A 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at TD Garden wrapped up the first month of the NHL season for the Boston Bruins. The Bruins made a strong push against the Caps, but the lack of experience and the talent of Braydon Holtby foiled the comeback bid. Currently the Bruins are sitting at a mediocre 5-4-3, which if you consider all the adversity this team has faced is acceptable.
Survive: that’s what the Bruins have had to do the past month. With all the injuries on this team that have been well documented the offense is not capable of going toe-to-toe with the top tier teams in the league. So the Bruins have had to play a more grind-it-out style of hockey. The last six games the Bruins have played have been decided by one goal; they are 2-1-3 in those games. While it has not been pretty, this team needs to start winning these tight games. The Bruins have to be happy with getting a point any way possible.
Another result of the injury bug that has continued to plague the Bruins is the youth movement. Currently the Bruins are missing three of their top nine forwards. So the young players have been thrown into the fire a little earlier than Bruce Cassidy would have hoped. Charlie McAvoy in his rookie season is currently averaging 22:47 TOI per game. He has the second most on the team only behind Chara at 23:27. To put it into perspective, over a full 82 game schedule McAvoy is on pace to play 1842 minutes of hockey. For a 19 year old who’s never gone through the grind that is the NHL season that’s a lot to ask.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, McAvoy is the only kid who has been consistently successful so far. Bjork has had flashes of brilliance but sometimes make head-scratching decisions with the puck. Debrusk has shown some offensive talent and a little bit of snarl to his game. On defense, however, he has had some critical mistakes in coverage. Debrusk has had a bad tendency to be to light on the puck along the walls. Sean Kuraly has shown a willingness to do the dirty work in the corners and has provided a nice physical spark. Overall the youth on the Bruins has held up and gotten some much needed experience.
On the flip-side, the lack of veteran leadership has been an issue. While the young kids need to play, the Bruins need to win. The lineup the Bruins had against Washington looked too much like the Providence Bruins. With the injuries to Backes and Krejci the young forwards have had little time to get comfortable playing at the NHL level.
Despite fans viewing the Bruins’ goaltending situation as a problem, it has been a positive of the first month. Rask opened the season flatfooted and off on his angles. After suffering a concussion in practice, Khudobin stepped in and played exceptional (besides against the Sabres). In turn the Bruins seemed to get a huge mental lift. Now Tuukka is back and is playing much closer to his capabilities, while room for improvement still remains.
Currently, the Bruins sit 15th in the NHL in goals against per game with an even 3.00. But that does not tell the whole story. The Bruins have been forced to play younger defensemen throughout the majority of the season. The lack of experience on the back end has lead to numerous odd-man rushes in games. Rask and Khudobin have been in high stress situations because of the lack of coverage. Still Rask needs to play better, but Tuukka is a smart goalie who plays the angles and avoids critical mistakes. So just give it time and Tuukka should be back to top form.
The overall grade the Bruins get for the first month is a solid C+.