BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 22: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins shoots the puck moments before teammate David Backes #42 scored a goal against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at TD Garden on November 22, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
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Bruins frustrated by lack of offense, but it should return

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The 2015-16 Boston Bruins were not your typical Claude Julien coached team.

The defense struggled, Tuukka Rask was not quite himself in net, and the team remained competitive thanks almost entirely to an offense that was one of the best in the NHL. The grind-it-out, shut teams down style of play that had been a staple of Bruins hockey for so many years seemed to be gone.

Fast forward to this season and things have pretty much done a complete 180, at least as it relates to the two defensive areas. Rask is playing like an elite goalie, and while the defense still looks thin on paper compared to what we’re used to seeing in Boston they are doing a great job of suppressing shots and keeping teams off the scoreboard.

But the offense that was so good last season has pretty much disappeared for most of this season. Following their 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, already the 20th time in 29 games this season they have failed to score more than two goals in a game (two more than any other team in the NHL), the Bruins now sit 26th in the NHL in goals per game, scoring only 2.31 per contest. If they maintain that pace over the entire season it would nearly 50 goals off of their total from a year ago.

Frustration seemed to be setting in after Saturday’s game.

David Backes talked about offensive frustration being warranted at this point and how the need to do more around the net.

Julien said that because they aren’t scoring goals at the moment they are criticizing everything else about their game, but that the rest of their game isn’t bad.

He is not wrong about that.

What has to be especially frustrating for the Bruins at this point is they really aren’t playing poorly. They are outshooting teams by an average of five shots per game, their 33.1 shots on goal per game is second best in the NHL behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, and with a 54.9 corsi percentage are currently the best possession team in the NHL. They are doing a lot of things right. Those are things that winning teams do. And not just winning teams, championship contending teams.

The thing that is hurting them right now is a 7 percent shooting percentage that is currently the second worst in the NHL. Their current standing there is due almost entirely to the past 14 games where that percentage has dropped down to just 6 percent. This is the important thing to keep in mind here if you’re a Bruins fan. It’s a long season, and over 82 games offense will run hot and cold for extended periods of time. Through the first half of this season, the Bruins were scoring at a pretty normal rate. Over the 14 games that followed, it has completely collapsed. That is not going to last. Keep in mind that over the past five years only four teams have finished a season converting on 7 percent (or lower) or of their shots over a full season, and all of those were teams that were among the worst in the league during a given season.

The Bruins simply have too much talent on their roster to keep shooting that low over an extended period of time. As long as they are able to keep putting more than 33 shots on goal per game that shooting luck is going to eventually change back in their favor. Some of those bounces around the crease are going to start finding the back of the net. Once that starts to happen this could be a pretty dangerous team in the East given the way they are actually playing.

Avalanche beat Bruins, even as Pastrnak remains almost unstoppable

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 08: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche slides for the puck ahead of David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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David Pastrnak is scoring at an astounding pace. Sometimes it’s still not enough to earn a win for the Boston Bruins.

The 20-year-old wunderkind scored both of the Bruins’ goals on Thursday, giving him a patently absurd 18 in 23 games. Pastrnak now has five goals in his last three games (not to mention a five-game point streak with those five goals and two assists).

Calvin Pickard was perfect against Bruins not named Pastrnak, however, and the Colorado Avalanche beat Boston 4-2.

Perhaps part of the problem was that the Bruins “other” MVP wasn’t in action, then. Tuukka Rask has been right up there with the NHL’s best, but it was Anton Khudobin in net, and he gave up four goals on just 22 shots.

Rather than taking a step up the ladder, Pastrnak’s made leaps. Similarly, Rask is more than merely rebounding from what was – for his lofty standards – a disappointing campaign in 2015-16.

The Bruins need more from their supporting cast members, however, especially when one of these two players can’t suit up.

Not getting any easier: Slumping Avs take on the Bruins in Boston

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Head Coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche (C) looks on from the bench during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Losers of six straight, five of them in regulation, the Colorado Avalanche will be in tough again tonight.

The Avs will be missing captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Erik Johnson when they take on the Bruins in Boston. Landeskog (lower body) is getting closer to a return, but he’s not ready yet. Johnson (broken leg) is going to be out a while longer.

Meanwhile, the Avs’ season has been slipping away. They’re already 10 points back of a wild-card spot, and it’ll be hard to make up ground against a Boston team that’s gone six straight without losing in regulation.

The Bruins fought back from a 3-0 deficit last night in Washington, where the Capitals eventually won, 4-3, in overtime.

The Avs, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-3 loss in Nashville. They played the Preds close, and had a strong push late, but ultimately couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne on any of their 13 third-period shots.

“For me, that was the hardest we played — that was the best game we played in a couple weeks,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “We had some chances to square that game up.”

Bednar, of course, was a late replacement for Patrick Roy, who abruptly resigned in August. The Avs started the season with three wins in their first four, but have gone 6-13-1 since, at times admitting they’ve been “awful.” 

     Read more: Deadline target? Iginla will ‘cross that bridge when it comes’

The Avs play Saturday in Montreal then finish their road trip Sunday in Toronto. For Colorado’s sake, at least those two opponents have their own issues. The Canadiens are suddenly down two centers, while the young Maple Leafs are still learning how to win.

Tonight at TD Garden, the Bruins will be significant favorites, even though they played last night on the road. Boston (15-10-2) has one of the best lines in all of hockey with Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

That’s the challenge facing the Avs, who better figure it out soon; otherwise, they’ll need a Christmas miracle to get back into the playoff race.

Capitals manage OT win after coughing up lead to Bruins

It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanen to injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.

For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.

After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.

Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.

Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:

Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins

Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals

Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.

That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.

It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.