OTTAWA — A few thoughts, observations, and shots high off the glass following the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Capitals Thursday night in Washington, and wondering how Torey Krug will bounce back after being kept on the bench for the overtime.
■ Coach Bruce Cassidy made it clear Friday morning, prior to the club’s optional workout, that he wants Krug to be harder on pucks and improve his gap control, specifically when defending through the neutral zone, before action turns heavier in the back end.
Asked if he expects a quick bounce-back from Krug, Cassidy said, “I don’t know if it happens overnight in terms if it’s a confidence issue. I see a guy who needs to use his feet more, and I don’t think it’s different than a lot of defensemen we’ve talked about over this year, last year.”
Cassidy also said he recognizes that no player likes to be told about his shortcomings by the coach.
“Sometimes I talk too much, but people ask me questions and I answer why he didn’t play,” he said. “That was one of the reasons.
“So at the end of the day, that’s why he didn’t play, but at the same token it’s about making players better. It’s not personal. It’s about what we need certain individuals to do to be better and get their game where it needs to be.
“When he is skating and assertive, he is killing plays with his stick and his brain and his feet, then he’s a good player, because he’s good in transition. He can be effective for us.”
Krug, on the books for $5.25 million per annum through 2019-20, finished with 23 shifts for a total 18:14 in ice time, including his team-high 7:12 on the power play.
■ Krug, a point man on the power play, remains the club’s top point-producing defenseman with a line of 6-14—20 in 32 games. Cassidy said he has no plans to pull him from the first unit on the man-advantage. The power play had a number of first-rate chances in D.C., but finished 0 for 5.
“The only reason I’d consider it,” said Cassidy, “is that the two D on the second unit tend not to shoot the puck a lot. Torey will shoot. So it would be more on a positive note — the other guys are more pass-first.”
Typically, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk man the points on the No. 2 unit.
■ David Backes scored twice vs. the Capitals and is the hottest he has been since joining the Bruins as a free agent in July 2016. In his last six games, the veteran center/wing has put up a line of 5-4—9.
“What I see is, he’s in good spots to get pucks,” said Cassidy, impressed by the Backes trio that includes Danton Heinen and Riley Nash. “Pucks are finding him and that’s a credit to his linemates.”
Backes, added Cassidy, is ever present at the front of the net, eager to put shots on goal.
“I think guys that generally play that north-south/get-to-the-front-of-the-net game, if the pucks arrive there, they are going to score some goals,” said the coach. “If the pucks never get there, it goes the other way.
“So I think that is a credit to him and reinforces what the line needs to do.”
The recent spurt has Backes, 33, delivering better point production vs. last season, when he finished with a line of 17-21—38 in 74 games. Limited to 19 games this season, he has contributed 7-6—13.
■ Tuukka Rask, a blistering 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts, will be back in net here Saturday vs. the slumpin’ Senators.
Rask is 12-8-3 overall, and his slow start through mid-November likely will keep his name from entering the Vezina Trophy discussion, but the Finnish stopper has been Vezina-worthy over the last month. His last regulation loss, 4-2, was in Edmonton Nov. 26.
“I’m fine with not being in that discussion,” Rask said. “If it happens, it happens. But the biggest thing we are worried about is our team’s performance and how we’re going to play.”
Entering Friday’s games, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy led NHL goaltenders with 24 wins, and was tied with the Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky for most shutouts (4). Washington’s Braden Holtby was second in wins (21), followed by the Leafs’ Frederik Anderson (20).
“We never play for the individual trophies anyway,” noted Rask. “I think, you know, winning it once and kind of looking back at it, the way your team plays in front of you plays a big role in it. If your team doesn’t play good team defense, there’s no chance a goalie’s going to win it.
“Even though it’s an individual trophy, you have to look at the team performance in front of the goalie as well.”
■ It was minus-1 when a smattering of Bruins took the ice for the optional workout at the Senators’ practice facility. Cassidy, who grew up here, left the workout to assistants Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo, and Bob Essensa while he watched from the bench.
“You can look it up,” said Cassidy, “but I believe it’s the coldest capital of any country in the world.”
Cassidy, a former first-round draft pick (Blackhawks, No. 18, 1983), in his youth played outdoors nearly every winter day. No doubt it helps explain why he wears a perpetual smile when he’s standing in an indoor rink.
■ Cassidy said both David Krejci and Adam McQuaid could suit up against the Senators. Krejci (5-9—14 in 18 games) has been hors de combat again since Dec. 16. McQuaid suffered a leg fracture Oct. 19 vs. Vancouver and has been waiting for a week or more for a lineup spot to open among the defensive six-pack.
“I’m antsy to get back in there,” said McQuaid. “You practice in up-tempo situations, but again there is no substitute for actually playing in games.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve missed this amount of time, but with that being said, you try to keep things simple and build from there — not try to do too much off top.”
McQuaid said he will wear extra protection over the mended bone, perhaps for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve been skating with extra padding pretty much since Day 1,” he said. “I’ll keep it.”
If Krejci is back, the logical move would be for Anders Bjork to get the night off, with Krejci centering Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner, who would bump to right wing.
■ Two Capitals goals had the Boston bench scrutinizing replays. The first, which appeared offside to viewers at home, wasn’t as conclusive to the Boston bench, based on the video provided. Cassidy didn’t challenge it.
On the second, which Cassidy did challenge as offside, the club’s review failed to recognize that the Capitals initially entered the zone legally. The look that led to the review, Cassidy explained, was after the legal entry.
“I got it wrong,” he said, his incorrect challenge handing the Capitals a power play. “That could have gone sideways on us in a hurry.
“We’re going to have a discussion. When you miss one like that, you want to make sure you get it right the next time. That’s our job. It’s my job to make sure we are 100 percent on that.
“So we’ll go back to the drawing board and say, ‘Hey, how can we clean this up?’ And get it more streamlined at the end of the day.”
Senators at a glance
(Not including Friday’s game)
■ When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m., at Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa.
■ TV, radio: NESN, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Goals: Mark Stone 14, Mike Hoffman 9, Derrick Brassard 9.
■ Assists: Erik Karlsson 20, Stone 18, Hoffman 15.
■ Goaltending: Craig Anderson (9-12-4, 3.12 GAA), Mike Condon (2-4-4, 3.05 GAA).
■ Head to head: This is the second of four meetings this season. The Bruins earned a 5-1 victory Wednesday at TD Garden.
■ Miscellany: Seven months after appearing in the Eastern Conference finals, the Senators have the NHL’s third-worst record (11-16-8) . . . The usually strong Ottawa defense allows 3.26 goals per game, fourth highest in the league . . . General manager Pierre Dorion stated Friday that he is open to trade offers for any players other than Karlsson and Stone.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.