The Bruins and Maple Leafs faced off in another instant classic on Saturday night. The latest installment between the two rivals featured 77 shots on goal, 82 hits, a two goal comeback, last second equalizer and a frantic overtime. While Boston left Scotiabank Arena with both points, they also left with an increasingly concerning trend; The Bruins have an empty net problem.
Auston Matthews’ second goal of the game forced overtime with just five seconds left in regulation. It was the third time this season that Boston conceded a game tying goal with the opposing goalie pulled. According to Ty Anderson on Twitter, it was also Boston’s league-leading seventh goal allowed against an empty net.
If that felt like deja vu for the Bruins, there was good reason.
Boston has struggled against aggressive forechecking and extended defensive zone pressure for quite a while. Both the Carolina series in 2022 and the the “Series We Don’t Talk About” last spring were characterized by the B’s being perpetually under siege in their own zone.
Another rather alarming statistic is that Boston currently ranks 17th the league in Face Off Win % at 50.3%. The stark drop off from 54.5% last season really shows how the team misses Patrice Bergeron’s prowess at the dot.
Against Anaheim on October 26th Coyle, Zacha and Beecher went 1-5 on faceoffs in the final two minutes. Coyle and Zacha also committed two crucial giveaways that led to the Ducks scoring twice to force OT.
In Tampa on November 20th, Zacha’s failed clearance with twelve seconds on the clock worked its way to Nikita Kucherov and then the back of the net courtesy of Steven Stamkos.
Then, in Toronto last night, Zacha was beaten on the faceoff twice the in the final minute to set up Matthews tying goal.
There’s still nearly three-quarters of the season left for Boston to improve their late game composure. If the Bruins want to be serious Cup contenders this spring, performing under pressure HAS to be a priority.
Photo: Christopher Katsarov / The Canadian Press via AP