By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Through three games of this unique season, there’s a lot to like about the Boston Bruins.READ MORE: 24-Year-Old Sets New American Record During Women's 10K Race In Boston
They’re allowing just 1.67 goals per game, tied for third-fewest in the NHL. They’ve scored on 20 percent of their power play opportunities. Their PK unit is outscoring opposing team’s power plays 1-0. They’re outshooting opponents by more than seven shots per game, and they’re winning 57.2 percent of faceoffs.
By most measures, they are very good. Even dominant in some. But one area where they’re notably drowning is a rather important one.
They can’t score goals. Not at even strength, at least.
After Monday’s 1-0 loss to the Islanders, the Bruins completed their third game of the season. They’ve scored an even strength goal in none of them, scoring just three total goals. The Bruins scored twice on the power play in the season-opening shootout win in New Jersey, and their lone goal in game No. 2 came while shorthanded. And Monday’s shutout saw them fail to score despite 27 shots on goal.
“Yes, I would say there would be some frustration, but it didn’t affect how we played — we didn’t cheat all over the ice,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We played a good, solid defensive game. Tried to win the right way. We just gotta break through here.”
Through three games, the Bruins’ average of one goal per game ranks dead last among teams that have begun their seasons. Their issues at 5-on-5 were crystallized in one simple tweet:
Bruins and Stars are the only teams without an even strength goal this season which is a problem for Boston since Dallas hasn’t even played yet
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 19, 2021
Winger Jake DeBrusk, who worked with the top line on Monday during David Pastrnak’s continued absence, said it’s something the team can’t ignore or avoid right now.
“It’s obviously what everyone wants to talk about, production 5-on-5, so it’s one of those things that we’re very aware of,” DeBrusk, who noted that he has personally struggled with slow starts in his career, said. “But at the same time, we have confidence in our group. I think we’re really stacked up front, and obviously with no preseason, you can pretty much use any excuse you want. But we know what we need to do. It’s just a matter of going out and executing. It sounds easier than what it is, obviously, but we have faith in this room. It just obviously stings when you lose 1-0 on the first road trip of the year.”READ MORE: Sephora Launches Same-Day Delivery Service
Making that lack of production sting a bit worse has been the goals allowed by Boston. The Devils scored a pinball goal in the season opener …
Doesn’t matter how it happened, all we know is Ty Smith netted his first NHL goal last night. 😎 pic.twitter.com/sdA5K2pjYY
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 15, 2021
… while J.G. Pageau’s goal on Monday came on a mid-air bat of a deflected puck:
PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU
PAGEAUUUUUUUUUU, PAGEAU pic.twitter.com/1MTVxYpJdk
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 19, 2021
The Devils also scored a goal on a simple redirect of a shot from the left point:
Miles Wood is on pace for 56 goals this season and Ty Smith is a point-per game player.
What's good? pic.twitter.com/poXWuUpXtL
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 16, 2021
“Big picture, you know you’re doing a good job defending when those are the goals that are going in. On the flip side, no consolation to lose a game like that when you feel like you were the better team. Probably had the better chances,” Cassidy said Monday. “Around the net, I thought we had some tough luck again tonight.”
Yet rather than grouse about bad luck, Cassidy looked at these three goals — that is, three of the five goals allowed by his team — as examples of how his offense can force the issue and get pucks in the net.
“At some point, if we continue to shoot the puck … that’s been a bit of a challenge for our D, is getting shots through on a consistent basis, and being there to get the tips and screens and those kind of ugly goals,” Cassidy said. “So that’s the challenge in front of us, and we’ll keep harping on it.”
The Bruins will get their next chance to score their first even-strength goal of the season on Thursday night, as they play their first game against the Flyers. Philadelphia is coming off a 6-1 loss to Buffalo, a game in which the Sabres scored four even-strength goals against the tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.
Yet leaving out the opponent, DeBrusk and the rest of the forward group know that generating offense will need to come from within.MORE NEWS: New High-Tech Buoy Coming To Buzzards Bay
“We’re a good 5-on-5 team. We have been, notoriously,” DeBrusk said. “That’s kind of where good teams win, and as a goal scoring mentality, obviously just push the pace. You don’t want to grip the stick or think of anything negative, I guess. But at the same time, when you’re getting your looks, just bear down on them. It’s one of those things that it’s obviously a weird time with everything going on. But I think the message for myself is just to attack more, just have to force more stuff to the net and go to the areas where I know I can score.”