusk in front likely would have caused trouble for Columbus, but Pierre-Luc Dubois managed to block the shot with his stick, extinguishing one of the final Boston threats.
(If Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is seeking any unqualified suggestions: Perhaps giving Charlie Coyle some run on the right wing with Bergeron and Marchand might generate a goal. Coyle’s been the Bruins’ best forward, and his downhill, heavy play could be what’s needed for a spark on the top line.)
The reasons are varied and multitudinous, but at this point, they hardly matter. The Bruins are going to need to reverse this trend in a hurry in order to try to even this series on Thursday evening. If the scoring remains dry for another 60, the prospect of a 3-1 series deficit against a suffocating Blue Jackets team doesn’t seem like a surmountable task.
The series, for now, is not lost. But it’s probably time for the Bruins to step up and score a real goal sooner than later.MORE NEWS: Cam Newton Benched In Second Start With Panthers After Ugly Passing Performance Vs. Dolphins