fb-pixel Skip to main content
Bruins notebook

Slow start finally caught up to the Bruins

The Bruins got down, 1-0, Tuesday night when the puck bounced off Zdeno Chara and past Anton Khudobin in the first period. Barry Chin/Globe staff

It’s easy to set up a drill to work on improving the power play or the penalty kill, or to iron the wrinkles out of a faltering breakout. But when the team repeatedly gives up the first goal of the game and thus ensures a slow start, what’s the best way to work on that?

Tuesday night, the Bruins allowed the Anaheim Ducks to score first in a 3-1 loss at TD Garden. And though it was red-hot Boston’s first regulation loss since Dec. 14 (14-0-4), it was the team’s eighth straight game allowing the first goal.

With top scorer Brad Marchand suspended and defensive stalwart Charlie McAvoy sidelined following an ablation to treat an abnormal heart rhythm, that’s a dangerous way to play.

Advertisement



“When you’re down some men, you need that 60-minute effort of good, solid play,’’ said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy after Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “We didn’t get that our first 20.’’

Cassidy said the off-balance starts are a concern. “It’s a good question because it’s crept in,’’ Cassidy said.

The coach didn’t think changing the game-day routine was necessary, but he allowed for the possibility of a little self-satisfaction.

“Are we complacent early on,’’ he said, “thinking, ‘Well, we’ll find our game, we’ve won a lot of games, we’ll get it together’ — has that crept in?’’

With the Bruins now one of the NHL’s most successful teams — their 66 points place them fourth overall — do opponents ratchet up their attack?

“Teams understand now, when you’re on a roll, they come into the game and maybe they’re preparing a little different, like ‘hey this team’s won a lot of games we’ve got to be ready to go,’ so is that a factor?’’ Cassidy said.

But the obvious answer is the players have to start the game with the same pace they finish it with.

Advertisement



“At the end of the day, I think it’s on the group just to understand it’s not acceptable anymore, especially at home,’’ Cassidy said. “You should be well rested, you should have the jump at home and not feel out the game.’’

Cassidy said he thought offering a more precise strategy might be a better kickoff to a game.

“As a staff it comes on us to maybe coach in a few more details right off the bat — what are we going to do on the opening draw — so maybe you’re a little more specific the first five minutes to get them focused.’’

Veteran David Backes pointed out that the Bruins have taken a penalty in the first 10 minutes in many recent games, or, as happened Tuesday, been awarded a power play. In both cases, deploying the special team units disrupts the rhythm of four lines.

“You don’t necessarily get all your lines into the game,’’ Backes said “There’s six forwards and two D that are still sitting there waiting for their first shift, passing around water bottles. Maybe just go harder in warm-ups and hit each other so we’re ready for it. If we start on time, typically our games are really good.’’

Backes practices

After losing Anders Bjork to an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s loss to the Ducks, the Bruins recalled Peter Cehlarik from Providence on an emergency basis. He skated Wednesday on a line with Riley Nash and Backes.

Advertisement



Backes was also injured Tuesday night, absorbing a head-rattling check from Nick Ritchie in the third period, and retreating to the locker room. Backes said he wasn’t real pleased with the hit, which came a beat or two after he had fired the puck toward the Anaheim net, and which garnered no penalty.

“He’s not a small guy by any means,’’ Backes said of Ritchie. “Heavy contact, feel it into my head and just kind of need to gather myself there for a second. Get back into the room and by the time we’re done with the concussion protocol in-game, there’s five, six minutes left in the game, there wasn’t time left on the clock to get back in.

“And I think it’s not a terrible idea that with head injuries and what we know now . . . to say let’s make sure there’s nothing here so you don’t go out there and get another hit to the head.’’

Still hurting

The Bruins are three short on the front lines: Bjork, Noel Acciari (lower-body injury and retroactively placed on injured reserve), and Marchand (he has served two games of a five-game suspension for an elbow to the head of the Devils’ Marcus Johansson).

Both Bjork and Acciari are day to day and neither skated Wednesday so Cassidy said they don’t look good for Thursday’s home game against the Blues. McAvoy, who skated on his own before practice, remains out.

Third time a charm?

The 6-foot-2-inch, 202-pound Cehlarik has had two chances with the varsity — one in November as well as one last season — but he hasn’t really made his bones with the Bruins. Cehlarik, 22, has one goal and one assist in five games with Boston this season and six goals and seven assists with a plus-four rating in 17 games with Providence.

Advertisement



“I don’t know if he’s up to speed,’’ Cassidy said. “I haven’t seen him play but I heard he’s played well down there. He has fought injuries [a leg injury in November], you can’t hide from that, but he’s getting an opportunity. He should understand what it takes to play in this league . . . it’s not his first go-round.’’