In a more literal sense, the Bruins actually seem to excel only in prime time, with the club struggling mightily in afternoon games.
The Bruins got off to a slow start once again on Saturday, and never fully recovered in a 4-3 loss to the Capitals. Boston is now just 4-7-2 in matinees this season, with losses in each of its last four afternoon games.
“There’s a big difference between a 1 o’clock game and a 7 o’clock game,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “It completely throws your routine off. You don’t really know what time to eat and wake up and whatnot, so it’s a little bit of a tough zone to be in. It’s a little uncomfortable, but we still have to find a way to win these games.”
The change in routine may make things a little strange and even a bit more difficult, but the Bruins weren’t allowing the early starts to be an excuse for their struggles.
“I don’t know, it’s just one of those things,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Maybe it’s the afternoon games, but there’s no excuses. You have to ready to start the game and you have to be ready to compete for a full 60, not 50 minutes.”
The lack of that complete effort, and particularly the Bruins’ slow starts of late, are more of a concern for the B’s than the time of day the puck drops.
On Saturday, the Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the opening period when Washington scored twice in a 25-second span, and it took a timeout by coach Claude Julien to get the team focused and starting to play with the energy needed.
“It was just flat,” Boychuk said. “The first couple shifts weren’t the way we wanted to go. Once we called that timeout things started to roll around the way we wanted it to, but we have to be ready right off the hop.”
After the game, Julien wasn’t pleased to have needed to use that timeout to give his team a wake-up call.
“That’s twice in less than a week now we’ve spotted teams two-goal leads and to me, it’s frustrating because you keep digging yourself a hole and having to dig yourself out,” Julien said. “We had some opportunities, I thought, before they scored their first goal to play with the lead. We need to bear down and bury those opportunities that we have early in the game. It’s tough to play catch-up hockey in this league and that’s what we’ve been doing a lot. Way too much.
“And we’re struggling with playing with the lead and creating it,” Julien added. “So, I just kind of slowed things down again and told them we had to pick up our pace here and had to pick up our game. So, we scored a big goal late in the first and it kind of gave us some life again. But, same thing happened again the second period, spot them another two-goal lead.”
The Bruins did get some momentum when Milan Lucic scored with 5.6 seconds left in the opening period to cut the deficit to one heading into the first intermission. Marchand then pulled Boston even early in the second.
Things fell apart from there though, with Washington scoring two more goals before the end of the second. The Capitals played rope-a-dope in the third, icing the puck frequently and holding off a late Bruins charge when Boston outshot the Caps 13-2 in the final frame.
After the game, the Bruins struggled to explain the reason for their slow start and late second-period lapse.
“I mean it’s hard to put a finger on something,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “Obviously we came out flat and they got the lead you know, when we’re behind the eight-ball early it’s always hard to get back in a game. … We’re not going to win too many games if we’re battling back all game.”
Boychuk agreed that the Bruins can’t afford to spot teams leads, but was also at a loss to explain the club’s slow starts.
“I can’t really put a finger on it,” Boychuk said. “You just got to be ready. They score two goals in the first 10 [minutes], it’s not really acceptable, especially when we talk before the game that we want a good start.
“That’s not the start we wanted,” Boychuk added. “As soon as we called the timeout it was like night and day. We realize that, ‘Oh, we are going to play.’ And once we realized that, I thought we played some good hockey. We did have a lot of good chances even in the last three minutes, we still had I think three good scoring opportunities to put the puck in the net and it didn’t go in. We have to play the way we did in the third period for the whole 60 minutes, and if we do that, there should not be any problems.“