BOSTON — When something happens to a hockey team on multiple occasions during the regular season, it becomes more than a coincidence.
The Bruins are obviously one of the best teams in the NHL based on their record, their body of work, and their commanding 10-point lead in the Atlantic Division, but they are far from perfect. One of the team's worst team is their tendency to play down to the competition as they have done time and time again this season, and as they did in Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the lowly L.A. Kings at TD Garden.
Just in the last couple of weeks the B's have dropped games to last-place teams in the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks and dropped a thoroughly disinterested game to the Ottawa Senators at the start of their last road trip. Earlier this season, they lost a completely uninspired game to the worst team in hockey when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Red Wings in Detroit.
Bruce Cassidy said he was happy with the team's effort and wouldn’t put the loss in the same category as when the B’s dropped five in a row in their worst losing streak during his tenure coaching the team, and they certainly had plenty of chances to beat Los Angeles while throwing 40 shots on net.
“There are 82 of these [games]. I thought we certainly played well enough to win. Not very happy getting only one point tonight, some nights you’re satisfied [with that result],” said Cassidy, of the overtime loss to Los Angeles. “In terms of how we played the game, the process part of it, there was better things than, say, two weeks ago [headed into the losing streak].”
But commendable effort or not, it feels like the Bruins are taking the dregs of the NHL pretty lightly based on where they are in the standings and the different, higher level of execution and energy when playing teams like Washington and Tampa Bay. Patrice Bergeron hoped that wasn’t the case and paid tribute to the results proving that every team in the league is to be taken seriously, but the way the B’s play isn’t really a reflection of taking the league’s worst teams seriously.
“You hope not. [Looking past teams] is definitely the last thing you want to do. In this league there isn’t any team that you can take lightly,” said Bergeron, who scored his third goal in five games since coming back from a lower-body injury in the OT defeat. “You look at teams like Ottawa that are really hard to play against. This team plays hard. I don’t know their stats 5-on-5, but they are a really good 5-on-5 team and I think they showed that [in the loss].”
It doesn’t feel like these careless losses to the weak sisters of the NHL aren’t going to hurt the Bruins in the long run given how far ahead they currently are in the division. But losses to Ottawa, Detroit and now L.A. does show a lack of focus and concentration that could come back to bite the B's if they aren’t seriously challenged by anybody in the rest of the regular season.
More than anything else, though, it gives lousy teams hope that when they come to Boston they might catch the Bruins napping, and that doesn’t exactly make the B’s a hard team to play against, or the TD Garden a place to be feared by the handful of teams scraping the bottom of the barrel in the NHL.