By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Sometimes, reality bites.
And such was the case in the Bruins 4-2 defeat against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals at TD Garden on Thursday night.
Approaching as close to full health as they have been in a dog’s age – only the chronically tardy Charlie McAvoy was missing from the B’s best lineup – the team that calls Causeway Street home played pretty much an optimum game against one of the defending Champs, yet still came up empty-handed.
“I thought we certainly gave ourselves a chance to win the game, didn’t happen again against this team. So, have to get over that hurdle, but yup. A lot of nights that would be good enough for points, if not two points, but not tonight,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy after his team dropped their 14th straight against the Caps.
When asked what it would take to beat the team that is still of the Beast of the East until proved otherwise, the B’s bench boss said, “Well, I don’t have a great answer to that or we probably would’ve pulled it out of our hat a while ago. I think an effort like tonight. First of all, it starts with defending well because they’re a very good offensive team. We did that for the most part.”
Everything the man they call Butch said is true, but he left out one thing his team is missing most.
Top end talent, especially when it comes to guys with size on offense who can actually play the game.
Anyone with an ounce of hockey sense can see that, for much as Cassidy’s kids – in a rhetorical context, of course – showed a more than admirable fight against a clearly more talented opponent, yet still, heart and hustle only go so far.
And that is why that despite outshooting Washington 41-22 and winning 66% of the faceoffs in the loss, the Black and Gold ended up in the red when all was said and done on Thursday night.
The fact of the matter is that when push came to shove against the physical Caps club, the Bruins were pushed around more times than not.
It’s not exactly a state secret that general manager Don Sweeney’s team is undersized. Other than their 41-year-old captain Zdeno Chara and fellow defenseman – who is slightly more sturdy than 100-year-old china – Kevan Miller, the Boston roster is filled with more Smurfs than a mid-1980’s Christmas stocking.
Granted, the NHL is a much different place than when the never to be seen again Big Bad Bruins won Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2011, but hockey is still hockey. The physicality – hockey gods willing – will be a part of this ancient sport until the end of time, especially when it comes to the playoffs.
So, anyone with an atom of hockey sense in their head can deduce without much effort that how fun this Bruins team has been to watch over the better part of the last month, they are built for the languid trek that is the league’s regular season and not the NHL’s second season that demands so much more.
There is no doubt that the “New NHL” has passed by players like former B’s brawler Milan Lucic – who should bow down and say a prayer at the altar of “Payday” Pete Chiarelli every morning for making generations of Lucic’s financially secure – and the Black and Gold’s resident dinosaur David Backes, who is raking in $6M large a year to lag behind the play on any given night.
Nevertheless, if Sweeney can’t supply his head coach some talented beef up front for the Bruins lineup, they will undoubtedly be booking tee times in cozier climates come the end of April.
Sometimes hearing the truth is tough. And while there is no doubting the fight that Cassidy has instilled in his crew since he took over nearly two years ago, in today’s NHL size still matters. And if the B’s brass doesn’t find a way to add some beneficial bulk (Hello, Wayne Simmons!) to the Boston’s offense, another year of the ‘11 Cup core of Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand will be dust in the wind.
And that’s a fact that was verified by the Bruins inability to get even a point while playing the best game they could have against the Caps on Thursday night.
Yup, reality bites. And the only way the B’s will be able to bite back is if Sweeney adds some size to Cassidy’s arsenal before the fur flies for real in April.