Bruins

What We Learned in Bruins’ 3-2 Shootout Loss to Devils

Here's what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark.

1) The Bruins are terrible against bad competition. 

They're 2-1-3 against each of the four last-place teams in the NHL this season and have losses to each of them (the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings). Most of them were shootout losses so they were at least competitive, with only a regulation loss to Detroit that might have been their worst/most embarrassing of the season.

Is this really a long-term concern for a team that still has a commanding nine-point lead in the division and will be a playoff team regardless of how many times they fumble away points against bad teams? It's probably not given that the Bruins will be playing with high energy and high effort when it gets to the playoffs against quality opponents and the dregs of the NHL will be long gone by that point. 

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Still, there's something about teams consistently playing down to their competition that speaks to this group's overall makeup and the ability to consistently focus no matter what's going on around them. It just isn't a terribly good reflection on them that they consistently stop playing against bad teams once they feel like the game's in the bag as they did in the second period vs. New Jersey when the B's went up, 2-0. 

 2) Stop us if you've heard it before, but the Bruins are tracking to be historically bad in shootouts. 

They're 0-6 in shootouts this season and the only good goal they got on Tuesday afternoon was a slick backhanded, top-shelf offering from fourth-line winger Chris Wagner while Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, among others, couldn't score on Mackenzie Blackwood. 

In an interesting stat from 98.5 the SportsHub's Ty Anderson, Bergeron actually hasn't successfully scored in the shootout since April 2015 and has gone 13 consecutive shootout chances without scoring. 

A great deal of it is predictability as plenty of the B's shooters have historically tried to go five-hole on goaltenders in the last few seasons, but that wasn't really the case on Tuesday. They were just getting stoned on their attempts with Blackwood while not really doing anything too exotic. 

The good news as far as this all concerned: The Bruins won't have to worry about the shootout, or 3-on-3 for that matter, when it comes to the playoffs.

3) Sean Kuraly seems to be getting back on track after a slow start. 

Kuraly was only credited with an assist on the second goal of the game when both the big fourth-line center and Joakim Nordstrom were grinding in front of the net for a rebound of a Brandon Carlo point shot, but it could have easily been his goal. 

Kuraly finished December with a goal and six points in 15 games, along with a plus-3 rating and 13:10 average of ice time, and only the big three, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had more points among B's forwards than Kuraly the past month. 

More important, he was a plus player for the month and his line has done a better job of playing responsible two-way hockey for a fourth line that's very much relied upon by Bruce Cassidy in many different situations.

Plus

*Nordstrom played a gritty fourth-line game, scored a second-period goal by crashing the net and finished with four shot attempts, a hit and a takeaway in 12:06 of ice time. He gives you everything he's got every game.

*David Pastrnak very nearly had a goal when he ripped a one-timer through Blackwood's pads on a first-period power play, but ended up with an assist when Brad Marchand swept the puck into the back of the net. He finished with a game-high nine shots on net in 20:54 of ice time and did his job helping the B's build up an early lead.

*Jaroslav Halak stopped 42 of 44 shots and gave the Bruins every chance to win a game they certainly didn't deserve the way they stopped playing midway through the game.

Minus

*Danton Heinen was a healthy scratch after getting benched for the third period in the Sunday night win over the Buffalo Sabres. It's time for Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and other young veterans to start playing with consistency and intensity every game.

*Meanwhile, David Backes, Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm all got chances to play with David Krejci injured and Danton Heinen scratched and they didn't do much of anything with it.

*Blake Coleman always plays well against the Bruins and this time around was no exception for the Devils high energy forward with a goal, eight shot attempts and plenty of offensive pressure throughout.

 

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