Bruins can't finish chances, will face Hurricanes after winless round-robin

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Carolina it is. The Bruins continued to struggle to finish their chances, continued to make costly mistakes defensively and fell to the Capitals, 2-1, Sunday afternoon to cap off an 0-3 round-robin tournament and lock them into the No. 4 seed.

They will now meet the sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round of playoffs, which is expected to begin Tuesday or Wednesday. The Canes are coming off a three-game sweep of the Rangers in the play-in round, a series in which they outscored New York 11-4 despite not having two of their top three defensemen in Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce.

The Bruins looked good for the majority of the first period Sunday, as they dominated possession and spent most of the period in the Capitals zone. But in what continues to be a concerning theme, they struggled to turn that possession into too many quality scoring chances, and struggled to bury the ones they did create. Their best look came with 7:15 left in the period when David Pastrnak blew past Dmitry Orlov to get in alone on Braden Holtby, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick just as he went to shoot.

What a rush by David Pastrnak pic.twitter.com/KBv6x4ltwz

— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) August 9, 2020

Boston held Washington to just two shots on goal in the first, but the second came after a brutal mistake from the Bruins' captain and gave the Caps a 1-0 lead late in the period. Tuukka Rask saved an off-speed redirect from Nicklas Backstrom, and Zdeno Chara should have been able to easily clear the rebound away. Instead he tried to settle and possess the puck instead of just whacking it away, and T.J. Oshie caught him by surprise, stole the puck and fired it into the net.

Yuck. pic.twitter.com/Gro32L47bH

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 9, 2020

The second period was a similar story, as the Bruins continued to be the better five-on-five team, but still couldn't finish. The offensive frustration reached critical mass during a sequence with just over six minutes left in the period. With a pile of bodies in the Washington crease, Nick Ritchie had a pair of great chances from the doorstep, but he couldn't lift the first over defender Brenden Dillon, and Holtby recovered in time to make a save on the second.

The Bruins brought Nick Ritchie in to score goals like...nevermind pic.twitter.com/f93Gdafjtc

— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) August 9, 2020

Add in a Charlie McAvoy point-blank chance from the slot that Holtby gloved down and an Ondrej Kase chance cutting across the crease that he just couldn't quite control at the last second, and it was starting to feel like it was just one of those days -- getting closer, playing better, but still missing that last push to punish your opponent.

The Capitals also started creating more chances on the power play, with six of their 13 shots on goal in the second period coming on a pair of man advantages, including one they got as a result of Jake DeBrusk offensive zone penalty, which is never what you want to see. Tuukka Rask stood tall, though, and the Bruins were fortunate to see a couple Alex Ovechkin one-time blasts go wide.

The dagger came 2:49 into the third. Jeremy Lauzon made a poor decision to pinch down at the offensive blue line with McAvoy already pinched down on the other side of the ice. He couldn't keep the puck in and the mistake sprung Tom Wilson in the other direction. Neither McAvoy nor Joakim Nordstrom could chase Wilson down and he finished off the chance by firing a shot over Rask's glove.

While it wouldn't be enough, the Bruins did finally respond with a goal that could help spark a second line that desperately needs a spark. David Krejci made a nice play to start the breakout. Kase, playing in his first game since the restart, carried into the offensive zone, tried to make a pass to DeBrusk that got knocked down, stuck with the play, and then completed the pass on the second attempt. DeBrusk then made a great play to finish, stepping over the puck to let it catch up to him and then catching Holtby off-guard with a quick shot that beat him five-hole.

Jake DeBrusk has arrived.2-1 Capitals. pic.twitter.com/evxNgMzCLj

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 9, 2020

While the Bruins' second line finally got on the board, the first line struggled to finish right to the end. Pastrnak had a rush in the third period that nearly mirrored his one in the first -- this time he got the shot off, but Holtby slammed the five-hole shut. Then shortly after DeBrusk had cut it to 2-1, Marchand had a golden chance from right in front, but airmailed his shot over the net and off the glass.

Marchand will want this one back #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/6MHiN2mxSw

— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) August 9, 2020

That kind of says it all about where the Bruins are right now. You can feel better about the fact that their five-on-five play improved throughout the round-robin, culminating with a 54-37 advantage in five-on-five shot attempts Sunday. You can like the fact that the Bergeron line put in a Bergeron line-esque effort in terms of possession and chances, as they held a 21-4 Corsi advantage, 11-3 shots on goal advantage, and 9-1 edge in scoring chances. You can like that the second line looked solid in its first game together and got on the scoreboard.

But obviously you have to be concerned about the continuing inability to finish chances. Generally over a longer period of time, those chances eventually start going in. But the Bruins don't have a long period of time. They have a couple days before the real playoffs start, and if they don't start burying their chances it could be a short postseason for them.

"Clearly generated more offense tonight than we have in other games, more consistently," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. "Didn't finish well, but around the net a lot five-on-five. Power play is still a work in progress. Krejci's line I thought looked comfortable together, scored a goal obviously, but played well, had their legs, made some plays.

"Obviously the two goals we gave up, again, correctable. One we had on our stick and got a little surprised there. The other one, I don't know, Tuukka came out and played it, only he can decided that. But at the end of the day, we're just a little late on the pinch, so certainly some things we can correct. ... I thought we were much better on both sides of the puck, but again, didn't win."

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