The Boston Bruins entered the 2017-18 season with some lofty expectations. The team made the postseason for the first time in three seasons last year, they really didn’t lose a significant player in the offseason, and they added a ton of young talent that brought a new level of excitement to the fan base.
We expected a bit of a rough patch, as the new kids were introduced to the NHL and integrated into various lines with veteran teammates, but we didn’t expect the Bruins to suck this much in the first ten games of the season.
So what has been going wrong?
First and foremost, the injury bug has absolutely wrecked this team from the get-go. Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, David Krejci, and Ryan Spooner have all missed time already this season, with the last three on that list currently sidelined with various injuries. It is hard enough incorporating multiple rookies into a lineup, but when you have to constantly re-shuffle lines seemingly every game due to injuries, it makes matters even worse. It’s nearly impossible to establish chemistry or just see who plays well together if lines need to be changed routinely. Guys are playing out of position and the team needs them to produce more than expected, so some struggles should be anticipated.
But the injuries shouldn’t cover up another huge issue with this team: the fact that some of the veteran players just plain suck so far this year. Torey Krug, who is coming off a career year that saw him tally 43 assists and 25 power-play points, had just two points in eight games with a horrendous -10 rating prior to Monday night. Frank Vatrano has been fortunate to even see ice time thanks to doing absolutely nothing offensively in his eight games. Krejci did have six points prior to his injury, but three of them came on Opening Night, and since then he was a -6 with just five shots on net in his other five games. Matt Beleskey had a strong training camp, but has done so little with his ice time that he’s watching games from the rafters even with multiple injuries to forwards. When you’re beaten out for starts by Frankie V. you know you’ve really been horrendous. Rask hasn’t been nearly good enough either, allowing several soft goals, though he did flash some brilliance in Boston’s tough 2-1 loss to the Kings on Saturday night and made a key save on Monday night that helped Boston salvage a point after a brutal start.
The B’s style of play this season isn’t helping matters either. While they are somehow scoring exactly three goals per game entering Monday night (and scored three times against Columbus), there are just two teams in the league that average fewer shots on net than the Bruins this season. While David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have scored some highlight reel goals, there hasn’t been nearly enough “dirty” goals where pucks are being deflected by guys screening and parking in the dirty area of the ice near the crease. You can’t just try to rely on breakaway goals and one-on-one length of the ice magical plays to score in this league, just like you can’t think that just blasting slap shots from the points will get it done either. Goaltenders are too big and too athletic to allow those goals to consistently beat them (unless their name is Tuukka Rask), and defensemen will give up their bodies to prevent those shots from making it to the net, especially when there is no other traffic in the way.
And anyone that has watched a Bruins game this season can see that the compete level as a whole has been disgustingly inconsistent. They will go entire games showing little to no effort or will to compete, and sometimes the rookies seem to be the ones that care while the veterans are just there doing little or absolutely nothing. We’ve already heard too many times that the team wasn’t ready to play, which is just a cop out and a way to disguise their horrible play. This same team was ready and eager to go late last season after Claude Julien was fired and Bruce Cassidy was brought in, and I highly doubt that in ten games Cassidy has lost the locker room or that guys are tuning him out.
Hell, you could just watch Monday’s loss to the Blue Jackets and see both sides of the spectrum… the Bruins looked uninterested and just downright horrendous for the first half of that game, then they woke up and played great in the second part of the game to score three straight goals and steal a point from Columbus. After the game, Cassidy admitted that his team wasn’t ready to play yet again, that he addressed it after the first period, and the team started to turn it around, but they can’t win games without the effort of all 20 players on the ice. I’m not sure why this team needs a reminder of that every other game, but apparently they do.
I understand that you can’t make the playoffs in October, but you can set yourself up for your future success or failure by being mediocre at best to begin the season. Maybe we were all wrong to think that this version of the Bruins would be good enough to compete in the NHL. Maybe they’ll figure things out and become more than a .500 or worse team that can look like they can beat any team one night and then lose to minor league squads the next night (or on Monday, during the same game). Maybe once the injured players return the B’s can actually foster some chemistry and look like an actual NHL team. Or maybe we’re stuck with a dumpster fire of a team that could give two shits about attempting to try on a regular basis.
If it doesn’t get better soon, there will be no one around to notice the flames or care to extinguish them.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)