On March 30, 1998, the Boston Bruins beat the Colorado Avalanche at Fleet Center (now known as TD Garden) with a score of 4-1. That was the last time the Bruins beat the Avalanche in Boston and the Bruins hoped to change that in their matinee game on Monday. Unfortunately, the Bruins came out slow and never got the momentum they needed and the 19-year drought continued with a 4-0 loss.
While the Avalanche and goaltender Semyon Varlamov played a decent game, the Bruins made them look like champions with how lackluster their performance was. According to NBC Sports’ Joe Haggerty, this was an important game for the new, young talent like Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork so they could get used to the afternoon games and “find a way to manufacture readiness in a potentially challenging setting.” Head coach Bruce Cassidy is very aware that the young players are used to always playing at night, so Monday’s game was about making sure “we’re up and at them and on-time. Colorado has been out East for a while and going through New York, so they should be adjusted… [The Avs are] probably not coming in here in the greatest of moods after losing to New Jersey, but we need to concern ourselves with being ready.” Sadly, when it came time for puck drop, the Bruins were a hot mess.
To put it simply, everyone on the roster made mistakes. Tuukka Rask gave up some bad goals and made a mistake in trying to stop a breakaway well out of his crease that gave the Avalanche a 3-0 lead. The Bruins as a whole were passing far too much and shooting too little, often taking shots from the outside that Varlamov easily stopped. Lastly, the rookies who had looked poised and disciplined in the home opener were making egregious errors in the defensive and neutral zones, so much so that DeBrusk was moved to the fourth line at one point. All in all, it was not how the Bruins hoped their second game would go.
Following the game, Cassidy said he hadn’t been happy with the efforts in practice over the weekend and that the team “didn’t take advantage of a team that could have some issues breaking pucks out if you [use a] heavy fore-check” and that they didn’t play the game they needed to: “We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be…. They were just better than us.” For Cassidy, the biggest issue was puck mismanagement and not being able to find the right line pairings in the absence of Patrice Bergeron and David Backes, but other team members had other ideas about what led to the team breakdown. For Rask, “It was one of those games we never really had the drive to make a push… we never got anything going.”
For DeBrusk and Bjork, it was rookie mistakes in the defensive zone and a lack of offensive production that had them hanging their heads after the loss. After practice on Wednesday, DeBrusk said he had definitely made mistakes, but “they’re all fixable.” For the rookies, this is all a learning experience and perfection can’t be expected in their first few games, but after a stellar start, their performances on Monday left much to be desired.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy also had things to say after the game, stating that, while every team wants to win, “it’s not realistic to think you’re gonna go 82 and 0 so… get that first loss early and now we just totally change our mindset.”
Much like McAvoy, the mindset of the rookies, Rask, and Cassidy is to move on and bounce back for their game against Colorado on the road Thursday night. DeBrusk was correct in saying the bounce-back “is not going to be easy by any means. But we’re all driven and motivated.” While the drought at home against Colorado may still be going, here’s hoping the Bruins can get back in the win column out in Denver and show the hockey world their impressive opener was a show of things to come this season.