With trade rumors suddenly swirling around a struggling Bruins team desperate for offence, its was a complete defensive breakdown that doomed them against a gifted San Jose team Thursday night in the Shark Tank as the B’s were throttled 7 to 4.
The night started off about as well as a B’s fan could ask for. Twenty nine seconds into the first the Bruins newly reunited Bergeron line netted a huge first goal as an unmarked Reilly Smith was the beneficiary of some really assertive skating and passing from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Marchand threaded a pass through traffic to Bergeron as he moved into the slot. The Sharks crowding around Bergeron like a campfire certainly made Smith’s job easier as Bergeron found Smith in front for a easy redirect goal and an early Bruins lead. Chalk one up for the line up machinations of coach Claude Julien.
A shaky shift from the newly minted Fraser, Kelly Pastrnak line kept the B’s hemmed in their own end shortly afterwards but an instant later is was raining Fribbles as Danny Paille charged up the left wing, got two Sharks to bite on a half spin-o-rama between the hash marks and then fed a no-look pass back to the left where a streaking Greg Campbell buried the Paille pass for a 2-0 B’s lead. It’s plays like this that make you wish Paille remembered he had opposable thumbs more often.
A solid, swarming shift from the Kelly, Pastrnak Fraser line mid way through the period sustained the Bruins momentum. And one of the best power plays the Bruins have had all year did everything but score as the Sharks were lucky to survive the relentless 2 minute onslaught. Then as the period drew to a close the B’s took their foot off the gas and it was up to Tuukka Rask to bail them out with some big saves on Wingels alone in front and throughout a San Jose Power play that closed out the first.
And here come the Sharks. The Bergeron line gets caught puck chasing and Wingels tips a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot that just trickles past Tuukka.
After Tuukka again comes up big on a penalty kill, his efforts are wasted as a James Sheppard wide angle pass attempt goes top corner off of Tyler Kennedy’s skate for a goal straight out of the Warren Commission. Just like that the game is tied and the Bruins dominating play in the first seems a distant memory. The Bruins are desperate for a big shift to regain some life. But the Sharks again go on the man advantage and while the B’s get a lucky break when Couture hits the crossbar, the ledger of luck evens out as Wingels once again tips in a goal this time off a probing Matt Irwin wrister from the perimeter.
The Bruins even things up as Reilly Smith scores his second on a beauty of a pass from Soderberg. Tuukka once again comes up huge on a pair of stops as he stones Sheppard who got behind the D and walked in alone and then makes a spectacular diving stop on old friend Joe Thornton.
The Bruins actually regained the lead briefly as Brad Marchand darted up the left wing, hit the breaks and found Torey Krug trailing the play who wristed a shot past Antti Niemi and stake the B’s to a 4-3 lead.
Some nifty power play passing at the blue line allows the Sharks to gain the zone with speed, catching the Bruins penalty killers flatfooted and Joe Pavelski muscles a Patrick Marleau pass through a sprawling Rask to leave the game tied at 4 heading into the second intermission. The Bruins surrendered a whopping 24 shots
The less said about this debacle the better.
Bruins generated some decent chances and pressure off a carry over power play. But any semblance of inertia the Bruins may have created is extinguished as Tyler Kennedy tips another shot into a top corner past Rask, this time with his stick, for a 5-4 San Jose lead. The Sharks avalanche of offensive good fortune continued as both teams were short a man while Wingels and Marchand each got two for some aggressive hugging. Pavelski, while draped with a decorative Dougie Hamilton shaped shawl, drove to the Bruins net and banked the puck off Milan Lucic’s skates and past a luckless Rask. 6-4 Tiburon. Rask can’t even catch a break on shots the Sharks miss as a wild Pavelski blast from the blue line sails wide of the Bruins net minder playing the angle at the top of the crease, and bounces off the end boards to a waiting Tomas Hertl, who tucks it behind Rask for the final nail in a 7-4 San Jose victory.
You wanted goals? You got them. Every goal the Bruins scored was the product of good skating, passing and or accurate shooting. These weren’t goals that required grease of any kind. It was exactly what Bruins fans have been waiting for.
Luck. Rask deserved better. He gave up 7 goals and maybe two of them were his fault. Maybe. There were 3 Sharks goals off tips, two scores off skates and the final Hertl goal was just cruel and unusual. 44 shots on goal seems like a low number given the ineptitude of the Bruins D, which brings us to…
This is supposed to be a team built around being tough to play against and a commitment to Claude’s defensive system. In San Jose, neither of those attributes were to be found. Even during the 1st period when the Bruins were dominating play there were major defensive breakdowns. This is simply not a team built to win a care free run and gun shootout with a team loaded with offensive talent like San Jose. Yes, many of the Sharks goals were a product of lucky bounces or tips, but almost all of their offensive opportunities were born from listless play or just not enough defensive commitment. This team will still stumble to the playoffs if it struggles to score, but it will completely implode if it stops playing effective defense.
Enough. As a wise man once said… We’re on to Arizona.