In many ways, it is a miracle that the Bruins (16-12-2) are four games over .500 and currently sit tied for second place in the Atlantic Division with Ottawa (16-11-2) at this point in the 2016-17 campaign. Boston has a near fatal flaw — goal scoring — that seems like it will eventually be their undoing unless many players on their team wake up from their season-long slumber. The B’s have scored 71 goals and they have allowed 71 goals, a good summation of their naturally up-and-down nature. In fact, it is more than a little ironic that their biggest win to date — a 2-1 overtime win at Montreal (19-6-4) — was another low-scoring affair.
As previously noted, the Bruins are where they are based mostly on the brilliance of goaltender Tuukka Rask (15-5-0, 1.80 goals against average, .932 save percentage, 3 shutouts) and right wing David Pastrnak (18 goals, 6 assists, plus-15). The defense was expected to be the main issue coming into this particular season but in fact, that has been a strength of the team while it’s offense has mostly disappeared. Of course, it doesn’t help that Boston’s power play has slipped to No. 27 in the league (13.8 percent) after it had been so good for a majority of last season. Head coach Claude Julien made some much-needed changes to his forward lines for the meeting with the Canadiens, putting David Backes on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand then dropping Pastrnak to the second line with Tim Schaller and David Krejci.
“We are outchancing teams nearly every game but not outscoring them,” said a frustrated Julien after Saturday’s disappointing 4-1 loss to Toronto (11-11-5) at TD Garden. “Our game hasn’t been that bad but we need more scoring throughout the lineup. Our third line needs more production and we need better presence in front of the net. When you look at the players that we have, things are going to come around.”
That’s true that guys like Krejci (4 goals, 13 assists, minus-6) and Bergeron (4 goals, 4 assists, minus-1) have long and proven track records in the NHL. No doubt that eventually they will start hitting the back of the net more frequently. Marchand (8 goals, 17 assists, plus-8) has been consistent and Backes (7 goals, 6 assists, minus-1) has fit in well with his new team wherever he’s been slotted. Young center Ryan Spooner (4 goals, 7 assists, minus-1) has been dogged by trade rumors and has struggled. That’s why the B’s have to hope that his performance against Montreal (where he had the game-winning goal in OT and an assist) propels him to brighter outings. At this point, it’s all hands on deck when it comes to Boston’s sputtering attack. They are at Pittsburgh (19-7-3) on Wednesday (7:30, NBC Sports) and the Penguins just so happen to be the second-highest scoring team in the league.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate