WASHINGTON – Things are slipping away for the Bruins with just 28 games left to go in their regular season.
The B’s maintain a tenuous grip on a playoff spot after losing streak against the Washington Capitals reached eight in a row after a 5-3 loss at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a low-scoring goalie duel, a grinding and physical war of muscles and will or a dazzling offensive display, the Bruins just don’t have what it takes to compete with a deep, talented Capitals bunch that can win in myriad ways.
“When you look at some of the goals they scored and how we managed [the puck], it wasn’t good enough,” said Claude Julien. “We weren’t heavy enough [on the puck] to win this game tonight. We didn’t have enough players going, so that kind of hurt us tonight. Those are the kinds of areas, for me, that [represent] the areas that really cost us.
“Puck management, we need more out of some players and not a heavy enough game to beat a good team like the Washington Capitals.”
The Bruins said as much after the game, with not much offense supplied five-on-five against the Capitals, and too many mistakes made in puck management and on defense.
“We know it was going to be a tough game, and I guess we didn’t play our best 60 [minutes]. There were periods where we really took it to them, but it’s tough in a back-to-back situation to really dominate the whole game,” said Tuukka Rask. “But the chances they got were really high-quality chances, and that’s something we really wanted to be better at. If we score three goals then that should be enough for a point at least.”
More than anything else, Wednesday night was about Washington’s best getting the better of Boston’s best. Those kinds of losses are perhaps easier to reconcile. Still, the situation with the Black and Gold is dire indeed after failing to extend a season-best four game winning streak and with a huge game at home this weekend against the Maple Leafs.
Last season it required 93 points for an Eastern Conference team to get into the playoffs, and ultimately that wasn’t enough for the Bruins because of tiebreakers. But let’s say for argument’s sake that the B's will be in this season if they can finish with 93 points. That would require 35 points from the Bruins in their final 28 games with a couple of long West Coast trips and a tough end stretch to their schedule still looming for a team that played a ton of games in December and January.
That means the Bruins will need to go a minimum of 14-7-7 in the final 28 games and they can’t afford many more empty regulation losses the rest of the way. Both the Maple Leafs and suddenly surging New York Islanders are within five points of the B’s, and both have a whopping six games in hand against Boston. So, merely going .500 with those games in hand will catapult both Toronto and New York past the Bruins, and push them down closer to 10th, 11th or 12th in the East with multiple teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt.
Florida and Tampa Bay are also well within striking distance with multiple games in hand against Boston as well.
“We need to keep playing every game the same way. We need to play on our toes, play to win and be determined,” said David Krejci, who scored late in the Wednesday night loss after things had essentially been decided. “That’s the only way for us to win games.”
That wasn’t lost on the Bruins prior to running into a brick wall in Washington. The urgency was certainly still there for the Black and Gold after getting humbled by Alex Ovechkin and Co., again, on Wednesday night in the nation’s capital.
“We’ve played some pretty good games lately,” said Brad Marchand prior to the loss. “We have to be ready to play. We can’t afford to take any games off. We’ve put ourselves into a position where we don’t have the luxury of having a bad game, and saying ‘it’s okay.’
“We need to have a good game every single night if we’re going to continue to fight our way into the playoffs.”
The Bruins know that they’re still alive with so much hockey left to be played over the final two-plus months of the regular season. The B’s also know that they still control their own playoff fate if they can rip off an eight-, nine- or 10-game winning streak. Still, that's the kind of sustained high level of play that has eluded them this season. Frankly, it’s eluded them the past three seasons as the roster problems and team issues are compounding.
But anything short of that feels like it will result in another DNQ for the Black and Gold when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and more of the same excuse-making from the usual B’s suspects as they scramble for cover once the organizational upheaval starts to rain down from above.