Takeaways: Rusty Bruins perform poorly against Flames

Bruins

The Bruins hardly pushed back against Calgary’s physicality.

Calgary Flames center Blake Coleman (20) checks Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Boston. AP

The Boston Bruins provided a rusty return from a 10-day layoff.

The Calgary Flames also resumed their 2023-24 slate with the same time off between games. But they also entered Tuesday as a team beginning to sell off their pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

With Elias Lindholm off to Vancouver, the Bruins had a prime opportunity to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break. Instead, they completely looked out of sorts in one of their worst outings of their centennial season.

Andrei Kuzmenko, one of the pieces of the Lindholm trade, notched his first goal as a Flame 4:20 in. The former Canucks winger scored on a transitional power play-rush to give his new team a 1-0 lead just seconds after Jacob Markstrom denied Charlie Coyle on a shorthanded chance.

A defensive lapse during a 3-on-2 sequence allowed Connor Zary to walk in for his 11th of the season for Calgary’s second marker with 6:59 left in the opening frame.

The Bruins hardly responded at all against Calgary’s physicality. In every attempt to push back during a scrum, they failed to come together, as seen when Brad Marchand succumbed to a late cross-check from Martin Pospisil late in the first period, resulting in a game misconduct for the Calgary winger.

Jim Montgomery tried to get his team out of a rut with another round of line changes. The forechecking struggles in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones persisted into the middle frame.

The Bruins appeared to turn a corner on Pavel Zacha’s one-timer during a 5-on-3 situation early in the third. Within a 28-second span, however, they committed an ill-timed, too-many-men penalty and found themselves in a 3-1 hole on Jonathan Huberdeau’s snipe during a 4-on-4 sequence.

Noah Hanifin, another marquee rumored name on the trade market, added insurance with Calgary’s second power-play marker midway into the third.

Here’s what we learned from ugly Boston’s 4-1 setback against Calgary.

The Bruins hardly pushed back against Calgary’s physicality.

Marchand has developed a knack for emotionally dragging the Bruins into battle throughout his career. On Tuesday, however, his teammates needed to reciprocate the favor.

As he attempted to poke a puck loose in a rebound attempt, the Flames surrounded Markstrom’s crease after the whistle to aid their netminder. Things escalated quickly when Posipil delivered a cross-check to Marchand’s face.

“They play hard. They get into it a lot after the whistles,” Marchand said. “We definitely didn’t push back enough the way we needed to elevate to their level.”

Instead of standing up for Marchand, the Bruins watched their captain fall. 

The Flames continued that theme throughout the night, remaining spiritually engaged between whistles. Meanwhile, the Bruins failed to respond both physically and mentally.

“They were extremely physical after the whistle tonight,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “I don’t think we tried to match that enough.”

A self-inflicting sequence halted any hope of a Boston comeback.

Zacha pulled his team within striking distance on a must-score 5-on-3 tally. At that point, MacKenzie Weegar had served the first 37 seconds of his four-minute double-minor for high-sticking Marchand.

On a night when nothing went right for the Bruins, a door had opened for a potential momentum shifter. Instead, the confusion from the rotating personnel on the ensuing power play resulted in a too-many-men infraction.

Upon reflecting on that call, Montgomery accepted responsibility for that blunder during his postgame press conference.

“The power play units got a little mixed up because of a late change,” Montgomery explained. “It was myself not communicating well enough with the players who had left for changes. So, that’s my fault.”

A mere 28 seconds later, Huberdeau pick pocketed McAvoy before promptly beating Jeremy Swayman to extend Calgary’s lead to 3-1. And just like that, the Bruins had turned a potential momentum-changing sequence into another multi-goal deficit.

“I just think they were the better team today,” Zacha said. “We had a plan to win the game, and we just didn’t do it the right way and they outplayed us today. That’s something we have to learn from coming from the break. They came from a break, too, so that’s not really an excuse for us. 

The Bruins expected some rust, but not to this extent.

A long layoff presents its array of challenges. The Bruins likely expected the details to lack a bit with their defensive structure, their passes in transition, and their attacking zone execution.

They didn’t expect such a poor effort, however.

“I don’t think it was us looking past the opponent. I just didn’t think we were good. Our effort was poor. Obviously, as a coaching staff, you look inwardly, and you look at our preparation…you always think as a coach, your preparation is good, but obviously, it wasn’t good enough. A lot of mental mistakes, a lot of physical mistakes, and that’s just a lack of preparation — individually and collectively.”

The Bruins forced Montgomery’s hand into another round of line changes during the second period. Within Montgomery’s latest attempt to spark his bunch, the B’s underwent a 12-minute stretch without tallying a shot on net.

Come Thursday, the Bruins will need more than just an improved effort across the board when they host the league-leading Vancouver Canucks.

“We weren’t good in any area. Their compete level was a lot higher than ours,” Marchand said. “We figured we’d be a little bit rusty, but we just didn’t have the effort, unfortunately. So we have to regroup and be better Thursday.”