Slumping Bruins show zero life in Columbus

Bruins

Boston suffered a 5-2 loss, its third straight, to a struggling Blue Jackets squad.

The Bruins dropped their third straight game on Monday night. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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The Boston Bruins are in one nasty funk.

The New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings exposed Boston’s defensive inefficiencies off the rush, resulting in 12 goals against over a 24-hour span. The Bruins still had chances to at least remain within striking distance but couldn’t overcome the multiple turnovers and ill-timed penalties during their Thanksgiving weekend slate.

On paper, Monday’s contest in Columbus provided an ideal opportunity for the Bruins to right the ship. Instead, the lowly Blue Jackets, who traveled back to Ohio’s capital city following Sunday’s tilt in Carolina, pushed Jim Montgomery’s squad around with relative ease.

The lethargic Bruins again succumbed to turnovers, penalties, and leaky defensive coverage. They hardly provided any response to Montgomery’s in-game goaltending change from Jeremy Swayman to Linus Ullmark after the former allowed a pair of relatively routine goals by Dmitri Voronokov (at 15:32 of the first period) and Ivan Provorov (5:38 into the second). And they didn’t make Ullmark’s job any easier, allowing a Yegor Chinakov breakaway tally at 16:42 of the middle frame and Kirill Marchenko’s doorstep marker during a 5-on-3 situation at 4:51 of the final stanza.

The Bruins weren’t just blown out on the scoreboard. In fact, they provided no pushback at all, especially during some tense moments involving two of their elite players in David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy. As a result, the Bruins dropped their third straight game in regulation for the first time since April of 2022. 

Here’s what we learned as the Bruins return to Boston a battered bunch following their 5-2 loss in Columbus.

The Bruins had absolutely zero life.

The Bruins hardly generated quality looks against the bottom-feeding Blue Jackets in the attacking end. More often than not, they settled for one-and-done possessions and lost multiple puck battles along the walls. 

More importantly, they showed zero pushback in a couple of post-whistle altercations involving Spencer Martin’s slash of Pastrnak and Voronkov’s interference infraction on McAvoy along the corner boards.

Montgomery tried his best to find a spark. His first change involved swapping Swayman for Ullmark during the first TV timeout of the second period.

While Swayman hardly resembled his early-season form, he was hardly to blame for Boston’s lackadaisical outing. But Montgomery desperately needed a response from his team, hoping he’d see a renewed sense of urgency with Ullmark in net.

“I thought we had no life at that time of the game,” Montgomery said to NESN’s Andy Brickley. “I wanted to see a little bit of a change, so that was the reasoning behind it.”

The Bruins displayed little life after the change, hanging Ullmark out to dry as he faced heavy traffic and multiple odd-man rushes.

They showed a little fight in the third after Montgomery trotted out four new forward trios.

Montgomery broke up the Marchand-Pastrnak duo at wing after they failed to generate a shot attempt on a 2-on-1 rush in the second stanza. 

Pavel Zacha, who centered Marchand and Pastrnak on the top line, found himself on the third line with James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Geekie. This prompted Matthew Poitras, who scored one of Boston’s two third period tallies, to top line duty between Pastrnak and Danton Heinen, with Charlie Coyle centering Marchand and Jake DeBrusk on the second line.

Johnny Beecher, who notched the second Bruins’ marker during garbage time, remained in a fourth line role with Jakub Lauko and Trent Frederic.

The Bruins notched their two goals during the changes. Whether that’s enough to warrant a further look is anyone’s guess. But lineup adjustments alone won’t solve everything.

Marchand will enter familiar yet new territory.

Amid a year of transition, the Bruins turned to their longest-tenured product to serve as their captain following Patrice Bergeron’s retirement.

Marchand was a natural choice. He evolved from his days as a “Little ball of Hate” during the 2011 championship run into a top-tier winger and reliable leader both on and off the ice. Along the way, he’s seen his share of lengthy win streaks and losing skids.

The recent three-game slump isn’t anything new to Marchand. But he’s never encountered a rut during his initial stint as Boston’s captain.

With his experience and wisdom, the Bruins will turn to Marchand to provide stability after relinquishing five or more goals in each of their last three games.

“We all have to be able to trust each other to do the job that we’re given all over the ice,” Marchand told reporters. “You can’t have any weak links. In this league, especially now, there’s so much parity. You see it tonight, and you see it every night — a last-place team can win any night. So you just have to be dialed in on the details. But the biggest thing for our group is we always work. That’s where it starts for us, and we got to get back to that.”

The slow starts, rush defense, giveaways, penalties, and special teams mishaps compounded Boston’s struggles over the past week.

Marchand, who’s in the midst of a four-game point drought, knows there isn’t an overnight fix. With his blue-collar work ethic, the Bruins will rely on their captain for guidance and reassurance as they aim to dig out of this early-season hole with a rather simple philosophy.

“You want to work your way out of any kind of down spell,” Marchand added. “Once you try to get too cute or go east-west a little bit, things go south. So, we just have to put our heads down, go to work and work our way out of it.”