As the Pittsburgh Penguins were putting the finishing touches on their 15th consecutive win Saturday afternoon, the Bruins were putting the finishing touches on arguably their worst showing of the season.
And we’re all supposed to be shocked and dismayed that Jarome Iginla picked the Pens over the B’s?
The Bruins, despite coming off their final two-day break this season, sleepwalked through the first and second periods on Saturday en route to a 3-1 loss to the Flyers. That’s the same Flyers team, mind you, that the Bruins had defeated in 11 of their last 13 meetings, including the playoffs. It’s also the same Flyers team that came in riding a four-game losing streak. It was the same Flyers team that sits 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Once again, the Bruins were missing effort and execution from the game’s opening faceoff. They haven’t scored a first-period goal in six consecutive games. They have fallen behind 2-0 in their last four games. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the club is now just 2-4-1 in its last seven games.
“But again, you fall behind again, and you’re playing catch-up hockey,” Boston head coach Claude Julien said. “It’s catching up to us. Always having to come from behind is not always easy at this stage.”
As has been the case for much of the season, the root of the struggles can likely be looked at in the offensive end. The Bruins continue to struggle offensively, and that only compounds early-game struggles. There’s no way this team is going to make winning a regular thing falling behind early so often. There just isn’t enough offensive firepower.
And when there is some sort of firepower, it certainly isn’t widespread. Nathan Horton capped a (very relatively speaking) strong game from the first line by scoring the team’s first and only goal in the third period. That top line generated a handful of chances, but the club didn’t get much of anything else from the other three lines. That sort of inconsistency is going to be expected when you have a third and fourth line that really hasn’t contributed all season. So then you’re calling on your top six forwards to produce together on a regular basis, which just hasn’t happened this season aside from two or three games.
But a lot of it comes back to effort, and the Bruins aren’t getting that right now. We saw that when they really turn up the effort, they can generate chances. That’s exactly how they got the Horton goal, as he passed it across the ice and then went straight to the net on the off-wing. Traffic in front made things difficult for Ilya Bryzgalov, and Horton was there to jam in the rebound.
That’s the type of effort the players need to give on a more consistent basis, not just when they fall behind by two goals in the early going. Boston played about 10 minutes of desperate hockey on Saturday afternoon, which is far too little. This team isn’t talented enough, at least as it’s currently constituted, to give such sporadic efforts. The 60-minute effort is paramount for a team of the Bruins’ skill set, and right now, they’re just not getting that. It’s not even close, really.
Increased effort will lead to increased execution. That much was apparent in the third period. Boston forwards skated their lanes, and they skated them hard. All of a sudden, breakout passes were sharper and smoother. That’s what they need more of right now, and until they start skating and playing with a greater sense of urgency, the inconsistency will continue.
Catch-up hockey isn’t winning hockey. Neither is inconsistent hockey, nor lethargic hockey. Yet that’s where the Bruins are at right now. If they don’t turn all three around (or undergo some sort of roster shakeup) they can expect the disappointment to continue. With the playoffs just around the corner, something needs to give.