Claude Julien, ‘Average’ Bruins Team Not Satisfied With Performance in Ugly Win Over Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau, Andrew FerenceBOSTON — The Bruins started fast, and they didn’t cough up a third-period lead, but everything else in between was just “meh” Thursday night.

The B’s walked out of TD Garden with two points. However, there were likely many who walked out those exits knowing the Bruins could have done much more against the NHL’s worst team.

Boston was able to hold on and beat the lowly Florida Panthers 4-1, but it certainly was not pretty. In fact, it wasn’t even that encouraging for a Bruins team that was coming off another heart-breaking loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

In fact, had they been playing the Penguins on Thursday night, there’s a good chance the Bruins would have been run out of their own barn.

They will undoubtedly take the two points, and there’s something to be said for winning hockey games when you’re not at your best, but the Bruins will need to be better. They know that themselves.

Once again, they looked far too comfortable with a two-goal lead that they have proved very recently is not safe with this team, not right now at least. They were sloppy with the puck yet again. The power play was ineffective in its one chance, as Boston gave up its first shorthanded goal of the season.

The Bruins were most likely going to win this game just by going through the motions, thanks to the discrepancy in talent between them and the Panthers, and that’s what they did. And while the Bruins would take positives here and there from the win, the overall message was the same: the performance and results aren’t exactly where the club needs them and wants them to be right now.

“Right now, we’re in an area where we talk about the number of games we play, and we may be a little tired and we may not be as sharp as people are used to seeing, but we’ve just got to battle through those things and try to find that game that makes us a real good team,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

“Right now, we’re average at best. We’re still finding ways to win, so there’s a lot to be happy about when you win games like that where you feel like you didn’t play well. Through the course of a season that’s a sign of a good hockey club. That’s what we feel we are. … We know we can play better and we’re going to work on playing better.”

The Bruins’ record — 18-4-3 — may indicate that they’re more than just a hair better than average right now, but you can see where Julien is coming from with his modest assessment of his team. The 60-minute effort continues to elude them, and that was the case again Thursday. Luckily for Boston, it was the second period, not the third, which the ugliness occurred. After putting shot 16 shots on goal in the first, the B’s mustered only seven in the second and gave up their first shorthanded goal of the season.

“Just sloppy,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 29 saves to pick up his 14th win of the season. “[Our] heads were not in it. We weren’t making any plays. Not any passes, our back-check was pretty brutal, too. Power play was bad. Just playing with the end of our sticks, and that’s about it. Sometimes you get those kinds of periods, but for us I think it’s been happening too often lately.”

The goalie wasn’t the only one who wasn’t pleased with what he saw.

“Trying being behind the bench for the second period,” Julien quipped. “It wasn’t a pretty period and certainly there’s time where you have to bite your bottom lip and let things happen. Between the second and third, all we had to do was talk to each other and I think our guys are smart enough to know they had to go back out there and be better.”

That was one of the obvious positives, aside from winning the hockey game. The Bruins came out in the third and didn’t choke the game away. Instead, they added to their lead with an all-out hustle goal from Shawn Thornton and an empty-netter from Patrice Bergeron.

So, you take the positives where you can get them. The Bruins are in the midst of a treacherous stretch right now, but the NHL playoffs are going to be even more brutal. For them to find success come spring, they’re going to have eliminate games like Thursday’s, regardless of what the scoreboard might say.

Yardbarker

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