PHILADELPHIA -- The feeling in the Bruins dressing room had the usually mixed vibe of a shootout loss after they had dropped the 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it felt more positive than negative after the B’s erased a two-goal deficit in the third period.
But it certainly could have been much more while battling a Flyers team that will likely be fighting it out with Boston head-to-head for a wild card playoff spot, and in a game where the Bruins outshot Philly by a dominant 47-21 margin through three periods and a 3-on-3 overtime. Instead it was mistakes that doomed the Bruins to defeat, and some of them might have been preventable in the grand scheme of things.
Certainly the first goal allowed was about simple execution, and both Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug struggling to break the puck out of their own end. Krug had a rough turnover in the neutral zone to encourage the Flyers counter-attack and McQuaid was stripped by Wayne Simmonds deep in the Boston D-zone directly leading to a Michael Del Zotto blast from the point. Those things happen during any hockey game, and it’s even more likely when the Bruins are missing both Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles with injuries.
But some of the other preventable gaffes or questionable choices in Philly could also be chalked up to the Bruins coaching staff.
It was Claude Julien accepting responsibility postgame for barking at Riley Nash to come to the bench for a replacement stick during a Bruins penalty kill. Nash was without a stick after he gave his to Brandon Carlo once the rookie D-man’s twig snapped deep in the Boston end as he frantically tried to clear the puck away during the PK. The alert Flyers PP immediately recognized and took advantage of the situation with tic-tac passing from Jakub Voracek to Claude Giroux for the one-timer power play goal.
“I’ll tell you what. I called him over. I thought when they took that shot it would go a little further around the wall, and I thought he had a chance to get back with a stick. He didn’t but there were still three guys that could have done a better job of cutting that pass off,” said Julien. “It certainly wasn’t his fault because he did what he was told to do.”
And in the interest of fairness there was also a bench boss that could have simply avoided a high risk play calling in Nash against a Flyers power play that lights the lamp on 24.7 percent of their possessions.
The Flyers goals arrived less than two minutes apart from each other, and knocked the Bruins off their pegs for a bit despite dominating possession for long portions of the first period.
Then there was the shootout with Claude Julien selecting Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and Patrice Bergeron as his top three shooters, and none of those Bruins forwards were able to even hit the net with a shot. Nash might be a solid shootout performer (6-for-12 lifetime) in his career and he helped the Bruins win a shootout in Tampa Bay by prolonging things for the final Jimmy Hayes game-winner.
But it’s tough to swallow Nash as a better shootout option in the top-3 than Brad Marchand, a 37-goal scorer, or a red-hot David Pastrnak with only Sidney Crosby holding more goals than the 20-year-old prodigy in the entire NHL this season.
Predictably Brad Marchand scored with a roofed backhanded bid on his turn as the fifth shooter for the Bruins, and theoretically could have ended things in favor of the Bruins should he been one of the top-3 B’s shooters right out of the chute.
Clearly there were positives as well from Julien in the shootout defeat in Philly. It was the B’s bench boss that entered the dressing room between the 2nd and 3rd periods to challenge his players to get closer to the net for second and third chance bids, and to remain positive as he could feel frustration sinking into the hearts of Boston’s players. It was the right thing to say at exactly the right time to his Black and Gold crew down by a couple of goals in an important conference game, and it helped the Bruins get a point where they might have had none otherwise.
“The coach came in here [between the second and third] and talked about staying positive, and that we were having some good chances. So to just stick with it and eventually it was going to go in,” said Krejci. “Even in the first period I thought we had a good period. We just couldn’t put the puck in the net, but we came back really strong in the third period. We got a point at least.”
But there are also times when Julien is just as deserving of second-guessing and critiques as the players when they underperform on the ice, and Tuesday night in Philly was one of those nights when everybody could have been a little bit crisper.
That certainly includes the greatest coach that the Bruins organization has known in their storied Original Six bit of hockey history.