Take a deep breath.
The Bruins lost to the Detroit Red Wings twice last season and still made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
So the fact that the Bruins lost for a second time this season Sunday – 3-1 on the road – to Detroit (albeit a far inferior model compared even to last year’s team that went 32-40-10) won’t derail the season or change general manager Don Sweeney’s approach to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline.
However, one postgame quote from coach Bruce Cassidy, while he was commending Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier for his 39-save performance, might’ve given you an idea about what Sweeney has to be shopping for over the next two weeks.
"That's what he does. He's paid to stop the puck," Cassidy told the media at Little Caesars Arena. "We made plays around him, we didn't finish them. They're open nets. You've got to bear down and finish them … play inside the posts. I thought our forwards didn't do a great job of that early. As the game went on, we did a better job of getting to the crease."
Chris Wagner had the most egregious misplay, smacking a pass from Charlie McAvoy wide of an open net from just above the top of the blue paint in the third period. Marchand and David Pastrnak had four shots each without beating Bernier. Somehow David Krejci didn’t land a shot on net in 20:54 of ice time. Similarly shot-less was Sean Kuraly in 12:30 of ice time.
Maybe there was a scouting report that Bernier was susceptible to cross-crease passes and quick shots from just above the goal line, but the Bruins’ power play (0-for-4) went stale early trying to force feed Marchand for those type of attempts that Bernier was able to block every time.
It shouldn’t always be up to Marchand, Pastrnak or the power play to bail out the Bruins offensively. And with Jake DeBrusk’s recent hot streak and Charlie Coyle’s two-goal game Saturday, their offensive balance has improved. It can still get better.
Kuraly and Karson Kuhlman are strong players, but no one should be asking them to score in a top-six or maybe even top-nine role. We know what Anders Bjork’s potential says about his ability to score, but so far his finish has been fleeting. This team is going to need a little more offensive firepower for the stretch run.
By stretch run we don’t just mean the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning are just five points back for first place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand. They’ve won six in a row. Everything the Bruins worked for the first four months of the season and they could still wind up in that two-three matchup in the division if they’re not firing on all cylinders these final three months of the regular season. That two-three matchup could be more favorable (think Florida or Toronto in the first round vs. facing Columbus or the New York Islanders), but second-round home-ice advantage could be crucial toward making a deep run instead of going home by Mother’s Day.
You know the big name is Chris Kreider. But Sweeney doesn’t have to pay the steep price to get a player like that, if he’s even going to be available (reportedly his agent and the New York Rangers are opening contract talks this week). We know Tyler Toffoli from Los Angeles is available and pricey. Adding someone without a little more finish that also brings the straight-line game of Kuraly or Kuhlman could make secondary scoring easier to come by. Perhaps that’s Miles Wood from New Jersey or Michael Frolik from Buffalo, or someone that just hasn’t entered the rumor mill yet.
A little more firepower and a little more bite in the Bruins’ lineup, even if it comes from a player that will be rotated in and out of the forward corps, would go a long way toward making sure there aren’t more letdowns against teams of Detroit’s class and make sure the Bruins accumulate the number of points they need to cap off what’s already been a successful regular season the right way.