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The Boston Bruins are struggling to score goals, especially at even strength, and it's cost them in two of the first three games of the 2020-21 NHL season.
But is it time to panic over the B's lack of even-strength scoring?
There's no question the Bruins lack scoring depth. We wrote and talked about it throughout the offseason. Craig Smith was a nice free-agent addition, but he alone was never going to solve the team's secondary scoring problem.
The Bruins are the only team -- aside from the Dallas Stars, who haven't played yet -- without an even-strength goal and the season is nearly a week old.
The lack of goals is not ideal, but the numbers don't paint a totally horrendous picture for Boston. The Bruins have 135 shot attempts during even-strength play and have allowed 111, and that 54.9 percentage is the fourth-best in the league. Boston has 76 shots on goal at even strength and has allowed 54, and that 58.5 percentage is second-best in the league.
This means the Bruins are controlling play at even strength, they just haven't cashed in yet. It would be more concerning if the ice was tilted against the Bruins and they weren't scoring at even strength.
Look at Monday's loss to the Islanders. Boston had a plus-19 edge in shot attempts, a plus-10 advantage in shots on net and a plus-4 lead in scoring chances at 5-on-5. You're going to win more games than you lose when you control play for nearly two thirds of the game at 5-on-5.
"It's early in the season, and I think we're playing really good. If we play that team defense throughout the year, I think we're going to win a lot of games," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said after losing to the Islanders. "I know the offense will come. We just have to stick with it and not hang our heads."
What can the Bruins do better to generate offense at even strength? They have to crash the net more and get in and around the crease for dirty goals. Shooting the puck more also would help. Instead of trying to set up the perfect shot attempt, just get as many pucks to the net as possible and pounce on the rebounds in front.
A lack of even-strength scoring is a problem, but luckily for the Bruins, they are built to withstand an offensive slump for a bit.
They have the best goaltending in the league.
Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak helped the B's rank No. 1 in save percentage and No. 1 in goals against average (GAA) last season. This duo is off to another excellent start in 2021, allowing just 1.67 goals per game. Rask gave up only one to the Islanders on Monday.
The Bruins are doing a solid job defending in front of Rask and Halak, too. Boston has allowed the second-fewest shots on net at 23.3 per game. The Bruins also are one of five teams with a perfect penalty kill, going 10-for-10 while a man down and even scoring a shorthanded goal in the overtime loss to the Devils.
The Bruins' goaltending and defensive structure should allow them to pick up enough points to remain in the playoff race while the offense figures it out. David Pastrnak, the league's co-leading goal scorer from a season ago, hasn't even played yet as he recovers from offseason surgery. His return -- hopefully in early February -- will help a ton. The Bruins also have integrated a lot of young players with limited NHL experience into the lineup, especially on the blue line, and it would be unfair to expect instant offense from these guys.
The Bruins obviously need to score at a much higher rate if they want to have a successful season, and this drought can't go on for too long because the East division is loaded with quality opponents. But it's not time to sound the alarm just yet. They won the Presidents' Trophy last season despite being ranked 18th in even-strength goals scored.
Rask, Halak and the overall team defense are good enough to keep this team competitive for the time being.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted.