By the end of the Bruins’ five-game road trip, the NHL will be eight days away from the trade deadline. The Bruins began that trip with an effort that suggested they might not be worth fixing this season.
After giving away a pair of goals in the opening 5:03 of the night, the Bruins proceeded to turn in non-lifeless second and third periods en route to a concerning 5-2 loss to the Canucks.
Tuukka Rask, who hadn’t given up more than three goals in 25 straight appearances, saw four pucks end up behind him as a result of either mindless or passive play in front of him. Boston defensemen more or less gifted Shawn Matthias a hat trick, and Jannik Hansen picked up an empty netter from his own zone.
The Panthers lost to the Stars Friday, so the B’s still have a four-point lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida still has one game in hand on the B’s, however.
The Bruins will next play Monday when they face a difficult Flames team currently in line for a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Here are five other things we learned:
POTENTIAL TARGETS IMPROVE VALUE
Matthias and Kassian are both names that have been liked to the Bruins in trade rumors. Matthias, a left-shot, has played both left wing and center. Neither position is a need for the Bruins, but Matthias could be appealing if he can play right wing.
Kassian has fallen a long way since he was once considered Buffalo’s answer for Milan Lucic. Since being traded to the Canucks for Cody Hodgson in 2012, the former 13th overall pick has not reached the 15-goal mark in a season and has had some issues with professionalism. He does, however, play right wing.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they might have improved both players’ stock by handing out points all night. Friday marked Matthias’ first career hat trick, with Kassian assisting on two of the goals. Matthias now has 13 goals on the season, while Kassian’s helpers gave him 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 30 games this season.
ISSUES ON D PERSIST
Through the first two periods, the pair that took shifts most regularly together was Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid. The other four defensemen mixed and matched, with lefties Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug taking different turns with righties Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller.
Yet no matter how Claude Julien mixes and matches players on his backend, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it needs help. On Friday, it was uncharacteristic mistakes from Krug and Hamilton that cost the Bruins, but the Seidenberg-McQuaid pairing was also beaten again.
The Canucks got their first goal when Krug stepped up in the neutral zone to try to get a puck over the red line, but Derek Dorsett knocked it behind Krug to Zack Kassian, who fed the Shawn Matthias, who would finish the play. Minutes later, Hamilton made an ill-advised pass from behind Boston’s net that was picked off by Matthias and taken to the net for Vancouver’s second goal. Hamilton partially made up for his turnover by deflecting a Bo Horvat shot that was going into the net early in the second period to keep it a one-goal game at the time.
The Canucks would eventually increase their lead, however, as Chris Higgins sent a pass from behind the net past Seidenberg to Radim Vrbata, who beat Rask to make it 3-1. The pairing also gave up Matthias’ third goal.
JULIEN SWITCHES RIGHT WINGS AGAIN
Claude Julien might as well get an endorsement deal with Oster or Ninja out of this, as the Boston coach once again put his right wings in a blender in the third period.
What came out were the combinations used earlier this month for a few games, with Reilly Smith moving to David Krejci‘s line, Loui Eriksson moving to Patrice Bergeron‘s line and David Pastrnak dropping to Carl Soderberg’s line.
The top three lines began as such:
And went to this in the third period:
AT LEAST BERGERON IS SCORING
With a tripping penalty in the first period, Patrice Bergeron is now seven penalty minutes shy of his career-high 43 from last season.
The good news for the B’s was that, upon getting out of the box, he won a puck in the defensive zone, took it the length of the ice and scored on his own rebound. The goal was his fourth in the last five games and fifth in the last seven.
Bergeron now leads the Bruins with 16 goals this season.