Los Angeles Kings

Bruins guilty as charged of playing down to the competition — again

Bruins guilty as charged of playing down to the competition — again

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.

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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.

Bruins-Kings Talking Points: Lack of put-away punch in 3rd burns B's late

Bruins-Kings Talking Points: Lack of put-away punch in 3rd burns B's late

GOLD STAR: Anze Kopitar was quiet for most of the game, but played a ton for Los Angeles and then sprung to action in overtime when it was winning - and losing - time. After Jonathan Quick had stopped breakaway chances by Anders Bjork and Patrice Bergeron, Kopitar took it to the other end of the rink with 1:37 left in OT and snapped a shot to the top corner for the game-winner in L.A.'s 4-3 victory over the Bruins.  Kopitar finished with a goal and a plus-2 rating in 24:12 of ice time along with two shot attempts, two hits and 15 of 31 faceoff wins. Amazingly, Kopitar’s only shot on net arrived in OT, when it was his chance to cinch the game and he did in true star player fashion. Kopitar wasn’t the best player on the ice for the balance of the game, but he piled up the minutes in all situations and came through when it mattered most.  

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak has been excellent for most of this season, but he just didn’t seem all that invested in the outcome for the Bruins on Tuesday night. Instead, he picked up an assist on the Danton Heinen power play score, managed just three shots on net, had a couple giveaways and showed zero urgency as the last man back on defense against a shorthanded rush from Kings forward Adrian Kempe. Certainly there were bigger mistakes made in the defensive zone leading to goals and other Bruins players that couldn’t convert on some of their offensive opportunities, but Pastrnak really wasn’t in the mix for a lot of that for the Black and Gold. He needs to ratchet up the intensity another level if he wants to get back into that groove he was in earlier this season.

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TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a chance to close things out in the third period, including one dominant shift where Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand took turns winning battles, putting pressure on the Kings defense and throwing shots at the L.A. net. But the Kings avoided getting scored on in the shift and then managed to make a play out of a seemingly harmless sequence when John Moore attempted a backhanded clear up the boards. Instead, Matt Roy scored from long distance through traffic and then all bets were off in the extra session where the Bruins have not been good this season.

HONORABLE MENTION: Heinen has been a pretty consistent target of criticism the past two seasons given his pedestrian offensive production. But the Bruins winger was very good in the loss to the Kings with a power-play goal late in the first period as he maintained his position in front of the net. Then he picked up an assist land finished with  two points in 16:38 of ice time amid a stretch when he’s noticeably picked up his game by generating shot attempts and at least trying to spur on more offense. There were plenty of Bruins that didn’t live up to their offensive billing in this loss, but Heinen was most definitely not one of them.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-7 – the Bruins record in overtime and shootouts this season, which could stand a whole lot of improvement.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Listen, there’s eighty-two of these, I thought we certainly played well enough to win. Not very happy getting only one point tonight, some nights you’re satisfied. In terms of how we played the game, the process part of it, there was better things than, say, two weeks ago.” –Bruce Cassidy, who was not quite as displeased with the Bruins after this loss as he’d been a couple of weeks ago.t

NHL Highlights: Bruins let one get away, lose 4-3 to last-place Kings in OT

NHL Highlights: Bruins let one get away, lose 4-3 to last-place Kings in OT

FINAL SCORE: Kings 4, Bruins 3 (OT)

IN BRIEF: Anze Kopitar scored on breakaway with 1:37 left in overtime, after the L.A. Kings' Matt Roy had tied it with two minutes left in regultation, and the Western Conference bottom-dwellers came into TD Garden and surprised the Bruins with a 4-3 victory. BOX SCORE 

BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-7, 49 points (1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

BLAKE LIZOTTE DEFLECTION PUTS L.A. UP EARLY:

A LITTLE "FOOT" BALL FROM HEINEIN, 1-1:

ADRIAN KEMPE PUTS KINGS UP ON SHORTHANDED BREAKAWAY:

KRUG FEEDS BERGERON FROM DEEP, 2-2:

CARLO PUTS B'S ON TOP:

MATT ROY TIES IT FOR L.A. WITH 2 MINUTES LEFT:

KOPITAR'S OT WINNER:

UP NEXT:
Vs. N.Y. Islanders, Thursday, 7 p.m., NESN
Vs. Nashville Predators, Saturday, 7 p.m., NESN