By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
As currently constituted, the Bruins are the equivalent of a house undergoing a total renovation. While one wing of the home is neat and tidy, the rest is…well, a work in progress.
Due to the injuries to three guys who would normally be looked to on a nightly basis to give a solid workload – David Krejci, David Backes and Ryan Spooner – the Black and Gold has been reduced to a single-line team. And as their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak goes, so does their chance of winning any given game.
Because the B’s are currently so unbalanced, their margin for error is razor thin. Saturday night against a team that many think will contend to be the Eastern Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals next spring – the Alex Ovechkin led Washington Capitals – a no-show first period put the kibosh on the first back to back wins of the season for the Bruins.
There are two things that the team that calls the TD Garden home has been so far, entertaining and inconsistent. They have developed a knack for slow starts, and that once again came back to haunt them against the Caps.
When asked about his team’s penchant for poor play early, head coach Bruce Cassidy said, “Don’t know. Vegas, I’ve got a short memory because I’m getting old – were we bad in the first period with Vegas? I know in Columbus, we were no good to start. Tonight, I think tonight was, and a little bit Columbus; I think we have a young – and I’m not blaming it on young guys – we have a young, inexperienced group to a certain extent.”
As to leaning on his few remaining veterans to set the pace early for the youngsters, the first year B’s bench boss said, “You can only roll over Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] line so many times in the first period because they understand what’s at stake, they know their matchups going to be difficult every night, and Zee [Zdeno Chara] is the same way. I thought he was fine early into the game. So, some of the other guys that weren’t sure what to expect, all the sudden, two, three, four, five shifts go by and it takes a while. So, we have to impart that on them better, but they have to understand this is the National Hockey League, and you need to be on time and you have to prepare yourself and understand you’re playing good teams, and they’re going to come at you. So, you’ve got to be able to dig in early, and that’s I guess one of the factors, I assume.”
The Bruins find themselves in a precarious position right now. For as much as the absence of veterans like Krecji, Backes and even Spooner makes them weaker right now, the holes they open up for the kids who are supposedly on the come, could benefit them far more for the future.
For players like Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Austin Czarnik and Jordan Szwarz, it is essentially a casting call to audition for a regular spot on an NHL roster. While surely all won’t make the cut – at least, initially – it provides the opportunity for general manager Don Sweeney to see precisely what he has in his largely spoken about prospect pool, and it may provide the opportunity to shorten the rebuild the Bruins are currently in by providing experience to players who likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to play with the big boys if those key injuries hadn’t occurred.
Unless you were among those who wear black and gold tinted sunglasses 24/7, the expectations for this B’s team were pretty modest entering the season. There were basically two clear goals in front of them, integrate young bodies into the lineup, and be in a position to grab a wild-card spot for the playoffs in the spring.
Thus far, the results with the kids have been spotty. There is no doubt that Charlie McAvoy is going to be an above-average defenseman, and has the potential to be a franchise building block if he continues his impressive assent. After that – as expected – things are not quite so clear. Brandon Carlo looks like he could be the Robin to McAvoy’s Batman on the blue line, but so far, there hasn’t been a Pastrnak like prospect that has separated himself from the pack up front.
So, for now, Bruins fans are going to have to take the words of the greatest head coach in the history of the NFL’s favorite saying to heart – it is what it is. The season is likely to be a series of experiments, some that will work and some that will not; especially if the injuries to the veterans are long-term. There will be peaks and valleys – and, as the Bruins brass hope – there will be some potential stars of the future showing they can shine at the NHL level.
However, this renovation is likely going to be a lengthy one. So, don’t invite the in-laws to stay over anytime soon, Bruins fans.