Brad Marchand scare could have made Bruins' rough night much worse

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By WEEI 93.7

Falling behind 3-0 and getting badly outplayed by the Blue Jackets in the first period en route to a 4-1 loss was really not what the Bruins were looking for in their lone exhibition tune-up before the round-robin tournament begins on Sunday.

All that can be fixed, though. It's what happened midway through the third period that really put a scare in Bruins nation, as Brad Marchand appeared to suffer some sort of injury while killing a penalty. He looked to be wincing and favoring his groin as he left the ice, then went down the tunnel to the locker room and did not return to the game.

It appears as though Brad Marchand tweaked his groin on this play pic.twitter.com/92zqOspxjc

— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) July 31, 2020

Coach Bruce Cassidy eased some worries after the game, though, saying they "don't think it's anything serious" but that they'll "have a better idea in the morning."

Even if Marchand needs a couple days off or even has to miss a round-robin game or two, the Bruins will breathe a sigh of relief as long as he's back and healthy when the first round of the playoffs start.

With David Pastrnak finally back with the team this week and things starting to look at least a little more normal, the last thing the Bruins need would be to lose their other star wing for any sort of extended period.

If Thursday night made anything clear, it's that the Bruins have some work to do and that playing well isn't going to be guaranteed just because they were the best team in the NHL four and a half months ago.

"I'm not making excuses for our team. We didn't play very well early," Cassidy said. "I thought as the game went on we got better, which is fairly typical of an exhibition game. Obviously in these circumstances we're in, you need to get your game up quicker. We talked about that after the first period. Let's just not write it off as a September preseason game. We have to be ready for Philly on Sunday when the games start to matter, so let's dig in here and start building our game, and I thought we did. They were on us early, forced a lot of turnovers. ... I thought mentally they were more dialed in than we were early on, and it certainly showed."

The Bruins' first couple shifts of the game were actually pretty good, with their top two lines both buzzing around the offensive zone on their first shifts. But then things started to unravel for the remainder of the first period.

Boone Jenner made it 1-0 Columbus after Sean Kuraly turned the puck over with a pass to nowhere and then couldn't catch up to Jenner on the backcheck.

Sean Kuraly turns it over at neutral ice and then doesn’t pick up Boone Jenner well enough.1-0 Blue Jackets pic.twitter.com/N2Vb1CvMog

— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) July 30, 2020

The Bruins continued to struggle in their own zone, turning the puck over on breakouts and leaving the Blue Jackets too much time and space to get shots off. That cost them on Columbus' second goal, when Par Lindholm couldn't quite get out to Zach Werenski in time to get in the way of his one-timer that sailed past Tuukka Rask's glove.

Just 18 seconds later, the Blue Jackets struck again when Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara and Charlie Coyle all found themselves a step behind a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with a Gustav Nyquist goal.

Bruins are doing Tuukka Rask no favors in front of him. A LOT of puck-watching thus far.3-0 CBJ. pic.twitter.com/l2Nm4EbLpE

— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) July 30, 2020

Rask finished with 17 saves on 20 shots while playing half the game. He certainly wasn't great by any means, and could have done better on the second goal in particular, but he obviously didn't get much help from the team in front of him either.

He did look better in the second period, though, as did much of the rest of the team. While the Bruins probably can't love anything about Thursday night, and they never really felt like a threat to make a comeback, there were some positives as the game went on.

Pastrnak scored, for one. And he showed some pretty good moves doing it, settling a bouncing puck before making a quick head fake and calmly sliding the puck through Elvis Merzlikins' five-hole. There were a couple hiccups for Pastrnak handling the puck Thursday night, but for the most part he looked pretty good for someone who just got back on the ice on Monday, and he was certainly one of the Bruins' best players.

David Pastrnak is back.3-1 Columbus. pic.twitter.com/N32ggsmjS7

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) July 31, 2020

Jack Studnicka also looked good. The Bruins' top prospect had earned the first crack at the Bruins' No. 2 right wing job thanks to his practice and scrimmage performances, and his game performance Thursday night certainly didn't hurt his case to stay there. On his first shift of the game, he made a nice read to intercept a breakout pass, although he probably should have shot himself instead of trying to make a pass to a covered Jake DeBrusk.

There were other instances as the game went on, though, when he did show more of the shot mentality Cassidy has said he wants to see, and ultimately his three shots on goal tied him for second on the Bruins behind only Pastrnak. His playmaking and vision was also on display, including an excellent shift late in the second when he made two great passes to set up DeBrusk in the slot.

"He had some of our better chances, was willing to go to the net, went to the dirty areas," Cassidy said of Studnicka. "...For the most part, did his job, got opportunities to score, unfortunately didn't finish. But the effort was there and I liked his game."

Jack Studnicka has been good tonight.He enters the Jackets' zone and sets up a great look for DeBrusk with a nice centering feed. pic.twitter.com/903ImCjfNl

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) July 31, 2020

In their bottom six, the Bruins may have found some better combos than what they started the game with. Kuraly struggled a bit on the wing on the third line and seemed to play better once he moved back to his usual fourth-line center spot, while Charlie Coyle's line started to create some chances once he strung together a few shifts with Anders Bjork on his left and Karson Kuhlman on his right.

"I thought Sean wasn't as strong on it early, so we moved him off that line," Cassidy said. "He got much better as the game went on and found his stride. ... I thought Coyle's line overall was effective. They tried to play the right way. I thought they did. Didn't hurt us at all and got a few looks."

So in the end, it certainly wasn't a good night for the Bruins, but at least things didn't remain as bad as they started, and at least Marchand's injury is believed to be nothing serious.

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