Among other issues, Bruins are lacking grit

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Charlie McAvoy did not have a shot on net vs. the Rangers Wednesday.

By Globe Staff 

TORONTO – A few thoughts, observations, recollections, and shots high off the glass following the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Rangers Wednesday night in New York.

  Grit wanted. Noel Acciari, sidelined since breaking a finger on opening night Oct. 5, could be back in the Black-and-Gold lineup here Friday night when the Bruins face the Maple Leafs.


“Gives us physicality,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Can change the momentum of a game on the forecheck. Would be nice to have that element back.”

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The Bruins assigned Austin Czarnik to Providence Thursday, which opens a roster spot for Acciari.

The Bruins were without much snarl in New York, as they’ve been for much of the first five weeks. Matt Beleskey brings it here and there but too often is not a presence. David Backes, out through the remainder of 2017 following recent colon surgery, also can provide some thump.

“I think Matt Beleskey’s doing a good job, trying to bring that,” said Cassidy. “He had a couple of big hits. It helps if you roll one into two, and the first guy kind of sets up the second guy, and there’s a momentum swing that leads to turnovers. But we have missed it.”

  Another slow start proved costly. A pair of goals by ex-Harvard star Jimmy Vesey helped drop the Bruins to a 3-1 deficit by the 15:10 mark of the first period, and they never caught up.


The Bruins have scored the opening goal in only five of their 14 games. They also have yet to win back-to-back games. They are 6-5-3 for the season, and they’ve gone 0-4-2 in the games following their half-dozen wins.

Cassidy felt the start in New York was “OK,” but faulted the stretch later in the period when Vesey scored twice in 29 seconds.

“It’s weathering the storm when the home team gets the momentum,” he said. “Some of that we will continue to emphasize. But I think the inexperience in the group . . . they are not able to put out those fires as well as some of the veterans guys who’ve been through it.”

  Sounds doubtful that the Bruins will get Brad Marchand back any time soon. He missed his second straight game Thursday, hors de combat with an upper-body injury. They miss his feistiness, his stick skill, and his scoring touch.

Cassidy said that Marchand continues in protocol, which is the phrasing typically used when a player is dealing with a concussion.

“I’m not going to rule him in or out right now,” said the coach. “There is a chance.”


Marchand remained back in Boston Thursday, with his teammates enjoying a day off skates here.

 Some of the Bruins might have killed a few hours of their off day with a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where club owner Jeremy Jacobs will be inducted Monday night in the Builders category.

Ex-Bruins forwards Mark Recchi and Dave Andreychuk also are part of the Class of ’17.

“I hope so, it would be a good education,” said Cassidy, asked if he knew of any players making it to the Hall.

“We weren’t talking about that after the game last night. I probably should have brought it up. If I was in a little bit of a less frustrated mood, I would have, because I think it’s good for guys to see.”

Cassidy visited the Hall for the first time about 15 years ago, he said, and also went last year when the Bruins were in town.

A lasting memory?

“When I walked in, there was a mask of Bob Essensa right there,” said Cassidy, referring to the longtime Boston goalie coach. “I couldn’t believe it. There he was, right there, and I was like, ‘Wow! I gotta tell him.’

“Then right below his was one of Darren Pang, who’s one of my best friends in hockey. I didn’t know I was around such royalty. Awesome.”

Charlie McAvoy’s shot, one of his prime assets, has been placed in mothballs. He again went without a shot on net vs. the Rangers, misfiring with his one attempt on Henrik Lundqvist. Over the last four games, he has landed but one shot on net.

McAvoy is among a few players on the roster, said Cassidy, who are overpassing the puck. The coach would like to see them develop more of a shoot-first mentality.

“Things happen quickly out there, we trust his instincts and vision,” said Cassidy. “What you see is how you have to make the play. Yes, we’d like to see him get more pucks to the net. I think it is something that will gravitate into his game over time.”

  David Pastrnak pulled the Bruins even, 1-1, early in the first, and now has a team-high nine goals. He makes more than his share of defensive miscues, but he maintains his scoring touch, which is what landed him his six-year, $40 million deal. The boo-boos will look worse, and could become a problem, if his scoring touch cools.

 Beleskey finished with a team-low 9:38 of ice time, including 1:53 of valuable power-play time. He took one shot and had it blocked. If Acciari is back in the lineup vs. the Leafs, then Beleskey or Austin Czarnik would be a logical candidate to be in the press box.

 Next up: back-to-backs with the Leafs, here Friday and back at the Garden Saturday night. The Leafs improved to 10-7-0 with their 4-2 win over the hapless Wild Thursday night, even with young stud Auston Matthews sidelined via injury.

 Tuukka Rask and backup Anton Khudobin will split the starts against the revived Blue-and White. Given that Rask has started six straight, logic could dictate that Khudobin (3-0-1) would get the start here.

“We’ll wait to see if Anton is up to snuff after the morning workout,” said Cassidy.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.