Why it's time to start worrying about the Bruins after epic third-period collapse

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Why it's time to start worrying about the Bruins after epic third-period collapse

BOSTON — It’s officially time to start getting worried about the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins extended their losing streak to four games with a historically bad loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night where they blew a four-goal lead in the third period and lost a home game for the first time in the history of the Original Six organization.

It all led to a 5-4 shootout loss to a Panthers team that’s chasing them in the standings and a longer losing streak than the Black and Gold endured all of last season. The Bruins were loath to talk about the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” in training camp or at the beginning of the year when things were going so well, but it sure looks like they are going through one of those kinds of bumps in the road here at the start of November.

It was even more stunning because the B’s had looked like they had turned it around in the first 40 minutes of the game while building a 4-0 lead and limiting the Panthers to just 12 shots on net. But it all fell apart in the third period on the back of goaltending gaffes, penalties taken when the Bruins were in the driver’s seat, and an inability to finish off scoring plays around the net after Florida pulled Sergei Bobrovsky from the game.

Those separate things had plagued the B’s at different times in the first three losses of the streak, but all of them conspired to sink this year’s edition of the Bruins to a new low in a season that had been all highs until very, very recently.

The Bruins were an amazing 194-1-4 since 2010 in games where they held a three-goal lead through the first 40 minutes of the game, a stat that underscores just horrendous and uncharacteristic the third period choke was against the Panthers.

“This is a team that’s closed out games for years, and the last goal to me — put everything else aside — is disappointing. We get beat one-on-one off the rush, winger circling out of the scoring area knowing the game is on the line. You could sit here and argue that the guy’s holding Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] stick and can’t clear the puck at the end, but structurally we were bad on that last goal,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s the disappointing part to me. That’s when we’re usually rock solid.

"It’s a strength of our team to close out games. I think we had a perfect record of, you know, we had a lead going into the third period. It’s a trademark of this team. Yeah, it is a concern. Part of it is goaltending, part of it is staying out of the [penalty box]. You mismanage pucks by giving them odd-man rushes, you take penalties by putting them on the power play — we did a little bit of both. You don’t tighten up and protect the slot because typically D are activating, so if you take care of that, you’re going back the other way and you have a chance to sort of finish the job. We didn’t do any of those things very well.”

It was easier to discount losses to Detroit and Philadelphia as instances where the Bruins were disengaged against teams they aren’t really competing head-to-head with for playoff spots, but that is not the case with a Panthers club just three points behind Boston in the Atlantic Division standings.

Certainly, the Bruins at this point seem to understand that there is a problem and that it needs to be straightened out.  

“We all realize that was not our 60-minute game. We lost a point and it’s on us,” said Chara. “At this point we have to be able to defend [a lead] and play strong to the end. We’ve got to realize that teams are ready to play and we’ve got to elevate our game. A few games before, we were a little bit late to the start of our game and I thought we were good with our start tonight. But our finish was not there. We’re looking to complete three strong periods of hockey and play strong for the full time of the game.”

The leaky goaltending, the lack of discipline when it comes to penalties and the inconsistent period-to-period play all point toward a hockey team that’s experiencing difficulty maintaining focus, and doesn’t have the same sharpness in execution as they did in the first month of the season. Some of that is about injuries subtracting players like Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug and David Backes from the lineup, but some of it feels like it’s the first wall that the Bruins have run headlong into this season after playing 106 hockey games last season into mid-June.

The concern now is how long this funk is going to last. This Friday night's showdown against the Maple Leafs will be a good barometer as to which direction the Bruins are headed after Tuesday night’s slap to the face.

The good news is that the Bruins built up quite a cushion with their 11-1-2 start to the season, but everybody can see that they are going to need it in a season that isn’t going to be anywhere near as easy as it seemed in the first month.

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

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BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

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HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.


BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)






vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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