WILMINGTON, Mass. A nice, fresh, four-day All-Star break was supposed to recharge the Boston Bruins' worn-down batteries.
Thats not exactly how it played out Tuesday night against Ottawa in the first game out of the break, however.
A healthy level of fatigue and road weariness were legit alibis for the team prior to the break, but that isnt a valid excuse after most of the players had just come back from five days off.
Coach Claude Julien said its time for his team to get to the heavy two-way game that was dominating opponents in November and December.
Were looking for reasons why our team is playing as well as it should be," said Julien. "I think its just a matter of working on our game thats slipped away. Were in a bit of a funk right now where our game isnt as good as it can be. Were trying to work out of it and pick up the pace of the game to where it should be.
"Defensively our game isnt very good right now. Were doing a lot of running around. It takes only one guy to start all of that and it throws everybody else off. We need to look at Thursday against Carolina as an opportunity to put the clocks on the right time again. Its the opportunity that we want to seize tomorrow.
The good news is that the Bruins are strong enough to still extract two points from lesser opponents when theyre struggling to fire on full cylinders. But the bad news is that its going to catch up with them if they keep dipping for long stretches throughout games.
On Tuesday night the Senators dominated the second period, outshooting the Bruins by a 13-6 margin. The Bruins have allowed 36 goals in their last 11 games, dating back to their Jan. 7 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, and are only 6-4-1 record over that span.
Its not us focusing on what theyre doing to us at all, said Gregory Campbell, who has centered a fourth line thats been alternately good and bad this year. Its moreso us focusing on our game and bringing to the table what we can. Things have slipped in here and thats no secret to anybody. Claude has been realistic with us. Were not playing up to the potential of what were capable of. Theyre done with their job as players
Its no secret. We just have to play the game like we did in the months of November and December, and we should be all good. There are ups and downs to every season, but a good team doesnt have to find an excuse.
Within that 11-game stretch have been playoff-worthy efforts against the Canucks, Flyers and Rangers, which showed exactly how good the Bs can be when the mood strikes them. But the dog days of the NHL season are clearly hitting all of the clubs, including Boston, and thats a hurdle the B's will have to overcome with some serious challenges awaiting them in the next few weeks.
Milan Lucic, who blasted his 17th goal of the season in Tuesday nights win, said the best thing the Bruins coaching staff could do is provide optimism and positive reinforcement when confidence isnt at an all-time high.
Weve got to take a positive frame of mind," said Lucic. "Weve got to start feeling positive, thinking positive, feeling confident about ourselves and trusting one another. I think thats one of the things that Claude said in intermission against the Senators. Weve just got to get back to thinking positive and not being frustrated more than anything.
Perhaps the best challenge is Carolina, which has had Bostons number all season. The 'Canes are 3-0 against the Bruins, who know that containing Eric Staal and attacking Cam Ward with heavy interior pressure are two of the biggest factors in stopping Carolina.
We really havent played well against them at all. Maybe if we did then Id feel something different, said Julien. Thats not to take anything away from them. Some teams tend to have confidence against other teams over the course of a season, and that appears to be the case with Carolina.
Whether its against the Hurricanes or the Sabres at home this week or during an 11-day trip later this month through Montreal, Winnipeg, St. Louis and Minnesota, among other NHL destinations the Bs have to start getting their stuff together again.
If not, then the mistakes will really begin to develop into a problem.