DETROIT - The Bruins dropped their first loss of the preseason, 5-1, on Saturday night against the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
During the preseason, the priority is to evaluate the individual performances, and see who is pushing to earn spots on the opening night roster when the Bruins kick off the 2017-18 season on Oct. 5.
Still, the Black & Gold would have liked to get the win, and improve their preseason record to 4-0.
"I just thought they were better than us. They had more jump on the pucks," Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said following the game. "In the previous games, we'd create our share of turnovers and get on pucks, and tonight we didn't seem to have that same jump for whatever reason."
The Bruins' pace didn't match that of the Red Wings. From Cassidy's vantage point, younger players in Boston's lineup were not able to keep up.
"You want to look at it again after, but there were some guys that they dropped off against a lot of speed out there and a good lineup," Cassidy evaluated.
"That's what you're going to face, 82 times a year generally. That's what the evaluation process is for, we talked about that - sometimes it's less about the score at the end of the day. How are certain individuals playing? How are we playing as a team? And in all those areas tonight, it wasn't great."
Cassidy was asked by a reporter if there were any bright spots in the loss.
"I think on the back end, Kevan Miller had a strong game," said Cassidy. "Charlie [McAvoy] had some moments that as the game went along - he was misfiring, his execution was off, but later he started moving his feet and doing what he does best - he alluded people and brought some people to him and moved the puck up ice."
"I thought Robbie O'Gara had moments where he was competing hard," Cassidy continued. "Up front, [Austin] Czarnik had another good energy game, I know he scored, but he was on pucks."
"I thought Jake [DeBrusk] got going. We switched up the lines and then he started finding some holes and he popped in there. I thought Timmy Schaller took some pucks to the net, so there's always some positives, but not enough tonight."
When Cassidy was asked about jobs starting to be filled, he was hesitant to venture down that road, especially with three preseason games still to play.
"I don't want to speculate on that yet," said Cassidy. "I mean, you've seen the young guys get a chance and the top guys, [Danton] Heinen's gotten a chance, DeBrusk, [Anders] Bjork. Like I said, Jake was good tonight, but more when he was off that line [with David Krejci and David Pastrnak] than on it. Bjork's been good up top."
"And then the bottom of the lineup, Czarnik's making a good push, to see where he fits in."
Czarnik scored the lone goal for the Bruins, firing home a pass from Matt Grzelcyk on the power play to give Boston a 1-0 lead in the first period.
"Just have to go out and focus on playing the way I can," said Czarnik, who now has two goals and an assist through two preseason games. "And so far I think it's gone decent, so I'm just going to try to build off of it every single day.
"And with a guy like JFK [Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson] not getting some games right now, and that's what we talked about the other day - one door closes, another opens for someone else," said Cassidy.
"And then the back end, with Torey [Krug] out, we're looking hard at those D-men and I think O'Gara's been steady. He certainly doesn't play the same style as Torey, so it's not an equal replacement, but I think he's done a good job in there when we've asked, and so that will be one to watch as well."
The Bruins are scheduled to practice on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena. More cuts had not yet been made as of Saturday night after the game.
"We're going to discuss that on the plane," said Cassidy, of reducing the roster. "We were talking about whether it would be Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, and maybe this accelerates part of it. We'll have those discussions. But they will be coming soon. We've just got to get down in numbers and we may wait one more game and we'll see how injuries [are doing] and see how our guys are tomorrow as well."
Fitzgerald Impressing Cassidy
Forward Ryan Fitzgerald has had a strong showing in camp, according to Cassidy.
"I think Ryan's been very good," said Cassidy. "I thought coming in, it would be tough for him to push for a job but he's been good. He's opened my eyes. His hockey acumen's very good, even against good players, he's got a good stick, he's smart."
"His pace has improved from the development camps I saw him, so he's been a pleasant surprise," Cassidy continued. "And we've moved him around - he's been at center, right wing, used him on the kill, tried to mix him into the power play, and he's one of those guys that can play a lot of different spots. I think it's still early for him in his career, but for me personally, he's a much better player than maybe I thought coming in with limited viewing."
"He's done a nice job. And listen, I'm not saying he's going to pop into our lineup, but he's been good, he's done what we've asked."
Zane McIntyre started between the pipes, and had a solid first period that included a strong sequence of back-to-back saves late in the first. The Bruins went into the second with a 1-0 lead.
Then the Red Wings scored three goals on four shots towards the end of the second period to take a 3-1 lead that ultimately led to the 4-1 win. Malcolm Subban was in net for the third period and the final goal.
"Yeah, and in fairness, we weren't great in front of him either," Cassidy said of McIntyre appearing to be off his game. "But his angles - listen, these are NHL shooters. If you start cheating a little bit, they'll find it, so I thought a couple of those surprised him."
While the scores don't necessarily matter in the preseason, performance does.
"I mean, it's preseason, right? Everybody's trying to put their best foot forward and make the big club, right?" said McIntyre. "So I'm doing the same thing, trying to put my best foot forward and make the saves."
Following the game, Cassidy gave updates on injuries.
"JFK I believe was cleared to skate tomorrow with us, so I don't think he'll play Monday, but Thursday if everything progresses," said Cassidy, of Forsbacka Karlsson, who is out day-to-day with an upper-body injury. "Torey, obviously no [out at least three weeks after taking a puck to the jaw]."
"[David] Backes took a bump in practice the other day so we just gave him an extra day. He'll be in Monday. [Kenny] Agostino got bumped yesterday, but he should be fine after a day's work of treatment."