[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a matchup of a few Eastern Conference favorites, the Bruins and Penguins had their first meeting of this condensed season on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. While the Bruins came out of the gate strong and put up two early goals in the first period, they wound up choking away another lead and falling on their face as the Penguins reeled off three unanswered tallies late in the third period.
For B’s fans, it was another one of those “what the hell just happened?” games that the Bruins have had so many of this season, sometimes on the winning side, other times on the downright embarrassing side. As much as they probably should have came away with two points after Tuesday night’s matchup at Consol Energy Center, they deserved to lose easily just as much.
You can make up any excuse you want for the B’s – they were on the tail end of a back-to-back and on the road against one of the most talented squads in the league – but the fact of the matter is they had a golden opportunity to make a statement against the Pens and they didn’t do it. Instead, they got a couple of early goals and decided to sit on their heels and watch the rest of the game unfold. And you just can’t do that against good teams. Two goals is not insurmountable, especially for a league powerhouse with 40+ minutes left of hockey in front of their home crowd.
Anton Khudobin was fantastic in net for the Bruins pretty much all night and completely deserved a W on the stat sheet. Unfortunately for Dobby, his teammates let him down with sloppy defensive play and weak puck management in the defensive zone. Once the Penguins were finally able to draw blood with their first goal (Chris Kunitz, 14:32 into the third period) it all fell apart for Khudobin and the B’s.
For a team that looks as good as the Bruins do in the win-loss column this season, they’ve certainly got their healthy share of issues to work out heading into the second half of the season. Goaltending has really been the only consistently impressive aspect of the B’s on a game-to-game basis thus far. Tuukka Rask, despite his occasional softie, and Khudobin have been good enough to win nearly every time they’ve dug themselves in between the pipes this year.
Unfortunately, you don’t really know what you’re going to get from the B’s on either end of the ice on any given night. Teams are going to have their off nights, that’s only inevitable, but it’s been frustrating to see individuals as well as units work so well one night and then look absolutely atrocious the next.
On offense, the Bruins have only had one line (19-37-63) deliver consistent production, and, luckily for Boston, they’ve developed into one of the most dangerous lines in hockey. After a slow start, Tyler Seguin struck with another goal last night and it finally looks like he’s regained his confidence in the offensive end, a promising sign given Brad Marchand’s production level this year and the fact that Patrice Bergeron, well, is Patrice Bergeron.
The first line has had flashes of brilliance this season but they’ve been hit-or-miss on a nightly basis. And is it just me, or does it seem like we’re always saying that? If they can figure it out and be consistent the B’s will have two veeeeery tough lines to contain at the top, plus some impressive depth in relief.
On the defensive end, we’ve seen a lot of good but also a lot of baaaad (cough*Andrew Ference*cough) and lapses and mental mistakes have cost the B’s quite a few points in the standings, including a couple last night. With the solid goaltending behind them, the pairings just need to tighten it up a bit, make smart decisions, and not turn the puck over.
There’s no need to panic, Boston – the Bruins, who have played the least amount of games in the league, currently are just a single point off the conference-leading 38 and remain one of the heavy favorites to represent the East in the Stanley Cup finals. With that being said, they’ve still got a lot of work to do to in order to become a cohesive unit that can take down the league’s best, and last night, if nothing else, was a glaring indicator of that.