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Bolts lose net-front battles, 4-1 to Bruins

Despite “winning” possession in a better game than against Columbus, the Bolts lost this game to Boston, 4-1. The story of the game was net-front presence. Despite keeping the puck in the offensive zone more often than Boston, and shooting it as often as they could (shots ended 31-30, Bolts), the Bolts were unable to generate enough high-danger shots in front of Tuukka Rask to break through.

The Boston Bruins played like the Bruins always do, keeping Bolts forwards away from the slot by any means necessary and being annoying to play against. Rask nearly got a shutout, but had it spoiled by Victor Hedman in the last few minutes of the third.

(All-situation Corsi chart is from Hockeystats.ca.)

In return, the Bolts took penalties, as you do when you get annoyed by the opposition. Instead of scoring goals, Nikita Kucherov had his first five-minute fighting major since he was in the KHL in 2011, and Cedric Paquette was the core of several scrums as he attempted to give back the same medicine.

This was not quite the kind of “tough to play against” that was necessary to prevent goals or get goals, however. Ben Bishop let his frustration show in the second when he shoved at a Bruins player who pushed someone into his crease. Rick Peckham, on the Fox Sports Sun broadcast, pointed out that Bishop had to take action when players in front of him did not.

The difference between the two teams’ net-front presences can be seen in the shot attempt location chart. Bruins were allowed to make shots far closer to Bishop than Bolts did in front of Tuukka Rask, and defenders were not as present to battle them away. The shots were, in general, higher-danger too, with the fourth coming from a royal road pass in front of Bishop.

Special teams, which have gone far toward carrying the Bolts to this point, also failed, going 0/2 for the game. Not only did Bolts fail to convert on two attempts, the penalty kill failed (0/1), allowing the Bruins a power play goal. The power play and penalty kill suffered from the same lack of rebound attempts and tenacity at the net as the 5-on-5 play — the power play especially looked anemic with only one shot registered in both attempts.

On the plus side, Jonathan Drouin was fantastic, testing Rask repeatedly on many occasions and attempting a team-high eight shots on goal. Brayden Point, also energetic and dangerous on the rush, was third with four shots. Who had the second-highest number of shots on goal? Andrej Sustr, with five. This is something that Tampa Bay forwards should probably meditate upon in video review.

The lone Bolts goal came within the last five minutes of the game on a shot from Victor Hedman, after Druoin’s sustained offensive zone pressure in the third kept Rask busy and flailing.

Do we really want to see the goals against? Okay. In gif form, here are the goals against.

First goal against

Slater Koekkoek was out of position and Braydon Coburn had to skate in quickly to defend.

Second goal against

Torey Krug converted on the power play after Bishop was thoroughly screened.

Third goal against

Jimmy Hayes breaks his 36 game drought and scores. Congrats, I guess.

Fourth goal against

David Pastrnak took advantage of Patrice Bergeron’s screen.

Goal for

And to end on a happy note, Hedman’s goal.

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