Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bruins get sloppy on New Year's Eve
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- During the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup run in 2013, there were times early in the playoffs when they were playing so inconsistently that coach Claude Julien dubbed them a “Jekyll & Hyde” team.
That statement took on a life of its own, but the Bruins were able to regain their form and reach the finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Consistency is the foundation of Boston’s success and the Bruins have shown that for the majority of this season. There have been only a few games when Boston fell victim to its own mistakes, and that was the case against the New York Islanders Tuesday night at TD Garden.
New York scored four unanswered goals en route to a 5-3 win over the Bruins. The Islanders also scored four power-play goals as frustration set in for Boston.
“A lot of things I didn’t like tonight,” Julien said.
The fact that the Bruins surrendered a pair of leads was one issue. Boston’s penalty-killing unit was nonexistent. Goaltender Tuukka Rask took the blame for allowing some tough goals, but also added there were holes in the team’s defensive game. When the Islanders gained momentum late in the second period, the Bruins could not answer and it cost them the game.
Along with Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Bruins have lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Oct. 26 and 30.
Tuukka Rask took the blame for the loss, but it certainly wasn't all his fault.
“We lost because it was self-inflicted,” Julien said. “We took a lot of ill-advised penalties and at one point it caught up with us. And I didn’t think, obviously, our penalty kill was very good tonight.”
The Bruins’ penalty-killing unit has been one of the strongest aspects of their game in recent seasons, but the Islanders moved the puck well during their numerous man-advantage opportunities and made sure to capitalize on those chances.
After the game, Julien did not want to analyze the PK, simply saying the problem was “sloppiness.”
The Bruins weren’t able to shut down the passing lanes and were unsuccessful many times on clearing attempts. That led to them running around in their own end and New York took advantage.
“It’s obviously not us,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “We’ve got to be a lot better -- everyone. We all take a lot of pride in our PK and we’re going to have to look at videos, compete and be a lot better.”
Overall, the Bruins are 112-for-132 on the penalty kill this season.
From a goaltending standpoint, time and again this season Rask has bailed out his teammates and stolen games. Tuesday night wasn’t completely his fault because he wasn’t getting much help in front, but he took the blame.
“I couldn’t stop the puck when it mattered and then there were those [unlucky] bounces, so that’s the result,” Rask said. “It felt like everything was going in one way or the other. We didn’t play too bad, we got the lead and kind of blew it, and the penalty kill wasn’t our strong part today.”
Rask posted a 5-0 shutout against the Senators Friday night, then was pulled after allowing three goals in 20 minutes on Saturday in Ottawa. After Tuesday’s game, Julien wasn’t about to blame his goaltender for the loss.
“He’s been a really great goaltender for us, and like players, sometimes you have good games and so-so games, so certainly not going to throw him under the bus with everything he’s done for us,” Julien said.
In the waning minutes, Boston’s frustration was evident when Milan Lucic was given a two-minute penalty for boarding, a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct after a collision with the Islanders’ Travis Hamonic.
“Well, I hit him from the side, but it is what it is,” Lucic said. “Obviously, I didn’t feel like it was a penalty. I saw the video and it’s not a penalty. My comments really don’t matter right now, it’s not going to change the fact that he called a penalty.”
It was one of the few uncharacteristic games for the Bruins this season. There likely will be a few more in the remaining 42 games, but it will be important to limit those.
“It sucks to end off the year of 2013 this way, but we have an opportunity to bounce back on Thursday,” Lucic said.