BOSTON – The definition of a bad hockey team is a pretty time-honored and true thing.
It’s a situation where when just as one problem area gets addressed or fixed, another one pops up just as troublesome to take its place. The Boston Bruins very much seem to be in danger of being that bad hockey club after a 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that the B’s simply had to have at TD Garden.
They’re also very much in danger of being a hockey team destined for the golf course next week if there isn’t some kind of miraculous turnaround. The Bruins addressed their defensive issues from the weekend and allowed only a single goal during 65 minutes of grinding, heavy hockey, but the offensive finish once again disappeared once the defense had been stabilized.
“I think it was about sticking with it here, and that’s what we did. We stuck with it and we managed to tie the game up. I can answer 20 questions here or I can give you one thing, it’s an inability to finish and that’s the main thing here for tonight…nothing more,” said Claude Julien. “If I knew I’d correct it. Sometimes those things happen. Whether it’s confidence, whether it’s a little bit of bad luck or a little bit of everything, you’ve just got to work yourselves through it.”
The problem for the Bruins is that the hockey clock doesn’t allow them the time to work through things at this point.
It’s about results, and that’s it. For the second year in a row the Bruins have fumbled and flailed away down the stretch with a chance to seize their own playoff destiny, and now rely on another playoff contender deserving it less than them. It’s a massive plummet from what this Bruins team was even two short years ago, and won’t change most people’s opinions of them should they find a way to back into a very short-lived playoff appearance.
It’s been far too long since the Bruins put together a glowing, complete effort at both ends of the ice at the same time, and it’s a big reason why things have turned so lackluster for the Black and Gold in late March and April. David Krejci said he saw a team that was fighting their offensive confidence a bit, and either passing up shooting chances or missing plays to be made on the ice.
That sounds like a hockey club that’s had their cage rattled a little too much without getting the kind of confidence-building results that are so crucial at this time of year.
Instead 36-goal scorer Brad Marchand was stopped on a point blank bid to the five hole in the second period after a brilliant Krejci saucer pass led him all alone to the front of the net, and 29-goal scorer Loui Eriksson was robbed on a second-effort bid off the end boards with a sliding Cam Ward glove save across the crease.
A Zdeno Chara bid at the backdoor on the power play on a slick pass from Marchand was frustrated when Ward again flashed the glove hand that helped him make 35 saves while outplaying counterpart Tuukka Rask at the other end of the ice.
“It’s kind of tough to say. It’s right after the game so we’re going to have to look at a video. But there was…hundred percent there was some chances that the puck could’ve gone in the net," Krejci said. "But you know maybe even a little different decisions around the net. Shot is there, take a shot…you got a guy open, make a smart play, you know? So I feel like we have to play a little bit with more confidence, especially in the offensive zone and make something happen, you know? No one else is going to do it for us.
“So go out there and every single player needs to want to be the difference-maker, you know? So we need 20 guys; we can’t rely on the one, two, three guys so everybody needs to step up. This was a big game and you know we failed to get two points. We got one and now move on.”
Some of it might also be about a Bruins hockey team whose best players are running out of gas after a long season carrying the team from the very beginning. Patrice Bergeron has looked a little worn down at times over the last few weeks, and that’s perhaps reflected in being held without a goal in 10 of the last 13 games with a two-goal explosion vs. Chicago in their futile Sunday comeback attempt also mixed in there. There’s also the simple fact that the Black and Gold just don’t fight to get to the front of the net in a way that’s required at this time of year, and that translates into opposing goalies getting clean, free and easy looks at shots without pressure on the rebounds.
That’s far too familiar of a look for the Bruins at a time of year where sacrifice, toughness and willingness to do things that can be uncomfortable – like stepping in front of a screaming 100-mph Zdeno Chara blast for a tip or a redirection – haven’t been done nearly enough by B’s players across the board.
Think about it: how many tips and redirections at the front of the net have you seen out of this team over the last few weeks? The answer is “not enough” as other teams are scoring against the Bruins that exact way.
“I think that around this time, teams tend to tighten up, and play a little better defensively,” admitted Marchand. “They really focus on that going down the stretch, and getting ready for the playoffs. I think that might have something to do with [the goal shortage]. We had six goals in St. Louis before last game. I don’t think we’re feeling that much pressure offensively.”
The Bruins shouldn’t be feeling pressure offensively at this point. They should be feeling certain pressure to produce quality offense and defense at exactly the same time, and actually put together a complete game. Because they don’t deserve the playoffs if they can’t put it all together, and it’s looking more and more like the B’s are a bad hockey team that doesn’t deserve it for the second straight disappointing spring.