BOSTON, Mass. — Since the Columbus Day issue, the Bruins played 12 games and continued their hot start but in more recent days have shown signs of slowing down with a 7-3-2 record. The wins showcased the strengths and talents of the roster, but the losses were frustrating signs of what could happen if the team enters a slump.
Post-regulation hockey is not a friend of the Bruins this season. They lost a close shootout home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 17 and paired that with an overtime defeat by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 22. The Bruins bounced back in the second half of their home-and-home with the Leafs, with the top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scoring two goals.
Boston’s early-season success was tested by their next matchup with the Stanley Cup-defending St. Louis Blues. The B’s were dominant from start to finish in this contest skating to a 3-0 victory on home ice, and it carried into another hot streak.
Boston would then go on to score 23 goals in four straight wins, starting with a 7-4 thrashing of Henrik Lundqvist and the playoff-hopeful New York Rangers after their previous night’s win over the Blues. Returning home for three straight games, the Bruins took down the San Jose Sharks in Sharks center Joe Thornton’s possible last game in Boston. Thornton was drafted by Boston with the first pick in the 1997 NHL Draft.
Next on the schedule was the lowly Ottawa Senators on Nov. 2, who were only a win away from the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago. In the first period, Ottawa forward Scott Sabourin collided with Bruins forward David Backes, laying motionless on the ice for 10 minutes as the TD Garden remained silent. Sabourin was carted off the ice, but later posted on social media that he was alright. While the hit by Backes was not dirty or illegal, he left the game with a heavy heart and was later examined for a minor concussion. Backes would be placed on Injured Reserve by the Bruins two days later for an upper body injury. The Bruins scored five goals in their win over Ottawa with a goal apiece by the top line. The Bruins closed their three-game homestand with the familiar foe Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 4, led by future Hall of Fame center Sidney Crosby. Boston lost a two-goal lead to Pittsburgh, but they scored three unanswered goals in the final period to secure the win.
A two-game road trip began with the rival Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 5, the 1,500th NHL game for Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara. Despite a goal from the league-leader David Pastrnak, the Bruins fell 5-4 as the result of an offside challenge from former Bruins coach Claude Julien. A second Original Six matchup followed with a trip to Detroit to take on the Red Wings. The Red Wings out-rushed Boston with their high-tempo play-style, a 4-2 loss on Nov. 8. Red Wings goaltender Jonathon Bernier collected 26 saves in the victory.
Boston returned home for another Original Six matchup in the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 10. The Flyers held a two-goal advantage before the Bruins stormed back with two goals in the third period to force overtime. The Flyers prevailed in the shootout for Boston’s third straight loss.
Determined to avoid a fourth loss in a row, the Bruins hosted the new-look Florida Panthers on Nov. 12, anchored by legendary coach Joel Quenneville and two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. This was Military Appreciation Night, and the TD Garden was packed. The Bruins led 4-0 entering the third period, but their lead collapsed after four-straight goals from the Panthers, resulting in overtime and another shootout loss.
Boston snapped their losing streak in Toronto with a 4-2 victory on Nov. 15, but they would lose another shootout to the Washington Capitals on the next night.
The Bruins have a 12-3-5 record, first place in the Atlantic Division. While still impressive, the losing streak and overtime losses are a cause for concern. “We must play a full 60 minutes,” said Zdeno Chara after their collapse to the Panthers, a goal is that still unfulfilled. David Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals scored and the top line is playing exceptionally, the goal-tending tandem of Rask and Halak is playing as expected, but this is the first rough stretch the Bruins will have to recover from.
Jesse Frazier is a Staff Writer for The Comment.